“There will be many more CONCACAF Champions League winners, but there is only that does it for the first time for MLS,” said goalkeeper Stefan Frei. “We wrote ourselves into the history books.”
Seattle trailed 2-0 in the first leg but got a Nicolas Lodeiro brace to level the tie heading back to the United States. Lodeiro also scored in the second leg.
Manager Brian Schmetzer is probably gonna get a statue out of this, if Seattle hadn’t already been planning one based on the hometown kid’s pair of USL titles and two MLS Cups as head coach, and three Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cups as an assistant.
CONCACAF has big news Tuesday with the expansion of its Champions League and the Leagues Cup.
With the 2021 Leagues Cup set for its final between Seattle and Club Leon on Wednesday, CONCACAF announced that all of the clubs in MLS and Liga MX will participate in the Leagues Cup beginning in 2023.
The competition began in 2019 with four teams from each league and a planned expansion to 16 total teams (eight from each league) was stymied by the pandemic. Instead, the 2021 tournament again featured four Liga MX and four MLS sides.
Here’s how the CCL news affects North America’s two biggest leagues: Liga MX and Major League Soccer (via CONCACAF.com).
Canadian, Mexican and USA clubs will qualify for the Concacaf Champions League via their domestic leagues and Member Association Cups (US Open Cup and Canadian Championship).
Additionally, Liga MX and MLS clubs will also qualify via an expanded Leagues Cup, which will in 2023 become part of Concacaf’s new club ecosystem and will incorporate all clubs from both leagues.
In total, 18 North American clubs will participate in the Concacaf Champions League. They will be determined as follows: — Round One (15 North American clubs): Five Liga MX clubs*, four MLS clubs*, two Canadian Premier League clubs*, two Leagues Cup clubs (second and third place finishers), the U.S. Open Cup Winner and the Canadian Championship winner.
— Round of 16 (3 North American clubs): Liga MX winner*, MLS Cup winner and Leagues Cup winner
It’s all good news, if only because it will continue to provide litmus tests as MLS encroaches on Liga MX’s territory as the top league in North America.
The United States men’s national team won the CONCACAF Nations League in a non-descript match versus rivals Mexico that betrayed the nations’ usual rancor.
Only part of that is true, as Gregg Berhalter’s USMNT scored him a statement 3-2 win in extra time that included a penalty made, another saved, two American equalizer, a surprising red card for Mexican coach Tata Martino, a surprising non-red card for Mexican star Hector Herrera, a pause in the game after a homophobic crowd chant, and a pitch invasion.
Zack Steffen (Off 69′): 7 — The non-contact injury will be a concern for Pep Guardiola and Gregg Berhalter alike and came after he was hung out to dry for Mexico’s opening goal. We’re giving him an extra point because if he stayed in the game it wouldn’t have played out like it did. Butterfly effect.
DeAndre Yedlin: 5 — Looked unfamiliar with his surroundings, which is odd for a 64-times capped back before you remember that he’s played all of nine minutes for the USMNT since the calendar hit 2020, and that those were the only nine minutes he’s ever played next to Mark McKenzie. Risky and unnecessary error on the first-minut goal.
Mark McKenzie: 3 — Nightmare start as the ringleader of a series of first-minute mistakes that put Mexico ahead. Nearly made amends for extremely shaky play at the back with a header off a corner that was collected by Ochoa with 15 minutes left to play. Then saw the second goal go through his legs on its way past Ethan Horvath. The good news is that he’ll know one of his worst nights — McKenzie is a pretty darn good young back — still wound up with a winner’s medal.
John Brooks: 7 — A mistake early in the buildup to the Mexico opener and another bad giveaway but otherwise another exceptional performance from the excellent-passing, physical leader of the back line. Still adventures more than necessary but there’s no one in the player pool anywhere near his skill set as a center back.
Tim Ream: 4 — He’s not a left back and we’d say, “but don’t tell Gregg Berhalter” if we weren’t positive that dozens of people have told Gregg Berhalter just that. The Fulham center back that started at left back for the USMNT over the man that Fulham coach Scott Parker usually chose at left back at Craven Cottage was exposed for pace. But really, that’s not Ream’s fault. At all.
