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.

source: Getty Images
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

MLS: Techera’s hat trick; Gordon the hero (again) for Chicago

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) Cristian Techera scored three second-half goals and the Vancouver Whitecaps overcame several defensive errors to tie the New England Revolution 3-3 on Saturday.

Techera completed the hat trick in the 74th minute off a pass from striker Yordy Reyna.

The Whitecaps (4-5-5) are winless in five games and have just one victory in their past nine matches (1-4-4). New England is 5-4-3.

Vancouver trailed 2-0 early in the second half.

Whitecaps defender Aly Ghazal had an own goal and made a poor pass that helped set up a goal by New England’s Teal Bunbury. Another Revolution goal came after defender Sean Franklin mishandled a ball.

Techera made it 2-1 in the 49th minute off a cross from Marcel de Jong. Russell Teibert set up Techera again two minutes later, with Techera scoring on a header after goalkeeper Matt Turner stopped the first shot.

Bunbury gave New England a 3-2 lead in the 59th minute after Ghazal’s weak pass was picked off.

Cristian Penilla also scored for New England.


ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Alan Gordon broke a tie in the 82nd minute and the Chicago Fire beat Orlando City 2-1 on Saturday night.

Gordon settled Bastian Schweinsteiger’s cross with a couple of touches at 25 yards from goal and fired a rocket into the upper right corner past goalkeeper Joe Bendik’s outstretched hand.

Chicago’s Mohammed Adams was sent off in the 89th minute for violent conduct, but the Fire (4-6-2) held on from there, including six minutes of stoppage time, to end a two-game losing streak.

Orlando City (6-5-1) has lost three straight after winning six in a row.

Aleksandar Katai gave Chicago the lead on a free kick in the 13th minute.

Cristian Higuita tied it for Orlando City in the 28th minute, slotting a right-footed shot inside the far post after getting sprung free by Chris Mueller’s short pass to the right side of the penalty area.

Patrick McLain had four saves for his first MLS win.

Walker hopes young England squad proves more “streetwise”

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Kyle Walker, who finds himself one of England’s youthful elder statesman ahead of next month’s World Cup, believes Gareth Southgate‘s 23-man squad has a “different vibe” around it and hopes that vibe will aid in galvanizing the Three Lions when they arrive in Russia.

[ MORE: Ronaldo hints at Real Madrid exit | Bale does the same ]

Iterations past, as Walker sees it, lacked a certain “streetwise” sense about them; not that they weren’t always a hard-working bunch, but that they lacked the understanding to play smarter, not harder, in certain moments.

Walker, who missed out on the 2014 World Cup due to an injury suffered not long before the tournament in Brazil, feels he’s matured a great deal during his first 12 months at Manchester City, under Pep Guardiola, and he’s ready to impart some of that wisdom on the rest of the squad, with the help of a few of his Man City teammates — quotes from the Guardian:

“The whole vibe around England now is completely different. It is a younger set of players and we are taking huge steps in the right direction but we still probably need to get more streetwise.

“English footballers are honest, they will run for 90-odd minutes, but that is not always what you need. Sometimes you need to rein back a bit and try and control the game with your passing.

“When we come up against Belgium, say, it could be a deciding game but we need to realize that we don’t have to score in the first 10 minutes. If you can control the game you can wait until the 80th minute or longer if necessary. I’m trying to bring that calmness from Manchester City, and so is John [Stones].

“I’ve adapted my own game a bit since changing club. I stay back a bit more. When I was at Tottenham the fans wanted attack, attack, attack but, if you send too many bodies forward, you are liable for the counter. With England we are working in training on controlling situations a little better. If we can make it work on the pitch we will hopefully have a good tournament.”

[ UCL FINAL: Player ratings | Three things we learned ]

Whether or not Walker plays right back — where he’s spent the majority of his career — or on the right side of a back-three, he’ll be second-most senior member of a defensive unity which is nearly untested in major tournaments.

