Eighteen years of existence, and the closest the Red Bulls had come to continental competition was a two-legged loss to Trinidad and Tobago’s W Connection while qualifying for 2009-10’s Champions League. This year, New York didn’t have to go through any formalities, with last season’s Supporters’ Shield guaranteeing the team would finally experience full CONCACAF soccer.
On Tuesday night, that new experience got off to a successful start. Within 11 minutes of El Salvador champion FAS’s visit to Red Bull Arena, Saer Sene had his new team on the board, with Lloyd Sam’s second half insurance earning a 2-0 win for the Champions League debutants.
Sene converted his opener after an Ambroise Oyongo cross found Tim Cahill, who headed down for his new teammate for an early lead. Just under an hour later, Sam was set up by Peguy Luyindula in the right of the penalty area, his shot beating Adolfo Menendez near post to give New York its two-goal victory.
The game also saw a return to goal for Ryan Meara, the 23-year-old who impressed as a rookie two years ago. Limited to U.S. Open Cup action against since, Meara made three saves against FAS, with New York holding a 13-7 edge in overall shots.
The win means FAS, 0-0-3 on the competition, can not advance out of Group 3, with the six points Montréal earned from the Salvadorans leaving the Impact on top of the trio.
Deportivo Saprissa 3-0 Real Estelí
Whereas last week Real Estelí were stifling MLS’s champions, this week brought a reminder of Group 2’s challenge. Thanks to a hat trick from Ariel Rodríguez, Estelí was handed its first loss, albeit one that keeps them winless through three games.
Rodríguez broke through in the 18th minute off a give-and-go with David Estrada to notch his second goal of the competition. A late tap-in and a header from a Jordan Smith cross gave the 24-year-old four goals in two games, sealing Saprissa’s first win of the competition.
With four points, the Costa Ricans are on top of Group 2, with Estelí’s second place standing perilous after only two points in three games. Saprissa still have two matches against Sporting Kansas City, while the MLS champions having only played once.
Comunicaciones 1-1 Club América
América didn’t replicate the 5-0 drubbing they gave Puerto Rico’s Bayamón last week, but the Mexican titans got the result they needed to take control of the group. Though Rolando Blackburn’s 25th minute equalizer pulled back Oribe Peralta’s fifth minute opener, América held on to earn a road point from its main challengers, meaning a win over Comunicacions on Oct. 21 at Estadio Azteca will send the team into the quarterfinals.