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Sporting KC seal historic CCL win in Mexico

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Sporting Kansas City have done something no Major League Soccer team has ever done, and they will go into the start of the 2019 MLS season with a significant spring in their step.

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On Thursday evening they eased by Mexico’s Toluca 2-0 in the CONCACAF Champions League, as SKC advanced 5-0 on aggregate to reach the last eight.

The success was the first-time an MLS team has ever beat a Liga MX side in a CCL knockout round match when playing the second leg in Mexico. Peter Vermes side dominated a disjointed Toluca at the Estadio Nemesio Diez as Gerso Fernandes’ early goal settled any nerves and Krisztian Nemeth’s second half penalty kick sealed the deal.

SKC were so good that Toluca’s fans started chanting their name and the ole’s rang out as Vermes men kept the ball and eased to victory.

Sporting KC now face Independiente of Panama in the quarterfinals as they beat Toronto FC 5-1 on aggregate. The away leg will be played March 5-7, with the home leg March 12-14.

There are four MLS teams in the last eight, with the New York Red Bulls facing Santos Laguna, Houston Dynamo taking on Tigres and Atlanta taking on Monterrey in three MLS v. Liga MX ties.

No MLS team has ever won the CCL in its current format, but my word Sporting look irresistible and have certainly been handed a very decent route through to the final four.

Liga MX roundup: Pumas, Santos earn victories on the road

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As the Apertura season comes to a close for a few teams, Santos managed to end the campaign on a positive note, while Pumas finished up two goals and as many players against Puebla.

[ MORE: AC Milan, Inter finish level in Derby della Madonnina ]

Puebla 0-3 Pumas

When Patricio Araujo earned a straight red card heading into the halftime break, it was only a sign of things to come for Puebla on the evening. When Francisco Torres was shown a second red card for Puebla, it spelt the end of their chances of winning. Pumas took advantage of playing up a man and gained the lead in the 54th minute when Pablo Barrera converted from the penalty spot. Matias Britos doubled the lead for the visitors nine minutes later after tapping in a Barrera cross from close range, before Barrera netted his second goal of the match in the 81st minute.

Pumas moves up to sixth in the table with Sunday’s victory, while Puebla drops to 12th based on goal differential.

Toluca 1-2 Santos

Santos created some separation from last-place side Chiapas on Sunday after picking up three points on the road against Toluca. Goals from Carlos Izquierdoz and Jonathan Rodriguez helped pace Santos, who now sit on 16 points. Izquierdoz broke the deadlock after 27 minutes when the Santos man headed home a Walter Sandoval corner kick, while Rodriguez doubled the advantage for the visitors with under a quarter hour remaining.

Toluca managed to pull a goal back late through Maikon Leite in the 89th minute, but the hosts couldn’t knick a result. The loss puts Toluca in 10th place on 24 points, as the side closes out the Apertura season.

Cruz Azul defeats Toluca, claims record sixth CONCACAF crown

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Thanks to a first half goal from Argentine Mariano Pavone, Cruz Azul has finally managed to transcend its reputation. After runners-up finishes in the 2009 and 2010 CONCACAF Champions League — and second place finishes in four Mexican league tournaments in the last seven years — La Maquina had become Mexico’s¬†nearly-club, but¬†with a 1-1 result Wednesday in Toluca, Cruz Azul finally broke through. After a 0-0 result last week at Estadio Azul,¬†Luis Fernando Tena’s team claimed¬†CONCACAF’s¬†title on away goals.

Edgar Ben√≠tez’s late tally¬†brought the Red Devils back even, but after a scoreless draw last week in Mexico City, Pavone¬†goal¬†gave Cruz Azul the ¬†final’s first tiebreaker. Though Toluca nearly¬†went up through Pablo Velazquez late,¬†Liga MX’s¬†second place team was unable to overcome the Clausura’s¬†pacesetters, leaving Tena’s team to claim its¬†CONCACAF history.

Cruz Azul entered the¬†final tied with Club Am√©rica for most confederation titles (five), though thanks to the club’s near misses on the domestic front,¬†La Maquina had acquired a reputation for second place finishes. That reputation was only reinforced after last week’s leg in Mexico City, where chances for attacker Marco Fabi√°n¬†failed to¬†produce a goal, allowing¬†Toluca to take¬†a 0-0 result out of Mexico City.

