LA Galaxy, Club Tijuana clash to ignite CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals

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When the final CONCACAF Champions League group games finished on Wednesday night, some pretty mouth-watering quarterfinal ties were set up between Liga MX and Major League Soccer teams.

LA Galaxy vs. Club Tijuana is the pick of the bunch.

Next March when CCL play resumes, the Xolos will make the short hop over the border to play LA, and the Galaxy will do the same, as close regional rivals in continental cup competition will square off in what’s sure to be an intense border clash.

With Tijuana’s plethora of American players — Edgar Castillo, Herculez Gomez, Paul Arriola, Joe Corona, Greg Garza and Alejandro Guido all represent the U.S. in the northern Mexican city — and the huge number of Tijuana fans based in southern California, there’s sure to be a raucous atmosphere at both games.

A game like this is exactly what the CCL needs to recapture fans imagination.

Small crowds, moans and groans about watching the competition on TV and long midweek trips to far flung corners of CONCACAF land has failed to ignite a desire in the hearts and minds of MLS fans. This showdown will go a long way to doing so, as since Tijuana were founded in 2007, they’ve tried to build a fanbase in LA, San Diego and other Californian cities and have been largely successful due to their dream run to the Copa Libertadores quarterfinals last season.

(MORE: CONCACAF Roundup – Houston eliminated, other MLS sides through)

Following LA’s capitulation against Isidro Metapan on Wednesday in their 4-0 loss, they dropped to sixth-seed for the last eight and now face a massive test with third-seed Tijuana. Head coach Bruce Arena will no doubt be disappointed that his sides damaging defeat now sees them with an incredibly tough path through the CCL knockout stages with Xolos up first and bragging rights in the local area also up for grabs.

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Joe Corona is just one of a large band of U.S. players plying their trade for Tijuana in Liga MX.

Fans across MLS an Mexico are already excited for the match up, as well as USMNT and former LA striker Herculez Gomez, and the fact that it won’t happen until March 11-12 in LA and then the return leg in Tijuana on March 18-19 means that a furor can be whipped up between the two nations press about the tie that’s sure to turn fiery.

A fiery U.S. vs. Mexican club team battle, especially in the current climate where the U.S. national team is dominating their Mexican counterparts in all facets, will add extra spice to the soccer fabric of both nations. Long may that continue. And the great news for fans of soccer in both countries is that LA vs. Tijuana isn’t the only MLS vs. Liga MX clash.

Below is a full list of the four quarterfinal match ups, with San Jose Earthquakes and Sporting Kansas City facing Liga MX opposition next March, facing Toluca and Cruz Azul respectively.

Over five months from now those three rivalries will ignite the CCL as the pride of both soccer nations will hang on the line.In the latter stages of CCL in recent years, Liga MX has dominated proceedings. Can MLS teams now replicate the success of the USMNT over Mexico and the CONCACAF region as a whole?

Fans across Mexico and the U.S. will enjoy watching the struggle for dominance play out, as next March’s CCL quarters spring up a delightful storyline that will only intensify between over the coming months.

Bring it on.

CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals – Ties to be played March 11/12 and March 18/19

Toluca vs. San Jose Earthquakes

Cruz Azul vs. Sporting Kansas City

Arabe Unido vs. Alajuelense

Club Tijuana vs. LA Galaxy

Luis Enrique leaves with feeling of mission accomplished

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MADRID (AP) Luis Enrique leaves Barcelona with no regrets and the feeling of mission accomplished.

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The coach capped his three-year stint with the Catalan club by winning the Copa del Rey title with a 3-1 win over Alaves on Saturday.

Now it’s time to enjoy some much-needed time off after three “intense” seasons, and let the club move on under fresh leadership.

“There is no sadness at all, just happiness,” Luis Enrique said. “I’m the one who decided to stop, and I think that it was a wonderful decision for me, for the players and for the team as well. The intensity of this profession demands maximum dedication every single day and there is a natural wear out.”

He said players always need new challenges and will benefit from a change in leadership, and the club will certainly keep winning despite his departure.

After missing out on the league this season, the Copa del Rey was Barcelona’s second title of the campaign to go along with the Spanish Super Cup, but Luis Enrique has won nearly everything since replacing Gerard Martino in 2014. The former midfielder led Barcelona to the treble of the Spanish league, Copa del Rey and Champions League in 2015. He also managed the league-Copa double in 2016, and also won the European Super Cup and the Club World Cup in 2015.