Of the nine defenders chosen in the squad, only Gary Cahill (58 – the only player over 40) and Walker have made more than 30 appearances for England. Of the 23 players chosen throughout the entire squad, the average number of caps won is 19.5.

Platini vows to return to soccer after “end of long nightmare”

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PARIS (AP) Banned former UEFA President and FIFA vice president Michel Platini says he is planning to return to soccer after Swiss federal prosecutors confirmed he was not being charged in an investigation into possible financial wrongdoing.

[ MORE: Real Madrid 3-1 Liverpool — Los Blancos make it three straight ]

Platini says in a statement it’s “the end of a long nightmare for my family and those close to me.”

Since September 2015, the former France midfielder had the status of “between a witness and an accused person” in criminal proceedings opened against then-FIFA President Sepp Blatter. No criminal case was ever opened against Platini.

The evidence related to Blatter authorizing FIFA to pay Platini $2 million in uncontracted back salary in 2011.

[ MORE: Ronaldo hints at Real Madrid exit | Bale does the same ]

FIFA’s ethics committee also investigated Platini’s request to FIFA for pension contributions he was not entitled to. It was agreed by Blatter and added more than $1 million to Platini’s retirement fund.

Platini was eventually banned for four years, through October 2019. Both he and Blatter denied wrongdoing but Court of Arbitration for Sport judges refused to overturn his ban and that of Blatter’s.

[ UCL FINAL: Player ratings | Three things we learned ]

The case meant Platini was removed from the UEFA presidency and he was barred from trying to succeed Blatter as FIFA president in 2016.

Platini, a former France captain and coach, says “I will come back: where, when, how? It’s too early to say. But I will come back into football.

“Because football is my life and I deny anyone the right to deprive me of my life,” the 62-year-old Platini says.

Neymar appears in good shape after first week with Brazil

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TERESOPOLIS, Brazil (AP) Neymar finished his first full week of training with Brazil on Saturday in apparent good shape ahead of the upcoming World Cup after foot surgery.

The striker continued his recovery, dribbling and passing at high speed in Brazil’s last training session on home soil before the national team sets up camp in London on Monday.

The Brazilian has been recovering from right foot surgery in March.

[ MORE: Neymar “annoyed” by latest (and constant) transfer speculation ]

Earlier in the week, members of Brazil’s coaching staff said Neymar was fit to train but they tried to reduce pressure on him by saying it would take time until he delivered his best performances.

Left back Filipe Luis said Neymar did well in training but still needs to forget the injury.

“I had a serious injury in 2010 and I came back with fear. In the first chance I had in a game, I went with it all so I could lose that fear. I saw it didn’t hurt and I just forgot,” Luis said. “It will be the same with Neymar, the first time an opponent kicks him … he will forget it.”

In the first training session in Teresopolis, outside Rio de Janeiro, Neymar occasionally dragged his right foot onto the pitch. On Thursday he took his right boot off, sat down for a few minutes and looked upset. Once the football was underway, he seemed as fit as his teammates despite accidentally kicking the pitch with his injured foot. He soon afterward got back in action.

[ MORE: Messi: It would be ‘terrible’ to see Neymar at Real Madrid ]

In the first and only Brazil open training session, with fans screaming his name on the sidelines, a playful Neymar nutmegged right-back Danilo and flipped the ball over Luis’ head.

Throughout the week Neymar showed his finishing was sharpening, especially from close range.

After Saturday’s training Neymar welcomed his girlfriend, actress Bruna Marquezine, and family members to the Granja Comary training ground.

With Brazil players off duty for the rest of the day, Neymar is expected to take some teammates back to his mansion in Mangaratiba, near Rio.

The 20-strong squad will meet again Sunday morning at the Brazilian football confederation headquarters in a visit to their museum.

Players then travel to London hours later and will set up camp until June 8 at Tottenham’s training ground.