But with the Mexican sides accustomed to¬†each others’ home¬†venue, the scoreless draw in failed to dissuade¬†La Maquina. Instead, Pavone, held relatively quiet in last Tuesday’s first leg, was able to break though before half time, putting the impetus¬†on Toluca to respond.

RELATED FROM SOCCERLY:  What historic title means for Cruz Azul

Though Velazquez came close, the¬†Diablos Rojos were ultimately unable to keep the Cementaros¬†from claiming its their¬†CONCACAF title since 1997 – an honor that qualifies the team for¬†December’s Club World Cup. First to¬†qualify for the FIFA tournament, Cruz Azul will join the six other FIFA confederations in Morocco, where a team from the host country’s domestic league will also contest club soccer’s world title.

In the interim, Cruz Azul gets to savior a victory that could signal a small change in the club’s identity. Though the club has consistently¬†built talented, competitive teams, ¬†it’s also become associated with an ability to transcend ¬†the final hurdle, whether that hurdle be a¬†Liguilla¬†or a Champions League final.

After Wednesday’s draw in¬†Toluca, that perception may evaporate. Cruz Azul finally gets to size a crown.


Toluca eliminates Alajuelense from CONCACAF Champions League, guarantees Mexico another title

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Though the second finalist won’t be determined until tomorrow, Toluca’s Tuesday night win over Alajuelense in ¬†CONCACAF Champions League’s semifinals ensures recent history will repeat itself. While this year’s final¬†won’t be another Monterrey-Santos Laguna affair, the Red Devils’ outset of the Costa Ricans¬†means two¬†Liga MX teams will contest CONCACAF’s title for the fourth time in¬†five years, with no other federation having claimed the region’s crown since the competition changed format in 2008.

On Tuesday, up 1-0 after their victory in Costa Rica last week, Toluca got goals from Carlos Esquivel and Juan Manuel Salgueiro, recovering from¬†the Erizos’ early challenge to post an easy 2-0 (3-0, aggregate) victory. The two-time confederation champions now await the winner of Tijuana-Cruz Azul, with¬†Xolos¬†having earned a 1-0 lead last week at Estadio Caliente.

Regardless of what happens on that side of the draw, Toluca’s win guarantees¬†Mexico’s monopoly of Champions League will continue. For the ninth straight tournament — a time that extends back to the old Champions Cup — a Mexican team will be crowned champions. Were it not for Real Salt Lake’s appearance in the 2010-11 finals, each finalist since the tournament’s redesign would have been Mexican, with¬†16 of the competition’s 24 semifinalists having hailed from Mexico’s¬†league.

Go back further, and the picture is only slightly more diverse. Since Major League Soccer came into existence in 1996, three different federations have claimed CONCACAF’s title, but only Mexico has held the crown since 2006. In 2005, Saprissa made it back-to-back titles for Costa Rica, with Alajuelense having won the previous year. Slightly before that, MLS claimed this only titles with D.C. United (1998) and LA Galaxy (2000) each¬†winning one title.

Tomorrow, Cruz Azul will try to turn around its one-goal¬†deficit against visiting Tijuana, but the story of Mexico’s dominance has already been written. In 2014, the league’s hegemony continues, with the league set to claim a 30th CONCACAF title.

San Jose files complaint, alleges Toluca filmed CCL training session

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It’s Tuesday in Toluca. San Jose’s working out at Estadio Nemesio D√≠az, preparing for their CONCACAF Champions League match against the Red Devils. Presumably, there’s almost nobody around, which makes it easy to spot one guy with a camera pointed at the field. According to reports, that guy may have been a Toluca employee, part of the reason why the Earthquakes have filed a complaint with CONCACAF.

FOX Sports’ Brian Dunseth originally had the next on Wednesday night. On Thursday, the Earthquakes confirmed their “formal, written complaint” through the league’s website.

San Jose was eliminated on Wednesday after their 1-1 (2-2, agg.) result against Toluca sent the teams to penalty kicks. Once there, a sixth round miss from midfielder Shea Salinas allowed the Red Devils to advance to the competition’s semifinals.

What could happen should the Earthquakes’ complaint is verified is unclear. The league website sought clarification from CONCACAF but got no response. While some type of fine would seem like the obvious course of action, we’re in somewhat unchartered territory. This tournament is too young to have much established precedent in this area.

San Jose travels to Sporting Kansas City this weekend for their second game of the Major League Soccer season. Toluca visits Atlante and awaits the winner of Alajuelense and √Ārabe Unico on Champions League’s semifinals.