The disappointment is obvious, the pain still lingers.
For the New York Red Bulls to come so close to reaching the CONCACAF Champions League only to lose 1-0 on aggregate to Mexico’s Chivas de Guadalajara after a maddeningly dominant second leg on Tuesday at Red Bull Arena, turning the page isn’t easy.
But that’s the task at hand with their next league game Saturday afternoon at the Montreal Impact.
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“It’s on one level a big ask to now shift gears, but on another level this is what the demands are,” Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch said. “If we’re going to be a mentally strong team, we’ve got to be able to handle tough moments well and move forward quickly.”
After rotating the lineup in MLS play through the first month and a half because of midweek Champions League matches — and going 2-2-0 during that stretch — Marsch will finally be able to go with his strongest side for league games going forward.
And although Tuesday night’s 0-0 draw was physically taxing and mentally draining, Marsch believes his players will be at full strength on Saturday.
“The one thing we have about this group is confidence,” Marsch said. “We have confidence in the group we have, confidence in the full roster, and we know we’re a good team. It wasn’t random that we were able to make a run at the Champions League. We have a good team.”
While Marsch will have a first-choice lineup to select, the same isn’t true of Montreal first-year coach Remi Garde, who will need to replace suspended Saphir Taider, who was sent off for a dangerous tackle early in a 4-0 loss to the New England Revolution on April 6.
“Saphir is a player that works really hard, both offensively and defensively,” Impact midfielder Samuel Piette said after the match. “He’s the one that touches the ball the most in our team usually. He covers a huge area of the pitch, something we missed during the game against New England.”
Returning, though, will be leading scorer Ignacio Piatti, who sat out the match in New England with a quadriceps injury.
“The change is that we’re going to play with a key player who can be decisive in a game,” Garde said. “But we also have to know that it’s not only because Nacho (Piatti) is back that all the situation will be solved.
“It’s a boost for the team, but Nacho is not the player that can change all the game on his own. We also rely on the team spirit, that we can take benefit from Nacho’s return.”
Montreal (2-3-0), which will be playing away from home for the fifth time in six games, has never won at Red Bull Arena. Meanwhile, New York has two decisive home victories this year, beating the Portland Timbers 4-0 and Minnesota United FC 3-0.
In five overall matches, the Red Bulls have outscored the opposition 12-1 in Harrison, N.J.
“One thing we know is that this is our best defensive group yet,” Marsch said. “Throughout the years, we’ve been fairly solid defensively. The foundation we have now, with the core group of defenders and players that play in the defensive position, including our No. 6s with Tyler (Adams), means that we’re going to be a hard team to score on.”