|Sacha Kljestan after his goal. Photo courtesy Red Bulls.
Sacha Kljestan scored in the 90th minute to give the Red Bulls a 1-0 win over Alianza FC, a club from El Salvador, in their CONCACAF Champions League match on Thursday night at Red Bull Arena.
Gonzalo Veron, coming down the left side, whipped a pass into the box to Kljestan, who buried it in the right corner of the net for the only goal of the game.
Kljestan came off the bench in this one and entered the game in the 62nd minute.
Red Bulls Head Coach Jesse Marsch said of bringing on Kljestan when he did, "Yeah, we're trying to make calculated decisions on how to use our roster the right way and go after this tournament in a big way but also make sure that we continue to push hard in the league. We put some different bodies on the field today and it's good for them to get some big experiences...As the game went on we started to gain a little bit more control and then obviously the ability to put on some good players, put on Sacha means hopefully they can help make a play. Obviously a huge play to make at the end of the game and a huge three points for us."
Kljestan said of grinding out the win, and the fact the Red Bulls won it with young players like Alex Muyl, Justin Bilyeu, and Tyler Adams, "Yeah still some young guys getting some minutes and getting some of this important experience for the future. Some guys stepped up, Gonzalo Veron had a pretty good game, was pretty dangerous all night. To be able to give some guys a rest like Bradley Wright-Phillips is important tonight, but yeah good resolve in the guys to just stick with it and keep plugging, plugging, plugging, and finally get the goal.
This was a highly competitive match, as the Red Bulls had plenty of chances in the first half, and Alianza controlled play for most of the second half.
Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles earned the clean sheet, and he did it by making some huge saves in the final half hour of play.
Marsch said of Robles' strong play, "Listen, Luis is just so reliable back there, trustworthy, he does the right things, makes big saves, always alert. It's really fortunate for this club to have him here. You have good goalkeepers and you count on him to make big saves, that's their job. I thought he went above and beyond tonight and the fact that he made some of those big saves kept us in the game and allowed us at the end to make one play to get the big goal."
The Red Bulls, as they extended their unbeaten streak to 14 games in all competitions.
Marsch said of this game building character for the stretch run, "I would agree that it wasn't quite as tight as what we normally look like in terms of the tactics and approach to how we play, that's going to be normal sometimes when you put some new faces on the field. The resolves to stay after the game, listen there are some moments where they have some set pieces, some corner kicks and they're trying to push us, but our guys stayed with it, stayed after it...We talked about when we are in these games, these tight situations, to not back down and to go after the game the right way, and they absolutely did that."
The Red Bulls now have seven points to extend their lead atop Group F, and close out Champions League group play at Antigua Guatemala F.C. on Tuesday, September 27.
Kljestan said of being close to winning the group, "Well it's a good start to the Champions League Group Stage, we'll take maximum points at home which is what you can ask for. We put ourselves in a good position to make it to the next round so going down to Guatemala a tie gets us through. It's important, we wanted to make the quarterfinals, that was an important goal at the beginning of the season so right now we have one foot in the door and I'm pretty happy."
|The Red Bulls and Alianza lined up before the game. Photo by Jason Schott.