He said he was “proud” to have helped Barcelona fans celebrate so many accomplishments during his time at the helm.

“If someone had told me when I arrived that I would have the opportunity to help my team win nine titles out of 13 that we played, I’d say that these would be good numbers,” he said. “It would have been nice to have won La Liga and contended for the Champions League title this season, but it just wasn’t meant to be. I believe that the fans recognized the effort and the sacrifice of all the players throughout the season. I have enjoyed the opportunity to make them happy.”

Luis Enrique said he was also lucky to have had the chance to coach a player like Lionel Messi.

“He is extraordinary, extraterrestrial,” Luis Enrique said about the Argentina forward, who scored the team’s first goal on Saturday. “I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy Messi at his best, performing at the highest level. He is the very best, without a doubt.”

Neymar and Paco Alcacer also scored at the Vicente Calderon Stadium to help Barcelona win its third straight Copa del Rey title, and 29th all-time.

Luis Enrique celebrated with his seven-year-old daughter by his side, waving his winner’s trophy and singing the club’s anthem in front of the Barcelona fans who traveled to Madrid.

Barcelona is expected to announce this week that its new coach will be Ernesto Valverde, who left Athletic Bilbao a few days ago.

Luis Enrique’s future remains up in the air.

“I don’t know what I’ll be doing, really. I’m open to every possibility, including changing sports,” the 47-year-old Luis Enrique said, with a smile on his face. “I do know that I’m very competitive and it’s been like this since I was born. Right now I’m looking forward to the opportunity of enjoying my friends and my family.”

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

Report: Reus could miss six months after sustaining knee damage

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Marco Reus missed much of the 2016/17 season with injuries, and the Borussia Dortmund attacker had that unfortunate spell continue on Saturday.

[ MORE: USMNT tops Group F and more from the U-20 World Cup ]

The 27-year-old exited the club’s DFB Pokal final win against Eintracht Frankfurt at halftime after suffering a knee injury.

According to German outlet Bild, Reus will miss at least six months as he rehabs and prepares to make a comeback.

Despite the bad news for Dortmund, Thomas Tuchel’s men captured the title behind goals from Ousmane Dembélé and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Day 9: USMNT tops Group F and more from the U20 World Cup

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Five teams booked their place in the knockout phase at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup on Sunday, including Tab Ramos and the U.S. after the Americans picked up a valuable point to finish atop Group F.

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USMNT U-20s 1-1 Saudi Arabia

An unbeaten record in group play has Ramos and Co. moving on to the Round of 16, where the U.S. will meet New Zealand. Brooks Lennon inked his name on the scoresheet for the first time at this month’s World Cup just prior to halftime, before Abdulelah Alamri equalized with almost a quarter hour left to play.

Senegal 0-0 Ecuador

A draw was all Senegal needed to ensure it would continue its run at the World Cup, while Ecuador fell short of a final 16 bid after only managing two draws during Group F play.

New Zealand 0-2 France

With nine goals for and none conceded during Group E play, France remains one of the heavy hitters at the conclusion of the group phase. Les Bleus received a strong contribution from Bastia winger Allan Saint-Maximin, who netted twice in the first half.

Honduras 2-0 Vietnam

Honduras scored twice in the final 14 minutes-plus added time but neither nation reaches the Round of 16 with Sunday’s result.

Daly collapses during match, treated for heat illness

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HOUSTON (AP) Houston Dash forward Rachel Daly collapsed during the final minute of a National Women’s Soccer League match against the Seattle Reign as temperatures climbed into the 90s.

The 25-year-old Daly was stretchered off the field and taken to the hospital, where the team said she was being treated for heat illness.

The temperature at BBVA Compass Stadium was 92 degrees at the 3 p.m. kickoff. The Reign won 2-0.

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The NWSL issued a statement that said the league had worked with the Dash before the season to schedule any afternoon games early in the year to help avoid heat issues. The teams took a hydration break late in the match.

“We will immediately review these measures to prevent this situation from occurring in the future,” the statement said.

Reign coach Laura Harvey posted to Twitter: “Proud of the team today. Some of the hottest conditions I’ve seen. Road games are tough but that was crazy.”