CONCACAF Champions League: Monterrey escape Torreon with dangerous draw

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The sad part about the away goals rule: It’s the best we’ve got. Which is fine, most of the time. Rather than see teams go on the road in first legs, bunker, and try to take their chances at home with 0-0 results, we usual get actual games. Teams are rewarded for the risk with the profit of the away goals tiebreaker, and while you still see the occasional team play for a 0-0, it’s relatively rare.

The bad part about away goals comes with those 0-0 results. If you’re away in leg one and earn that 0-0, you go home only slightly better off, with a goal allowed at home meaning a second draw will send you out. Even if you pull back a ill-won penalty, random set piece, or act of Mats Hummels generosity, you still need another goal.

That’s the state Monterrey are in after the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final. Away in Torreon, the two-time defending champions took a scoreless draw out of Estadio Corona, a result earned after playing the last 24 minutes with 10 men.

The match looked unlikely to end scoreless when the teams traded chances inside three minutes, with Humberto Suazo nearly giving the Rayados an away goal off a turnover deep in Santos’s end. Turning on a ball in the middle of the area, Suazo’s close range shot was close enough to Oswaldo Sanchez to draw a save from the veteran keeper.

The first half deteriorated, playing out as cagey as it was sloppy. In the second half, Suazo nearly scored again, putting a ball off the woodwork early in the period.

Early in the second half, Santos lost their most dangerous player. Mexican international Oribe Peralta was carted off the pitch after a Monterrey defender rolled over the outside of his right leg. Peralta was unable to get up after his knee bent inward at an unnatural angle, with Herculez Gomez eventually sent on to replace him.

In the 66th minute, Monterrey were forced to pull back, a dismissal leaving them hamstrung. Cesar Delgado, launching himself into a midfield challenge, saw straight red, leaving his team to play a man down. The match played out with the Guerreros laying siege, though few chances made it through the cluster of Monterrey defenders holding out for the draw.

In a way, Santos have only themselves to blame for the result. Normally a team that places a 4-3-3 formation, Santos elected to use a 4-4-2, even though they were at home. Perhaps coincidentally, the Guerreros rarely threatened Monterrey’s goal, their sacrifice of Gomez from their starting lineup failing to pay off.

The Rayados’ success puts next week’s decider in that weird, 0-0 netherworld. Are Monterrey really better off after leg one? In a position where they’ll need two goals if Santos score one, you can argue they’re the victims of the rule’s major quirk.

History, however, would suggest Monterrey’s in a good place. In their last 14 trips to Monterrey, Santos are winless, only five times managing a score draw.

Though there are potential pitfalls, Monterrey is closer to a three-peat after tonight’s result.

MLS to the death: Taking stock of playoff scenarios

Portland Timbers' Diego Valeri, right, challenges Montreal Impact's Laurent Ciman during the first half of a soccer game, Saturday, May 9, 2015 in Montreal. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP
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Five MLS teams have made the playoffs, but in the world of probability that number is a lot closer to 10.

Red Bulls, DC, L.A., Vancouver and Dallas are in the postseason, while Toronto, Columbus, New England and Sporting KC are on the verge. Seattle is just behind that group.

[ MORE: Three big battles between U.S. and Mexico ]

So how about those final two slots?

Eastern Conference

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
x – New York 31 16 6 9 55 39 16 11-2-3 5-4-6 54
x – D.C. 32 14 6 12 39 40 -1 10-3-3 4-3-9 48
New England 32 13 8 11 45 45 0 9-6-1 4-2-10 47
Columbus 32 13 8 11 51 53 -2 8-4-4 5-4-7 47
Toronto FC 31 14 4 13 55 53 2 10-1-4 4-3-9 46
Montreal 31 12 6 13 44 43 1 10-2-4 2-4-9 42
Orlando City SC 32 11 8 13 44 54 -10 6-5-5 5-3-8 41
New York City FC 32 10 7 15 47 53 -6 6-4-6 4-3-9 37
Philadelphia 32 9 7 16 40 51 -11 6-3-7 3-4-9 34
Chicago 32 8 6 18 42 52 -10 8-1-7 0-5-11 30

Matches remaning
at Colorado, vs. New England, at Toronto 
vs. NYC, at Philadelphia
New York City: at Orlando, vs. New England

Obviously, the Impact have the wheel here, though a pair of road tests — one across the continent — aren’t easy. If it comes down to a match against their rivals at BMO Field, all bets will be off. NYC can do Montreal a huge favor by getting a result in Orlando, but Jason Kreis’ side need all three points (Well, all six points… and a load of help). No one is playing better than Orlando right now.

Western Conference

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
x – FC Dallas 31 15 6 10 47 38 9 11-2-2 4-4-8 51
x – Los Angeles 32 14 9 9 53 39 14 12-3-1 2-6-8 51
x – Vancouver 32 15 5 12 42 34 8 8-2-6 7-3-6 50
Sporting KC 31 13 9 9 46 41 5 9-5-1 4-4-8 48
Seattle 32 14 5 13 40 34 6 10-2-4 4-3-9 47
San Jose 32 12 8 12 39 37 2 7-6-3 5-2-9 44
Portland 31 12 8 11 31 36 -5 7-6-3 5-2-8 44
Houston 32 11 8 13 41 45 -4 9-3-4 2-5-9 41
Real Salt Lake 31 11 8 12 37 43 -6 7-6-2 4-2-10 41
Colorado 31 8 10 13 30 38 -8 5-5-6 3-5-7 34

Matches remaning
San Jose:
vs Sporting KC, at Dallas
at RSL, at LA, vs. Colorado
Houston: vs. Seattle, at Vancouver
Real Salt Lake: 
vs. Portland, vs. Dallas, at Seattle

Quite literally anything can happen here in terms of these four. Pressure’s surely on Caleb Porter and the Timbers to finally give their supporters a side worth their passion. RSL is the only other side with three matches left, and the two pair up next. Houston has a harrowing pair of matches, one without Cubo Torres, while San Jose also has two tough efforts.

Chelsea make it official with former AC Milan keeper Amelia

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Longtime Serie A goalkeeper and World Cup winner Marco Amelia is giving Chelsea some cover.

The ex-AC Milan man, 33, has also played for Roma and Livorno amongst other stops in Italy, and has been on trial at Stamford Bridge for some time.

[ MORE: Klopp to Liverpool announcement expected shortly ]

Amelia will backup Asmir Begovic, and give the Blues three keepers in the absence of Thibaut Courtois.

He’s available for Chelsea’s next match, against Aston Villa, and will potentially slide into the No. 2 slot ahead of 21-year-old Jamal Blackman. Whether he’s an upgrade in skill is debatable, but his experience could prove invaluable.