CONCACAF Champions League

CONCACAF Champions League: 10-man Atlanta wins, Portland draws

CONCACAF Champions League
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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.

Vela leads 10-man LAFC to CONCACAF Champions League final

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Bob Bradley, take a bow.

Down a man and a goal at halftime, Bradley’s LAFC is now one win away from becoming the first Major League Soccer side to win the CONCACAF Champions League after knocking off Club America 3-1 on Saturday in Florida.

LAFC will meet Tigres in the final on Tuesday. The winner heads to the FIFA Club World Cup in early February.

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Sebastian Caceres had put America up 1-0 when Eduard Atuesta was shown a straight red card before the break — admittedly a big loss for the final.

But Carlos Vela scored twice in two minutes to put the MLS side on top in the 47th minute. A straight red to Luis Reyes of America leveled the teams at 10 men and Latif Blessing scored in second-half stoppage time to salt away the spot in the final.

Here’s Bradley on Vela, from LAFC.com:

“He does everything to help you manage a difficult team,” Bradley said of Vela. “He’s a great guy and an amazing player. He scores great goals, his ability. He is strong and has great balance and is not afraid of contact. We are lucky to have him around and you can tell he is really committed right now.”

Despite being down a man, LAFC had 49 percent of the ball and matched America in shots.

The tournament is being staged in Orlando, where LAFC beat Cruz Azul in the semifinal. They knocked Leon out of the tournament in February and are the first MLS side to beat three Liga MX teams in the tournament.

The 2000 LA Galaxy and 1998 DC United sides won when the competition was still the Champions Cup, but only four MLS sides have made the final In the Champions League era (2008-present): Real Salt Lake, Montreal Impact, Toronto FC, and now LAFC.

In a first winner-take-all, one-legged final, Bradley’s team can make history.

Canadian side Forge FC falls in CONCACAF League quarterfinals (video)

Forge FC
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Forge FC has come up just short on their first hope of giving Canada a second team in the CONCACAF Champions League.

The Canadian Premier League outfit from Hamilton, Ontario, fell in penalty kicks against Haitian side Arcahaie in the Dominic Republic during CONCACAF League quarterfinal on Tuesday.

A spot in the 2020-21 CCL was up for grabs, as all four semifinalists qualify for the CCL. Forge can still make the CCL via two routes, the next chance being a play-in round game against the loser of the quarterfinal between Honduras’ Marathon and Costa Rica’s Saprissa.

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Forge qualified for the CONCACAF League by winning the inaugural CPL season title in 2019.

Forge had beaten Salvadoran side Municipal Limeno and Panamanian mainstays Tauro by matching 2-1 scores to reach the quarterfinals.

University of Albany product Daniel Krutzen (Belgium) had put the CPL side ahead with a first-half stoppage-time penalty on Tuesday, but a goalkeeper error gave Haitian teenager Kervens Jolicouer an equalizer before the hour mark.

That sent the match to kicks, where the Haitian side made all four of its penalties and its Canadian counterparts missed two.

Several players beyond Krutzen played NCAA Soccer in the United States, including Connecticut star Kwame Awuah, Syracuse’s Chris Nanco, and Akron’s Marcel Zajac. The club also boasts former MLS players Kyle Bekker and Maxim Tissot, as well as former Newcastle and Burnley defender David Edgar.

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CONCACAF Champions League will conclude in Orlando this December

CONCACAF Champions League
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We will have a new CONCACAF Champions League winner by Christmas, with the remaining matches of this season’s tournament set for Orlando in mid-December.

The tournament will restart behind closed doors and four days after the MLS Cup Final, putting a potential onus on a champion to keep the celebrations tight if they make it that far.

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Three of the four Major League Soccer sides are in tough spots for the resumption of the tournament.

  • Atlanta United trails Club America 3-0 and as a non-playoff team will not have played a meaningful game in a month-and-a-half.
  • Montreal trails CD Olimpia 2-1. Thierry Henry’s Impact are the East’s No. 9 seed for the MLS Cup Playoffs.
  • NYCFC trails 1-0 to Tigres and is the East’s five seed

Bob Bradley’s LAFC are the West’s No. 7 seed and did not play their first leg against Cruz Azul, so avoiding the away leg puts them in the best spot of all the MLS teams.

Quarterfinals: December 15-16

CD Olimpia v Impact Montreal (CD Olimpia leads 2-1)
Atlanta United FC v Club América (Club America leads 3-0)
Tigres UANL v NYCFC (Tigres leads 1-0)
LAFC vs Cruz Azul (single match)

Semifinals: December 19

Semifinal 1: Club America or Atlanta United FC vs LAFC or Cruz Azul
Semifinal 2: Tigres UANL or NYCFC vs CD Olimpia or Impact Montreal

Final: December 22

Final: Winner Semifinal 1 vs Winner Semifinal 2

MLS, Liga MX cancel three major events including MLS All Star Game

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Major League Soccer and Liga MX have canceled three major events as both outfits focus on the possibilities of league play after the coronavirus pandemic.

The MLS All-Star Game against the Liga MX All Stars joins The Leagues Cup and the Campeones Cup in being canceled. All three events were set for July or later on the calendar.

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MLS announced that the Leagues Cup and Campeones Cup will return in 2021, and that it is hopeful of hosting the Liga MX All-Stars for the 2021 All-Star Game in Los Angeles.

The league stopped short of guaranteeing the matchup, but said it’s expecting to see the same showcase.

MLS played two match days in March before suspending the season over the coronavirus pandemic, while Liga MX played 10 rounds of its Clausura season before stopping for the same reason.

The CONCACAF Champions League is the next big shoe to drop, as the entire competition was set to finish by May 7. Three of the four quarterfinal first legs were played, with four MLS teams, three Liga MX sides, and Honduras’ Olimpia still in the competition.

It’s by far the most important competition of the four above, as the winner represents CONCACAF in the Club World Cup and there will be two Club World Cups within six months: December 2020 in Qatar and June 2021 in China.