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Giovinco free kick highlights Toronto’s CCL semi-clinching draw (video)

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Sebastian Giovinco forced an own goal and netted a free kick as Toronto FC advanced to the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals despite a 3-2 second leg loss to UANL Tigres on Tuesday in Mexico.

Tigres scored a penalty in stoppage time, but the pair of away goals pushed TFC through on a 4-4 aggregate score line.

TFC will play Club America unless Tauro makes amends for a 4-0 deficit after one leg come Wednesday evening.

André-Pierre Gignac scored twice, one the penalty, and Eduardo Vargas also scored for Tigres.

[ MORE: Red Bulls advance past Xolos ]

The heady times started early for Toronto FC, which needed big plays from defender Chris Mavinga and goalkeeper Alex Bono in the first half.

Life got a lot harder for Tigres when Sebastian Giovinco forced an own goal in the 64th minute, though Vargas scored his second goal of the tie to give the hosts hope.

But that so-and-so Giovinco did what he does with his 73rd minute free throw free kick to lift TFC to a two-goal lead with a pair of away goals.

Gignac leveled the tie in the 84th, and then converted a penalty off a Gregory van der Wiel handball in stoppage time, but it was too little, too late for the Liga MX side.

Enner Valencia heads back to Liga MX; Gignac available?

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Enner Valencia is returning to Liga MX, finding a new home at Tigres UANL.

West Ham United announced the sale for an undisclosed fee on Thursday, ending Valencia’s tenure in the Premier League with 11 goals in 75 appearances between the Irons and a loan to Everton. The Toffes had a buy option, but did not exercise it.

Valencia found his way to the PL after a terrific 2014 World Cup with Ecuador and a final season with Pachuca which saw him score 18 goals in 23 matches.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

However his international future has been tumultuous, including a wild child support story which saw him chased off the pitch by police during a CONMEBOL World Cup qualifier.

Valencia has 20 goals in 38 Ecuador caps, and joins a Tigres side with former USMNT midfielder Jose Francisco Torres, Chilean star Eduardo Vargas, and French striker Andre-Pierre Gignac.

The latter has been linked with the LA Galaxy, and the addition of Valencia — while not like for like — could boost the chances of an MLS arrival for Gignac.

Reports claimed the Galaxy headed down to Monterrey for a discussion regarding Gignac’s availability last week, and it’s not crazy to put two-and-two together.

Report: LA Galaxy’s interest in Tigres star Gignac quite real

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Reporter Kristian Dyer says the LA Galaxy has bid $6 million for the services of French striker Andre-Pierre Gignac of Tigres UANL.

The Mexican club is said to value him at twice that fee, which is plenty of money for a 31-year-old striker. Transfermarkt rates his value just under $8 million, and Gignac signed with Tigres on a free transfer in 2015.

[ MORE: DC adds Deshorn Brown ]

Gignac spent time at Marseille with LA’s new star, 28-year-old Romain Alessandrini, who has been influential since arriving in the offseason.

From Metro.Us:

Gignac’s interest in a move to MLS is “high” the source said.

“He thinks highly of the MLS and sees this as a dream move,” the source said. “Los Angeles would be a great fit for him.”

Gignac has 53 league goals in 81 appearances in Liga MX, and it would be surprising if he didn’t carry a similar strike rate in MLS. With Gyasi Zardes yet to score in 798 minutes for the Galaxy this season, LA needs an answer and someone to pair with Giovani Dos Santos on the end of Alessandrini’s playmaking. Between Zardes, Jack McInerney, Jack McBean, and Jose Villarreal, LA has just two goals this season.

CCL: Ousted’s six saves keep ‘Caps alive vs. Tigres

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Vancouver Whitecaps returned from Mexico down 2-0 and without an away goal, but manager Carl Robinson thinks the ‘Caps are in okay shape heading into the second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League semifinal versus Tigres UANL.

The Liga MX powers picked up their advantage through a Kendall Waston own goal and a seeing-eye shot from ex-Hoffenheim man Eduardo Vargas. The damage was limited to a pair of goals thanks to ‘Caps keep David Ousted.

[ MORE: Mourinho defends “envied” Pogba ]

Vargas and fellow attacker Andre-Pierre Gignac registered a combined seven shots on the night, and Ousted was credited with six saves as Tigres accumulated close to 80 percent possession.

From MLSSoccer.com:

“He put in a very strong performance, as did all the players. They gave their all. I asked them to not leave anything on the pitch and leave no regrets and they certainly done that. [Tigres] were the better team on the night. We’ve got a second leg, and we’re still very much in the tie if we can get that first goal.”

Leg No. 2 is April 5 at BC Place. The other semifinal gets started Wednesday, when FC Dallas hosts Pachuca at 8 p.m. EDT.

The CCL winner advanced to the FIFA Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates.

Tigres finally beats stellar Rimando, tops RSL in CONCACAF Champions League first leg

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Tigres finally broke down the “Wall of the Wasatch” at the Estadio Universitario on Wednesday.

Jose Rivas had a goal and an assist as hosts Tigres overcame a solid performance from Real Salt Lake keeper Nick Rimando to win 2-0 in the first leg of the two sides’ CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal.

Jurgen Damm had the other Tigres goal. The second leg is at Rio Tinto on March 2.

[ MORE CCL: Queretaro beats DC | Seattle draws Club America ]

It was the third-straight CCL game that saw an MLS side wilt late against Liga MX competition, lending credence to the early season fitness critique of the tournament’s timing.

Aaron Maund took too long to send a ball and saw his clearance deflected into the path of Andre-Pierre Gignac, who opened up too much on his shot and passed wide of the goal.

Olave was booked for tripping Rafael Sobis running down the left in the 14th minute, and Tigres had a free kick from about 23 yards out. The effort was tame.

[ MORE: Artist’s renderings of Minnesota United’s new stadium ]

Gignac missed a third kick at the can in the 30th minute, pushing the ball across the six but wide of the goal.

Tigres was awarded a PK just before halftime, as a header nicked off Kyle Beckerman’s trailing hand. But Nick Rimando scooped up Gignac’s low attempt to keep it scoreless.

Rimando was back at it early in the second half, getting low to collect Damian Alvarez’s shot.

Olave’s rough night continued when Rivas out-jumped him to head past Rimando, and 20 minutes later he was late to Rivas when the Mexican center back passed across goal to Damm, who needed two kicks to beat the sprawling RSL back line.