If a Major League Soccer side is to win the CONCACAF Champions League this season, most would have wagered prior to the start of the knockout round that FC Dallas were the side most likely to break through.
Based on the evidence of Oscar Pareja’s side’s quarterfinal thrashing of Panamanian side Arabe Unido, and the Hoops’ semifinals 2-1 first-leg victory Pachuca on Wednesday, that bet seems safer, and more likely, now than ever before.
The tie couldn’t have started much worse for FCD, who went a goal down in their home leg a mere 135 seconds after kickoff. Hernan Grana slipped as Erick Aguirre faked one direction and raced away in the other before cutting the ball back to Franco Jara at the top of the six-yard box. From there, it was a simple finish on the half-volley to make it 1-0.
It didn’t take FCD long to settle into the game, though, as they were the better side for the majority of Wednesday’s game. It took almost the entire first half to break through, but it was a long time coming. Pachuca goalkeeper Alfonso Blanco couldn’t hold onto Grana’s cross from the right wing, and the ball fell to Maximiliano Urruti, who narrowly got his foot onto the ball for a not-so-easy, first-time finish.
Kellyn Acosta made it 2-1 to FCD barely six hours after his first call-up to the U.S. national team became public knowledge. Acosta will give Bruce Arena plenty to think about when picking his lineups against Honduras and Panama, especially with stunning free-kick efforts like the one below.
The two sides will meet in two weeks’ time, on Tuesday, April 4, for the second leg. The aggregate winner will advance to the two-leg final, where they’ll face the winner of Tigers versus Vancouver Whitecaps in the other semifinal (Tigres lead 2-0 after Vancouver’s home leg).