The CONCACAF Champions League returned Tuesday, and a pair of Major League Soccer sides showed different defending styles in shaking off the rest.
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Atlanta United was resolute, winning in Honduras despite playing more than a half with 10 men, while Portland Timbers will be happy to have scored twice but also shake their heads at some very suspect instincts when Marathon had the ball.
Alajuelense 0-1 Atlanta United
Job done for the Five Stripes after a wild ride in Costa Rica.
Brad Guzan was sent off in the 43rd minute for a last man back foul, sending teenage goalkeeper Rocco Rios Novo between the sticks days after signing on loan from Lanus II.
Oh yeah, that was on loan from Lanus II to Atlanta United 2.
But Atlanta earned a penalty in the early moments of the second half and Ezequiel Barco buried it, and the Five Stripes held on to win the first leg over Bryan Ruiz, Johan Venegas, and an Alajuelense team unbeaten and leading the Costa Rican Primera Division with nine wins and seven draws.
Rios Novo made six saves over the final 47 minutes. The second leg comes 6pm ET on April 13 in Georgia.
CD Marathon 2-2 Portland Timbers
The Timbers blew a pair of leads in Honduras, but the two away goals will be fine consolation for Giovani Savarese’s men.
Portland led through Felipe Mora and a Marathon own goal caused by Diego Valeri’s looooong distance free kick that clattered the cross bar and the back of keeper Denovan Torrez.
But both goals were answered within minutes, as Brayan Castillo and Marlon Ramirez sent the tie to Oregon at 2-2.
Former Celtic left back Emilio Izaguirre was a force in the middle of the park for the hosts, with three key passes and 12 tackles against Portland.
DIEGOOOO VALERIIII pic.twitter.com/nZoITaRHSH
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 6, 2021