Sergino Dest (Off 60′): 4 — The good news for Dest is that two-fold. No. 1: He’s really good so it’ll be easy to bounce back from a poor performance. No. 2: So much wacky stuff happened that few will remember said poor performance.
Kellyn Acosta: 5 — It’s not his fault that Berhalter keeps putting him out there from a player pool that includes a load of options including but not limited to Julian Green, Jackson Yueill, and – yes – even Michael Bradley. Bad touch on the opening Mexican goal, out to lunch but with a great view of the second. (EDIT: A first draft of this post misstated that the extra-time handball call — a ridiculous one given the range between the Mexican player and his US opponent — was on Acosta. It was on McKenzie).
Weston McKennie: 9 — He nearly scored with his header of Pulisic’s corner that became Reyna’s goal, then scored anyway off another set piece. He is the embodiment of what most USMNT fans want their team to be, and his massive long throw to set up the corner on Reyna’s goal was weighted like a through ball. Incredible stuff.
Giovanni Reyna (Off 86′): 9 — Why he was lifted before full-time, I have no idea. The son of Claudio Reyna showed the big game mettle of his dad in getting a goal and an assist and finding space more often than not as Tata Martino tried to shut down Christian Pulisic.
Christian Pulisic: 7 — Delivered the corner for the opener and won the decisive penalty, one he dispatched with vicious accuracy into the camera in the upper 90. When the USMNT captain eventually lifted the CONCACAF Nations League trophy, weeks after holding the European Cup, you had a feeling he’d transitioned from USMNT star to all-time great. He’s 22 and has 16 USMNT goals on 37 caps, one away from the program’s all-time top ten.
Josh Sargent (Off 68′): 5 — Slipped twice in the first few minutes and both were huge. One led to Mexico’s opener (though his slip was merely the catalyst for bigger errors by others) and the second came on a great run that could’ve made it 1-1 if he didn’t slip. Still, he’d find his real and proverbial footing before the end of his short shift.
Timothy Weah (On 60′ for Dest): 8 — Pace to burn and he did just that, solidifying the right side. Made a quick pass that should’ve left Mexico with 10 men when Herrera scythed down the three-time Ligue 1 champion.
Jordan Siebatcheu (On 68′ for Sargent): 6 — No super sub day, but still okay.
Ethan Horvath (On 69′ for Steffen): 9 — Save after save after save after … oh yeah, one of those was a penalty save on Andres Guardado up 3-2 in the second period of extra time. Can’t give a 10 due to the wrong-footing on Mexico’s second goal, though he was far from a culprit. Pretty good, guy.
Sebastian Lletget (On 86′ for Reyna): 6 — Not bad, not great, and kinda weird to see him out there for an 18-year-old Reyna boasting a goal and an assist through 86 minutes.
Tyler Adams (On 86′ for Ream): 6 — Please get fit and stay healthy, Tyler. The USMNT is much better with you in the fold.
Two MLS veterans made a claim for their league in the ongoing trek toward relevance in competition with Liga MX sides when Toronto FC sprung an upset of Club Leon on Wednesday in CONCACAF Champions League action.
And the CCL’s newest pals provided more entertainment, this time stateside, as Philadelphia Union surged past Saprissa.
Jim Curtin’s side won 1-0 in the first leg of their last 16 clash at Costa Rican powerhouse Saprissa thanks to Kacper Przybylko’s first half header.
Their first-ever game in the continental tournament was a tight, tense affair as the reigning MLS Supporters’ Shield champions take a huge 1-0 aggregate lead back to Pennsylvania with them for the second leg on April 14.
But the main talking point was the horror tackle from Saprissa’s Ricardo Blanco on Kai Wagner of the Union in the 94th minute, as Wagner was sent flying through the air and only a yellow card was dished out by the referee for an awful two-footed lunging tackle from Blanco.
All hell then broke loose as players from both teams brawled, the officials had no control on the situation and poor Wagner was left lying on the floor.
How on earth was this only a yellow card!?
Take a look at the video below, as the second leg in Chester, PA next week will be a bit tasty.