2019 CONCACAF Champions League

CCL Rewind: Monterrey too much once again for Sporting KC

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The odds were never in their favor.

Sporting KC scored two first half goals but they couldn’t defend against mighty Monterrey, falling 5-2 on the night and 10-2 on aggregate in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals. Monterrey showed what MLS is missing with clinical finishing on the counter attack and for the most part, strong, resolute defending.

[READ: Top Premier League storylines for Week 34]

While the result was expected, after Monterrey’s thumping 5-0 first leg win, it showed that even when Monterrey had little to play for, they could still put one of MLS’ best teams to the sword.

Sporting KC opened the game with attacking vigor and it resulted in a pair of goals from Gerso. In just the sixth minute of the match, Gerso chopped home a cross from Johnny Russell on the volley to put Sporting KC in front on the night, and in the 29th minute, Gerso was quickest to the ball after a shot was parried towards him by Monterrey goalkeeper Marcelo Barovero.

But even with the goals and the forward momentum, Sporting KC had no answers for the likes of Rogelio Funes Mori, Aviles Hurtado and Rodolfo Pizarro. Funes Mori finished with two goals with Hurtado, Pizarro, and Miguel Layun each scored one goal.

The defeat, in embarrassing fashion, is another stark reminder of how far off MLS clubs are from those at the top of the Liga MX table. Last year’s CONCACAF Champions League final between even a struggling Chivas de Guadelajara side and Toronto FC showed that MLS was even a ways off in that battle. This time, it wasn’t even close.

It’s unclear what has to change moving forward. Should MLS start their season earlier? Should they allow for more DPs? Should teams be able to spend as much money as they want? Obviously, MLS has the long-term view on the growth of soccer, and it would be unwise to burn this shining star out quickly instead of creating sustained success. But without any changes, it will be more of the same as Mexican clubs continue to improve along with MLS sides.

Sporting KC seal historic CCL win in Mexico

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Sporting Kansas City have done something no Major League Soccer team has ever done, and they will go into the start of the 2019 MLS season with a significant spring in their step.

[ MORE: MLS 2019 season preview ]

On Thursday evening they eased by Mexico’s Toluca 2-0 in the CONCACAF Champions League, as SKC advanced 5-0 on aggregate to reach the last eight.

The success was the first-time an MLS team has ever beat a Liga MX side in a CCL knockout round match when playing the second leg in Mexico. Peter Vermes side dominated a disjointed Toluca at the Estadio Nemesio Diez as Gerso Fernandes’ early goal settled any nerves and Krisztian Nemeth’s second half penalty kick sealed the deal.

SKC were so good that Toluca’s fans started chanting their name and the ole’s rang out as Vermes men kept the ball and eased to victory.

Sporting KC now face Independiente of Panama in the quarterfinals as they beat Toronto FC 5-1 on aggregate. The away leg will be played March 5-7, with the home leg March 12-14.

There are four MLS teams in the last eight, with the New York Red Bulls facing Santos Laguna, Houston Dynamo taking on Tigres and Atlanta taking on Monterrey in three MLS v. Liga MX ties.

No MLS team has ever won the CCL in its current format, but my word Sporting look irresistible and have certainly been handed a very decent route through to the final four.

CCL Rewind: Atlanta United completes epic comeback to advance

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Before the match, Atlanta United’s chances of advancing to the next round of the CONCACAF Champions League were slim. That all changed inside the first minute of the game.

Josef Martinez’s goal in the first 60 seconds set the tone as Atlanta United went on to rout Costa Rican side Herediano, 4-0, winning 5-3 on aggregate. Martinez finished with two goals, including the one that finally put Atlanta United ahead midway through the second half. Julian Gressel scored in the ninth minute while defender Leandro Gonzalez Pires powered home a header in the 83rd minute to put the finishing touches on the match.

[READ: Projecting the next USMNT squad]

Whether due to early-season jitters, the playing surface or rustiness, Atlanta United did not look its former self in the first leg of the encounter. On Thursday night, it looked like the dominant Atlanta United of old, even though they played at Kennesaw St.’s Fifth Third Bank Stadium. Frank De Boer stuck with his 3-4-3 formation, though he brought in Brek Shea, who created a spark down the left for the first goal. Shea’s cross was mis-cleared right into the path of Martinez, who finished for a goal.

The intensity and performance should help Atlanta carry the early-season momentum in MLS into the next round of the Champions League. Plus, as Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez, Josef Martinez and Ezequiel Barco grow in chemistry, so exciting attacking options should be on display one day.

CCL roundup: Houston win, Toronto hammered (video)

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The crazy world of the CONCACAF Champions League is back, as the 2019 season has kicked off in North American soccer.

Two MLS teams were in last 16 action on Tuesday as Toronto were hammered 4-0 away at Panama’s Independiente in the first leg, while the Houston Dynamo won 1-0 away at Guastatoya in Guatemala City thanks to DaMarcus Beasley’s stunning right-footed strike.

In the other CCL game on Tuesday, Costa Rica’s Deportivo Saprissa beat Mexico’s Tigres 1-0 as the first games of the knockout rounds of the tournament delivered plenty of drama.

Below you will find video highlights from each game, with three more CCL last 16 games coming up today (New York Red Bulls travel to Atletico Pantoja) and two on Thursday with Sporting KC hosting Toluca and Atlanta United heading to Herediano.


Tuesday’s CCL roundup

Independiente 4-0 TorontoRECAP

Guastatoya 0-1 Houston Dynamo 

Deportivo Saprissa 1-0 Tigres UANL