2018 CONCACAF Champions League


Toronto seeks strong home effort against Chivas in CCL final

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In nine days, an unprecedented feat could appear in the record books for Toronto FC, however, the MLS side needs to start strong in its first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final.

TFC will host Chivas de Guadalajara on Tuesday night (8:15 p.m. ET) at BMO Field in Toronto, which provides the Canadian side the opportunity to build momentum before the two clubs meet in Mexico the following week.

For MLS sides, it’s long been a struggle when it comes to facing teams from Liga MX, particularly for clubs that have to travel to Mexico.

Manager Greg Vanney and his side will aim to construct a similar formula to their efforts against Club America in the CCL semifinals. TFC went up 3-1 in the first leg at BMO, before settling for a 1-1 draw at the Estadio Azteca in the return leg.

TFC’s starting roster has been fully rested after sitting out for the weekend’s 2-0 defeat to the Colorado Rapids in MLS play, and that extended layoff for the regulars should benefit the squad as it prepares for Chivas.

Jozy Altidore is expected to play on Tuesday, despite suffering a foot injury early in the second leg against America, while Justin Morrow, Chris Mavinga and Gregory van der Wiel could all play massive roles on the back line for TFC.

Meanwhile, Chivas’ road to the CCL final has been an intriguing one.

The Mexican side took out Dominican club Cibao in the quarterfinals with ease, before needing a comeback performance against the injury-depleted Seattle Sounders in the following round.

The semifinals saw a hard-fought and largely defensive setup from Chivas, who edged the New York Red Bulls to reach the title match. With the Liga MX club facing the likes of Sebastian Giovinco and Altidore twice in eight days, it’s not unlikely that Chivas will align itself in a similar fashion against Toronto.

CCL preview: Red Bulls, TFC aim to represent MLS in final

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Major League Soccer is still searching for an elusive CONCACAF Champions League title, and with two clubs remaining in this year’s tournament, that reality could finally be nearing.

[ MORE: UCL quarterfinals predictions ]

The New York Red Bulls and Toronto FC remain in contention in the 2018 edition of the CCL as the semifinal round prepares to kick off on Tuesday.

TFC, the defending MLS Cup champions, will take on Liga MX side Club America, while the Red Bulls face off against Chivas Guadalajara from Mexico.

With the possibility of an all-MLS final still in the cards, both the Red Bulls and TFC have to prepare in different ways for their respective semifinal ties.

Greg Vanney and Toronto host Leg 1 from BMO Field on Tuesday, whereas the Red Bulls must go on the road to Estadio Akron the following evening.

While the tactics for both clubs will likely be different, as they should be, the end goal is the same for each team. Stay in contention ahead of the second leg.

In the last round, the Red Bulls did well to earn two critical away goals against Club Tijuana, before rounding up a 5-1 aggregate result against the Mexican side.

Meanwhile, Toronto picked up an important home win against Tigres in Leg 1 before dropping the return leg in Mexico, but still advancing.

The Champions League has been in existence since 1962, however, the current CCL format has existed for the past 10 years — during which no MLS sides have managed to win the competition.

During the previous Champions’ Cup era, D.C. United (1998) and the LA Galaxy (2000) each brought home titles under the old format

Vela: “I hope the Mexican teams win” in CCL

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Carlos Vela may be the newest addition to Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles FC, but the Mexican international is still rooting for his native country’s clubs to prevail in the CONCACAF Champions League.

[ MORE: 2018 setting up to be historic for MLS sides in CCL ]

Three MLS clubs — the New York Red Bulls, Seattle Sounders and Toronto FC — currently hold aggregate leads over Liga MX opposition in the CCL quarterfinals, however, all three matches are far from over with a second leg left to be played.

The 29-year-old Vela believes that while the MLS sides have the upper hand for the time being that all three Liga MX opponents — Tigres, Club Tijuana and Chivas Guadalajara — are capable of overcoming deficits.

That especially goes for Tigres, who are the reigning Mexican champions. They trail Toronto by a 2-1 margin heading into their second leg tie south of the border.

“I don’t know [if I’m surprised],” Vela told reporters on Thursday. “Obviously, the teams in Mexico are strong, it’s a very competitive league and the [series] aren’t over. I think in Mexico, things will change.

