CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinalists set tonight

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Following CONCACAF Champions League isn’t always easy.

The teams from our part of the world compete against clubs many of us know nothing about, sometimes in places that plenty of us couldn’t point to on a map.

The competition in its current incarnation has not been around for long, and the format is still being adjusted. Just this year, for instance, a substantial shift was made in group play format.

Plus, there is not a designated Champions League day or days, which is what we have in Europe for the UEFA Champions League (a.k.a., the Champions League that pretty much everyone is talking about when we mention Champions League). For CONCACAF there’s more of a “window,” which is why the final round of group stage matches has stretched over three nights this week, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

(Nor does it doesn’t help that the official CONCACAF web site’s standings aren’t updated consistently. This morning, for instance, the standings still haven’t been changed to reflect this week’s results, so of which were two nights ago.)

Tonight, the whole unwieldy thing gets a little easier to digest, at least. That’s because the group stage winners will be revealed and the quarterfinal matchups set.

The final two contests in group play will be decided tonight as Mexico’s famous Chivas hosts Guatemalan overachievers Xelaju and The Los Angeles Galaxy play in El Salvador against Metepan.

Seven of the final eight quarterfinalists are already set, although the order can still be affected by games tonight. The final berth comes down to tonight’s match in Guadalajara, where the tiny Guatemalan club needs a draw or a one-goal loss by any score that isn’t 1-0 to oust one of Mexico’s most historic clubs.

The Galaxy can improve its position (and perhaps avoid one of the tougher teams in the quarterfinals, saving the tougher opposition for a little later), but Galaxy manager Bruce Arena will count on a reserve squad to get the job done.

Here are the seven clubs that have already qualified for next year’s quarterfinals; a place in the FIFA Club World Cup goes to the eventual winner:

  • Santos Laguna, Mexico
  • Monterrey, Mexico
  • Seattle, MLS
  • LA Galaxy, MLS
  • Houston, MLS
  • Herediano, Costa Rica
  • Alajuelense, Costa Rica

AT HALF: Lletget, Bradley, Dempsey spur USMNT to 3-0 lead

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The United States men’s national team’s bid to recover their 2018 World Cup hopes is off to a flying start.

As it stands, the 3-0 halftime lead provided by Sebastian Lletget, Michael Bradley, and Clint Dempsey has the Yanks up from sixth to fourth in the Hex table.

Sebastian Lletget scored a fifth minute goal to ease the tensions of the Avaya Stadium crowd in San Jose, though he’d leave the match with injury before the match was 20 minutes old.

Sloppy Honduran defending caused a turnover outside the 18, and Jozy Altidore played Christian Pulisic in on goal.

[ LIVE – Play-by-play via @USSoccer ]

Keeper Donis Escober got a piece of Pulisic’s shot, but no one followed Lletget to the back post and the ex-West Ham and current LA Galaxy man quickly put the Yanks up 1-0.

Then it was the captain who doubled the lead, as Honduras inexplicably gave him the room to walk across the arc of the 18 to rip a shot across goal. 2-0.

It was Clint Dempsey’s turn in the 33rd minute, after an otherworldly scooped pass from Pulisic.

What. A. Pass. Kid.

LINEUP

USMNT: Howard; Villafana, Gonzalez, Brooks, Cameron; Bradley, Lletget (Bedoya, 18′), Nagbe; Pulisic, Dempsey, Altidore.

Goals: Lletget (5′), Bradley (27′), Dempsey (33′)

LIVE – USMNT looks to right ship vs. Honduras

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The United States starts to make amends for its 0-2 start to the final round of World Cup qualifying with a match against Honduras on Friday in San Jose.

Losses to Mexico and Costa Rica cost Jurgen Klinsmann his job and Bruce Arena will try things differently

[ LIVE – Play-by-play via @USSoccer ]

Most importantly for Arena, Geoff Cameron and Tim Howard are available this time around.

Cameron starts at right back, with John Brooks and Omar Gonzalez in the center of the back four. Jorge Villafana slots into the mix at left back.

Captain Michael Bradley will sit atop the midfield, with Darlington Nagbe, Sebastian Lletget, and Christian Pulisic in the midfield.

Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore are the forwards. Kickoff is set for 10:55 p.m. EDT from Avaya Stadium.

Minnesota’s Molino lifts Trinidad and Tobago to big win (video)

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Minnesota United attacker Kevin Molino has given Trinidad and Tobago life in the race to win a spot at the 2018 World Cup.

Molino’s 37th minute goal gave hosts T&T a 1-0 lead against visiting Panama at Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain on Friday, and the Soca Warriors held on to win its first points of qualifying.

Panama had a Luis Tejada goal controversially ruled offside as Los Canaleros nearly pulled their fifth point of the Hex. Panama faces the USMNT on Tuesday in Panama City.

[ WATCH: Zaha scores wonder vs. Russia ]

Molino fooled long time LA Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo with a low shot across the body. The Panama backstop couldn’t get low enough or far enough with his dive to stop the shot.

The win has T&T in fifth place on the Hex table, behind Honduras on goal differential and three points ahead of the last place USMNT.

The U.S. needs a two-goal win to pass T&T, and a three-goal win to climb above Honduras.

WATCH: Zaha drives Russia nuts with mazy dribble goal

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Wilfried Zaha combined balance, deft touch, and breakneck speed to score his first international goal for the Ivory Coast.

With his side leading Russia 1-0 on Friday, the Crystal Palace winger worked his way through four defenders before burying his shot.

[ MORE: Smalling hurt, Gibson called up ]

Zaha especially fooled with Ilya Kutepov, a harsh cut nearly tipping both to the field.

He’s just 24, and it seems much longer ago that he made his failed move to Manchester United in 2013.

Failed may be a rough verb considering it all contributed to making him the player he is for Crystal Palace and Ivory Coast today.