The game didn’t start off comfortably for the visitors, as the Red Bulls came out attacking and were able to keep the ball consistently in Santos’ defensive third. However, the hosts weren’t able to convert their opportunities, with Jonathan Orozco notably denying Bradley Wright-Phillips on a one-on-one chance.
Santos bided their time and then struck just before halftime. In the 42nd minute, Julio César Furch played in Diego Valdes, who made it 0-1.
The visitors picked up where they left off when the second half began, with Furch turning from provider to goalscorer as he got on the end of a ball from Javier Correa to make it 0-2 in the 47th minute.
The Red Bulls struggled to regain their equilibrium after allowing a goal so soon after the restart; they had some shaky defensive moments that could have seen Santos add a third. They threw numbers forward as time wound down, and Orozco was an important factor in preserving the shutout as he made several good saves to keep the hosts from reducing the deficit.
With the 0-2 win, Santos will advance with a win, a draw, or a one-goal loss in next week’s second leg, while the Red Bulls need to score at least three goals while winning by at least two (ex: 3-0, 3-1, 4-2) to win the series outright; a 0-2 NY win would send the game to penalties.
Red Bulls: Luis Robles, Aaron Long, Tim Parker, Connor Lade, Kyle Duncan, Sean Davis, Marc Rzatkowski, Daniel Royer (Derrick Etienne 77′), Alex Muyl (Andreas Ivan 61′), Bradley Wright-Phillips, Kaku.
Santos: Jonathan Orozco, Matheus Doria, Hugo Nervo, Jesús Angulo, José Javier Abella, Diego Valdés (Deinner Quiñones 83′), José Juan Vázquez, Marlos Moreno (Eduardo Aguirre 45′), Brian Lozano, Marcelo Correa, Julio César Furch (Ulises Rivas 76′).