“Above all, I think Tigres [can overturn the deficit], the current [Liga MX] champion and a team that has been in finals or winning for a number of years. It’s one of the strongest teams in the tournament and it’ll be hard-fought.”

The LA FC striker’s allegiance may stick with his native country and its club teams, but Vela says MLS has improved drastically and that Mexican teams cannot just walk over their opposition, which has been the case at times in the past.

Vela continued: “But I think [the results] show that the [MLS] isn’t as bad a league as people in Mexico think, that it is very physical, very competitive and you don’t play walking and that was shown [on Wednesday].

“I hope the Mexican teams win because I prefer teams from my country to win.”

Tigres, Tijuana and Chivas currently trail in their respective matches, Club America is well on its way into the semifinals after earning a convincing 4-0 win against Panama’s Tauro.

2018 setting up to be historic for MLS in CONCACAF Champions League

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Major League Soccer’s return to the field may only be as recent as a week, however, some of the league’s top sides have already earned crucial victories in another competition that has historically been a traitorous road.

[ MORE: Giovanni dos Santos talks Galaxy, El Tri and more with PST ]

Wednesday night saw two more MLS sides, Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders, pick up first leg victories against Tigres and Chivas Guadalajara, respectively, in the CONCACAF Champions League.

This coming after the New York Red Bulls earned a massive 2-0 win over Club Tijuana on Tuesday at the Estadio Caliente in Mexico.

In the past, MLS sides have struggled against Mexican opposition, which has proven to be the strongest competition in the CCL over its history.

In the modern-day Champions League era (2008-current), five Liga MX sides have won nine CCL titles, including Club America — who is involved in this season’s tournament.

The Champions Cup, which predates the current CCL, saw 23 Mexican clubs capture unanimous titles, while Universidad de Guadalajara was a joint-champion during the 1978 season with Defence Force and Comunicaciones.

Meanwhile, only six MLS teams have ever reached the semifinals or further in the competition, with two of those clubs — Real Salt Lake and the Montreal Impact — both losing in the final.

D.C. United and the Los Angeles Galaxy each captured Champions Cup titles in 1998 and 2000, respectively, but both seasons only featured eight teams in the main bracket.

This season has shown to be a sign of vast improvement though for MLS and its clubs in the CCL. TFC, the Sounders and the Red Bulls combined to beat their opponents by a score of 10-3 during the Round of 16, while winning their first legs by a combined 5-1 in the quarterfinals.

TFC and the Sounders managed to earn positive results in front of their home supporters on Wednesday, but it was the Red Bulls that picked up a historic victory the night prior when they won down in Mexico.

That win for Jesse Marsch and Co. was the third time an MLS side has ever won south of the border, with previous teams boasting an underwhelming record of 3-38-8.

The work is certainly far from complete though for all three clubs, who now have to match their first leg efforts on March 13 and 14. Meanwhile, the Red Bulls will be the only team lucky enough to benefit from playing at home.

New York Red Bulls make MLS history in Tijuana

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On Tuesday the New York Red Bulls became the first team from Major League Soccer to ever win a CONCACAF Champions League knockout game on the road in Mexico.

MLS’ record away from home against Liga MX teams before last night was an ugly 0-25-5, but the Red Bulls now have one foot in the final four as they’ve taken command of their CCL quarterfinal tie.

[ MORE: CCL quarterfinal preview ]

A goal in each half from Bradley Wright-Phillips did the trick for Jesse Marsch’s side as the Red Bulls take a 2-0 lead back to Red Bull Arena with them for the second leg on March 13.

Club Tijuana were thwarted on several occasions by the excellent NYRB goalkeeper Luis Robles, the newly-installed team captain, as the Xolos have it all to do if they’re going to make the final four of the CCL.

Below is a look at the goals from BWP on a historic night for MLS as it continues to try and end Liga MX’s dominance in this competition.

On Wednesday Toronto FC host UANL Tigres in their quarterfinal first leg, while Seattle host Chivas Guadalajara.

Wright-Phillips put them 1-0 up

Then BWP added a second in typically clinical fashion