Tonight half of the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals will be set. One of two Mexcian Primera rivals will occupy one spot, while one of two MLS teams will earn a position on the opposite side of the bracket.
The situations in the two matches couldn't be much more different. In the all-Mexican quarterfinal, Cruz Azul heads to Santos Laguna with a 2-0 aggregate goal lead. It's not an impossible hill to climb, but even one goal from Cruz Azul essentially creates a three-goal deficit because of the away-goal rule. In the all-MLS quarterfinal, the score is tied 0-0 as it heads to Rio Tinto Stadium.
Santos Laguna (0) vs. Cruz Azul (2); 7 p.m. Eastern; Estadio Corona; TV: Telefutura, CONCACAF.com
Los Guerreros face a tough task, no question about it. Cruz Azul dominated the first leg, especially the second half when they scored both of their goals. The struggles are a continuation of what has so far been a disappointing 2011 for Santos Laguna. Coming off a Apertura which saw them finish with the third most points in the Primera, Santos Laguna is stuck in fifth place in Group 1. Estadio Corona has hardly been a fortress, so far, as they've claimed just four points in six home matches.
Cruz Azul hasn't so far equaled their success of the the Apertura, either, but with 14 points in eight matches are not exactly struggling. Just one goal in tonight's match would likely secure their spot in the semifinals for the third straight year.
Prediction: Cruz Azul scored early and coasts to a 3-1 aggregate goal victory.
There weren't too many people who predicted this would be tied going into the second leg. But that was before people saw the condition of the pitch or, for that matter, the Crew play a competitive match together.
It's safe to say that the frozen pitch was not conducive to attractive play in the first leg, but the three ejections didn't help either. The Crew did keel over as some had predicted, but they weren't exactly sharp either. As it is, they did enough to be very much alive in the second leg.
RSL enters their home leg without right back Tony Beltran and standout center back Nat Borchers, while the Crew will be missing one of their few proven scorers, Emilio Renteria. RSL should have the depth to overcome those absences, and the Crew might not need much more than one goal. Consider those aspects a wash.
Prediction: The two teams continue to look like their in preseason form and play to a scoreless tie in the first half before RSL scores two in the second to win 2-0 on aggregate.