Photo credit: @ClubSantos

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.

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.

PHOTOS: Trophy for MLS, Liga MX’s inaugural Campeones Cup

Photo credit: MLS
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MLS and Liga MX unveiled on Thursday the brand new trophy which will be awarded to either Toronto FC or Tigres at the conclusion of this month’s inaugural Campeones Cup at BMO Field.

[ MORE: New USMNT head coach to be hired by end of 2018 ]

The Campeones Cup, which beginning on Sept. 19 will be sought after by the respective reigning champions of the two North America leagues, “is made of silver and gilded with 24-karat gold leaf, featuring a petal harvesting an iconic gold one, representing the partnership between the two leagues as well as the North American bragging rights on offer for its winner.”

Campeones Cup trophy (Photo credit: MLS)

The trophy stands nearly 20 inches tall, over 6.6 inches wide, and weighs more than 21 pounds. It was designed and produced by metalsmith Jose Juan Marmolejo of a Mexico-based company, Izta Galerias.

Chivas Guadalajara wins 12th Liga MX title

Associated Press
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A nail-biting finish saw Chivas Guadalajara lift the 2016/17 Liga MX title, beating Apertura champions Tigres to earn the club’s 12th Liga MX title.

The title makes Guadalajara the joint-most successful club in Mexican top flight history, even with Club America on titles.

With the aggregate score at 2-2 coming into the second leg at Chivas Stadium, the home side took the lead on an 18th minute expert finish by former Tigres youth product Alan Pulido. Oswaldo Alanís delivered a brilliant deep, looping ball to the far post, and under one-on-one pressure with a defender, Pulido struck it first-time and buried the ball into the far corner.

The game waited until midway through the second half for the next strike, as the eventual winner would fall to Jose Vazquez. The 29-year-old charged down a bounding ball that Tigres failed to clear, and his effort on net took a sizeable deflection off the midsection of a visiting defender, leaving the ball to trickle in uncontested.

Despite a 4-2 aggregate lead, it was by no means comfortable down the stretch for Chivas. Tigres pulled one back in the 88th minute on a fabulous strike by Ismael Sosa from just outside the top of the box. The visitors pressed for a stunning late equalizer, but it wasn’t to be.

The title is sweet for Chivas, who has endured a decade of struggles since winning its last championship, even coming close to relegation at times. In addition, the starting lineup for the second leg was fully domestic from top to bottom, with all 11 players from Mexico. On that same note, Pulido outdueled expensive Tigres striker Andre-Pierre Gignac, putting in on of the most impressive shifts of the match.

Woe-for-4: Real Salt Lake comes up just short as MLS bombs out of CONCACAF Champions League

AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
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All four Major League Soccer sides in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League have been eliminated after Real Salt Lake’s spirited effort came up short in a 1-1 draw with Tigres UANL at Rio Tinto on Wednesday.

The final score was 3-1 to Tigres on aggregate.

Joao Plata made sure the excitement was upped early, burying a cross from Yura Movsisyan to make it 2-1 on aggregate after Tigres won last week’s first leg 2-0.

[ MORE: Club America tops SeattleQueretaro bounces DC | Santos Laguna clobbers L.A. ]

But despite out-attempting Tigres 12-4 and looking dangerous on several occasions, RSL failed to make good on that promise. Andre-Pierre Gignac scored in second half stoppage time to round out the scoring.

The four sides to advance to the semis all belong to Liga MX: Queretaro, Santos Laguna, Club America and Tigres. Not one MLS side came within a single goal of advancing, and it has to be said that this is probably the most disappointing 8 days of competition for the league in a long, long time.