Leagues Cup

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Yotun leads Cruz Azul to inaugural Leagues Cup in Las Vegas

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A neutral venue didn’t stop the Leagues Cup Final from rocking on Wednesday evening, as 20,132 fans filed into Sam Boyd Stadium to see Cruz Azul outlast Tigres in the showpiece of the competition.

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The tournament, staged as a match-up between MLS and Liga MX, saw Mexican entrants as three of its four semifinalists. MLS teams largely chose second choice sides and focused on league play rather than taking a chance to make history.

It was a former MLS player who made the difference in the match. Ex-Orlando City striker Yoshimar Yotun scored a penalty in the 73rd minute before assisting Jonathan Rodriguez with a slick through ball two minutes later.

Next season will see the Leagues Cup move to 16 teams, with the eight MLS entrants the best-finishing teams who fail to qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League.

Petke releases statement after RSL dismissal

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Two days after his firing from Real Salt Lake, former head coach Mike Petke has broken his silence with a statement released on social media.

Posted on his official Twitter account, Petke admitted that he lost his temper with referee John Francis Pitti after Real Salt Lake’s 1-0 defeat to Tigres UANL on July 24 and acted poorly in berating the officials. However, he also made clear that he didn’t believe his actions were his true character and he hinted at a potential lawsuit, stating he will “have the chance to discuss the club’s decision in a forum in the future.”

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Petke also noted that he had signed a contract extension to stay with RSL for the future, only to lose his job days later.

According to reports from the Athletic, Petke allegedly used a Spanish word that is used as a Homophobic slur when speaking to the officials, which reportedly led to his dismissal. Many RSL fans were vocal in their opposition to Petke’s alleged language and there were reports that some of the club’s sponsors expressed issues with Petke’s actions.

The firing on Sunday ended a two-and-a-half year run for Petke in Utah. He was named head coach of RSL’s USL-club, Real Monarchs in late 2016, but just before the start of their season, he was promoted to Real Salt Lake head coach after the dismissal of then-coach Jeff Cassar in similar, expedited fashion.

Petke’s fiery passion and exuberance were on display on the sidelines and in post game press conferences during his time as RSL coach. But in terms of on-the-field success, Petke led RSL to the playoffs last year and had his team in position to make the playoffs this year, if the season ended today.

With Petke gone, assistant coach Freddy Juarez has been elevated to be the new head coach for the rest of the MLS season.

Leagues Cup: Beasley’s beauty not enough v. Club America (video)

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DaMarcus Beasley’s rocket goal in the 85th minute forced penalty kicks, but Giovani Dos Santos scored the decisive seventh effort to send Club America past the Houston Dynamo in the Leagues Cup quarterfinals.

Nicolas Benedetti scored for Club America.

[ MORE: Tuesday’s Leagues Cup wrap ]

Agustín Marchesín stopped Romell Quioto’s opening penalty kick, and Club America took the lead when Nicolas Castillo rolled in its first attempt. Houston made its next four shots, but Roger Martinez of the visitors blazed his effort over the bar to force extra kicks.

Sam Junqua was unsuccessful with Houston’s seventh try, and old foe Dos Santos won it for Club America, who will face the winner of Real Salt Lake and UANL Tigres in the semifinal, while LA Galaxy is set to meet Cruz Azul in the other.

The semifinals are Aug. 20 and the final is Sept. 18 in Las Vegas.

Leagues Cup: Lampson leads LA; Fire out

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There’s no shame in Liga MX being a superior league to Major League Soccer, but it would be nice to get more showings of strength from the rapidly improving top flight for Canada and the United States.

The Leagues Cup provided that chance for four teams of MLS, who could make a statement with three quick victories over the next two months. In at least one of Tuesday’s cases, a side’s backups and reserves gave its club the chance to take it more seriously in the semifinals.

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The Mexican sides, by and large, spend more money deeper into their squad, and most of the clubs were established well before still relatively young MLS.

Throw in both MLS sides clearly ignoring the tournament in favor of weekend league outings, and what could’ve been a really cool tournament could’ve also wasted a lot of peoples’ time on Wednesday despite MLS having the distinct advantage of being hosts for all four quarterfinals.

Godspeed, LA Galaxy.

Chicago Fire 0-2 Cruz Azul

Chicago opted to keep many of its first-choice players on the bench or out of the 18, and it showed in an easy win for away side.

Cruz Azul out-attempted the Fire by a 14-5 margin, and held 69 percent of possession. Fire backstop Richard Sanchez was forced to make six saves, but Roberto Alvarado and Elias Hernandez scored late in each half to plug a couple of away goals onto the board.

Alvarado’s goal was simply magical.

LA Galaxy 2-2 (3-1 pens) Club Tijuana

The resilient hosts took the favored visitors to penalties, where

Servando Carrasco gave LA a lead, and Matt Lampson stopped Erick “Cubo” Torres only to see Efrain Alvarez clanked the next effort off the post. Ariel Nahuelpán then leveled the score before Gibran Lajud made a save for Tijuana

But Lampson answered the bell, and it was 1-1 after three rounds each. He made another save on Angel Sepulveda’s poor penalty, and Giancarlo Gonzalez sent the Galaxy into the semifinals.

Tijuana had most of the ball, nearly doubled LA’s passes, and out-attempted the Galaxy 20-7.

Emmanuel Boateng turned a Kai Koreniuk shot past Gibran Lajud for a 27th minute lead, but TJ tied the score within six minutes and took the lead just before halftime.

Dave Romney had an answer after halftime with a thundering header off an Efrain Alvarez corner kick, and LA was back in business with 37 minutes to play.

Tijuana’s Miller Bolanos hit the post in the 70th, but the danger was largely non-existent the rest of the way aside from wasted free kicks.

LA’s Julian Araujo was sent off in stoppage time for a second yellow card.

Leagues Cup preview: MLS gets its next shot at Liga MX

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It’s not a typo; The s is very real.

The Leagues Cup — not the League Cup — is the new competition pitting Major League Soccer sides against some of the top sides from Mexico’s Liga MX.

The tournament has been expanded before it’s even seen a ball kicked in competition, as the second edition with go from eight to 16 teams.

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For now, though, we’ve got four American and four Mexican sides meeting over the next two months in a bid for North American supremacy not unlike a CONCACAF Champions League stripped of all the minnows.

Much like the CCL, the Mexican sides will be expected to triumph, even with all of the quarterfinals being staged in the United States.

Chicago Fire hosts Cruz Azul on Tuesday, followed by the LA Galaxy’s visit from Club Tijuana.

Wednesday will see the Houston Dynamo host Club America, and Tigres UANL at Real Salt Lake.

The winners meet Aug. 20, while the final will be played Sept. 18 in Las Vegas.

There’s a lot of promise in this, and it gives MLS another chance to make some statements about the distance between it and Liga MX. The Mexican sides have flat out dominated the CCL, and it’s not difficult to make the same prediction for this tournament.

But, like many tournaments, it also gives success-starved clubs a chance to give their fans something big and their players a tonic. For Bastian Schweinsteiger‘s Chicago, for one, it’s a huge opportunity. And for Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the Galaxy, it’s a look toward another piece of silverware for one of the world’s biggest trophy cases.