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CCL roundup: RBNY’s comeback falls short; Dynamo gone, too

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The odds were long — as they tend to be for MLS teams this time of year — but that didn’t stop the New York Red Bulls from making things interesting before they were eventually throttled by Santos Laguna in leg no. 2 of the sides’ CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal tie.

[ MORE: USMNT roster unveiled as Pulisic, European stars return ]

The final result was anything but surprising; it was the path by which the Red Bulls arrived at their 6-2 aggregate defeat that was most shocking. Chris Armas’ side went from 2-0 down to level at 2-2 after just nine minutes in Torreon, Mexico. Omir Fernandez and Daniel Royer bagged goals in the 4th and 9th minutes, respectively.

The game’s final 81 minutes would see the Red Bulls take just two shots, putting exactly one on target. Predictably, the comeback halted dead in its tracks at 2-2, though they were at one point fewer than 20 minutes from forcing a penalty shootout.

Then, they conceded a goal in the 72nd minute. And the 76th. And the 79th. And the 81st.

Elsewhere in Mexico, Tigres refused to play with the same fire as Santos and finished off the Houston Dynamo with relative comfort and ease. Carlos Salcedo bagged the second leg’s only goal in the 68th minute to make it 3-0 on aggregate and to set up a mouth-watering clash between the two Liga MX sides in next month’s semifinals.

The hopes and dreams of an entire league now rest largely on the shoulders of Sporting Kansas City, who have a 2-1 deficit to overturn at home against Panamanian side Independiente, and to a much lesser extent Atlanta United, who come home trailing Monterrey 3-0.

Santos Laguna stops Red Bulls comeback bid

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The New York Red Bulls’ comeback effort came up short in Mexico, as Santos Laguna rallied to defeat RBNY 4-2 in the second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals to produce a 6-2 aggregate score line.

Santos Laguna held a 2-0 lead after the first leg in New Jersey, but Chris Armas’ men flipped that on its ear within 10 minutes of kickoff. Nine minutes, actually.

But before we go any further, look. at this. goal:

[ MORE: Man City clobbers Schalke ]

Daniel Royer had a fourth minute goal and a ninth minute assist for the Red Bulls, who got the match to halftime deadlocked on aggregate.

It all fell apart late in the second half, as a Santos Laguna goal forced the Red Bulls to push even harder for another goal.

Brian Lozano scored twice and Deinner Quinones had a pair of assists as the hosts hit the board four times in nine minutes. Diego Valdes and Jose Abella scored the other goals.

The first goal came courtesy of true Homegrown midfielder Omir Fernandez, as the 20-year-old Wake Forest product cut to the near post to slot Royer’s pass.

Fernandez was with the RBNY Academy from 2011-16, and played for the U-23 side and New York Red Bulls II.

Royer scored his goal five minutes later, running across the 18 to collect and finish a Bradley Wright-Phillips pass after Florian Valot started the move.

CCL preview: Long odds for 3 of 4 MLS teams

AP Photo/Julio Cortez
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Let’s start with a positive: Sporting Kansas City find themselves in a pretty strong position to advance to the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals when they host Panamanian side Independiente in leg no. 2 on Thursday.

[ UEFA Champions League: Juve seek comeback v. Atleti; Man City v. Schalke ]

Now, the not-so-positive: the chances of any of the other three remaining MLS teams joining them — should Sporting KC get there themselves, even — are extremely poor.

Peter Vermes’ side trails 2-1 after last week’s first leg in Panama City, but the away goal secured from the penalty spot could prove vitally important when the two sides wrap up the tie at Children’s Mercy Park. Independiente were fully deserving of the home result, as they pressed and thoroughly frustrated a Sporting side that rotated eight of 11 first-choice starters from the weekend prior.

Ilie Sanchez got the away goal, from the penalty spot, which should give at least one MLS team a fighting chance to reach the final four.

[ MORE: With “batteries recharged,” Zidane “couldn’t say no” to Real return ]

Reigning MLS Cup champions Atlanta United have, perhaps, the next best chance of going through — and matching wits with Sporting in the semis — if only for the fact that their first-leg defeat occurred away from home. They have, however, the largest deficit to overcome on Wednesday: 3-0, against Liga MX powerhouse Monterrey.

For much of the first leg, Atlanta trailed 1-0, until the floodgates gave way in the final 10 minutes and Monterrey opened up what could very well be an insurmountable lead. Throw in the fact that Frank De Boer‘s side have looked a far cry from Tata Martino’s final edition of the Five Stripes — the one that tore MLS to shreds en route to the league title in its second season of existence — and a Sporting v. Monterrey matchup begins to look the best possible reality for neutral viewers north of the border.

[ MORE: Guardiola: Man City still “teenagers“ among UCL contenders ]

Then, there are the New York Red Bulls and Houston Dynamo, each of whom trail 2-0 and hit the road for the decisive leg, against Santos Laguna and Tigres, respectively.

Houston held firm for more than 75 minutes, and though a scoreless draw would have left them in an unfavorable position ahead of Tuesday’s second leg, 0-0 would have been preferable to 0-2. The Red Bulls, on the other hand, were completely played off their home field and never looked up to the challenge of what is arguably Mexico’s most prolific side.

Should a second MLS side join Sporting in the semifinals — heck, if Sporting get there themselves, it’ll be a minor miracle — it’ll be an epic night that no one will soon forget.

CONCACAF Champions League: Red Bulls, Houston beaten at home

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Some days the bounces just don’t go your way, even at home.

Major League Soccer sides New York Red Bulls and Houston Dynamo both failed to take advantage of home first legs, falling behind in CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal ties against Liga MX opposition.

[ MORE: England wins SheBelieves Cup ]

Sporting KC and Atlanta United give MLS its next hope of semifinal berths, beginning first legs on Wednesday.

Houston Dynamo 0-2 UANL Tigres

The offense didn’t materialize for the hosts, who got a pair of nice saves from Joe Willis but couldn’t keep the visitors off the board off 90 minutes.

Enner Valencia registered a goal and an assist, while Julian Quinones also scored and Luis Quinones had an assist to put Houston in a bad place headed back to Tigres.

New York Red Bulls 0-2 Santos Laguna

Despite a 14-10 edge in shots on a frigid evening in Harrison, N.J., Chris Armas’ Red Bulls could not collect any goals and gave themselves a heck of a hill to climb next week in Torreon.

Six saves from Jonathan Orozco make him the easy Man of the Match, as Santos Laguna scored three minutes before and after the break.

Timbers sign USMNT left-back Jorge Villafana

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U.S. international Jorge Villafana has returned from whence he came, making his way back to the Portland Timbers after three seasons in Liga MX.

The 28-year-old Anaheim product was a key member of the 2015 Portland team that won the MLS Cup, making 33 appearances that season plus six more in the playoffs. He was then sent to Santos Laguna that January where he has been since.

“It’s with great pleasure that we welcome back Jorge Villafaña to the Timbers,” said Portland GM Gavin Wilkinson in the official team release. “We are thrilled to welcome [Jorge] back to Portland. He returns to the club as an even more experienced and seasoned professional, with his accomplishments with the U.S. National Team and his championship-winning success in Liga MX, and we look forward to his further contributions in his return to Portland.”

Villafana has 19 caps for the USMNT, all coming since his debut in January of 2017, and has only lost in three of his 19 appearances.

The Timbers used Targeted Allocation Money to buy down Villafana’s contract. They acquired the No. 1 position in the Allocation Ranking from the LA Galaxy in exchange for Portland’s No. 16 position, $75,000 in General Allocation Money and $100,000 in 2019 TAM, the team announced.