With an eye on Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League Quarterfinals, the New York Red Bulls opened the 2019 season with a point on the road in Columbus, Ohio.
The Red Bulls and Columbus Crew SC battled to a 1-1 draw, with Andreas Ivan scoring the first goal of the season for New York in the sixth minute of the match, an early rematch from the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs.
"It was really tough," Cristian Casseres, Jr., said. "You know, a tough place we were playing, but luckily, we were able to come away with a point. It was a really tough win for us and something that we really wanted to do."
Casseres, Jr., made just his second MLS start on Saturday afternoon, playing as the lone defensive midfielder.
"We know Columbus well," Head Coach Chris Armas said. "They’re once again a well-coached team. You can see already Caleb’s imprint on the team. They play with a lot of passion. They have ideas with or without the ball. They were impressive. The energy in the stadium was great."
Armas rotated out all but three starters from the team's previous match, and gave starting nods to Omir Fernandez, making his MLS debut, as well as Vincent Bezecourt, Kyle Duncan and Florian Valot, all working back from season-ending injuries in 2018.
"We put some different guys on the field tonight, but a lot of guys that have some experience and we believe in," Armas said. "And I’ll tell you, as a coaching staff and organization, we’re really proud of the way our guys went after tonight. 1-1 on the road. Gave up a set piece goal, which was a little disappointing, but most proud of the way we stuck with it and went after the points tonight."
Ivan, who headed home the opening goal off a cross from Valot, tallied his second goal in as many games, across all competitions.
"It’s a very great week. Very good." Ivan said. "I’m a little bit sad that we just tied. But Columbus, for me, is one of the top teams in the League, and it was a great game."
The Red Bulls tested their depth early and came away with a point against a playoff-caliber club.
"It gives us a lot of confidence in what we’re doing here, with [Sporting Director] Denis Hamlet building the roster," Armas said. "We feel great about moving forward that we can rely on a lot of guys."
New York now looks ahead to March 5 at Red Bull Arena, where they will host Club Santos Laguna in Leg 1 of the SCCL Quarterfinals.
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"We’ll quickly shift the focus," Armas said. "We have a proud team back home watching tonight’s performance with an eye on Tuesday. We quickly start the work – continue the work tonight -- with Santos Laguna, understanding it’ll be a different challenge, one in our building. We’re excited for it."
Ivan gave a final nod to his teammates on the pitch, where they're all working together toward the same goal.
"I think all the guys did a very great job," Ivan said. "We’re just waiting for every minute. If the coach needs us, we are ready. We are a team, and everybody is running and helping each other."