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CONCACAF Champions League road matches have not always been kind to MLS teams. Coming into this week's first round of Group Stage matches, MLS teams had won just five times in Central America and Mexico during the tournament's first three years. After Toronto FC's 2-1 win over Panama's Tauro to complete a perfect 5-0 round, MLS teams now have nine wins south of the U.S. border.
The Reds' win was hardly the most impressive of the four MLS road victories, but for a team that has struggled all season during regular-season play, no win can be overlooked. Ryan Johnson opened the scoring for TFC when he was able to collect an errant Tauro clearance and slot it past the goalkeeper. Just three minutes later, Julian De Guzman gave the Reds a 2-0 lead, again collected a poor Tauro pass and blasting in a shot from about 25 yards out.
From there, TFC basically held on. Tauro eventually outshot the visitors 12-7 and had 59 percent of the possession. They eventually cut their deficit to 2-1 when De Guzman dragged down a Tauro player in the box and Luis Moreno converted the penalty in the 76th minute. Tauro was unable to find the equalizer, though.
The 5-0-0 performance was easily the best collective performance from MLS in any week of the tournament's history. Last year, with four teams in the group stage, MLS twice went 3-1-0 with the Seattle Sounders being the lone team to lose in each of the two weeks.
The Mexican Primera Division used to dominate MLS, but domination is now gone and it has been replaced by merely being better as the American clubs close the gap on their counterparts from south of the border
Nothing about the CONCACAF Champions League Group B opener between the Colorado Rapids and Isidro Metapan was normal. There were good goals, goals because of poor play, red cards, penalty kicks, penalty calls that were overturned and pretty much anything else that could happen in a match. In the end though, Colorado outlasted 10-man Metapan at home, 3-2, thanks to a brace from Macoumba Kandji to move joint-top of Group B with Santos Laguna.
Drew Moor gave away a penalty in the very first minute, which Allan Kardeck finished to put Metapan ahead, 1-0. Kandji leveled in the 15th minute though, an incredible moment for a player making his first start since suffering a severe knee injury in last year's MLS Cup.
Not long after, the referee pointed to the penalty spot, awarding Metapan a spot kick. He did so because the assistant referee's flag was up, but after discussing things with the assistant the referee called for offside, saying the offside came before the penalty and Metapan were out of luck.
Matt Pickens gifted Metapan the lead back when his throw was awful and right to Paolo Suarez. Pickens was at the top of his box to make the throw so he was out of position when Suarez came up with the ball and then chipped home the go-ahead goal.
Kardeck may have knocked home the penalty to get Metapan off on the right foot, but he put his team in a bad spot in the 40th minute. He had no chance to win a header, but still went after it and got his arm up, catching Moor on the chin. The referee showed him a red card for it and Metapan were down to 10 men.
Colorado took advantage of it just after halftime when Kandji made it two. He was able to get enough of a cross to redirect it slowly towards goal, but hard enough to find its way over the line for the equalizer. Andre Akpan then put the Rapids on top right after the break and Colorado had themselves a 3-2 win.
With the win, Colorado moves to the top of Group B, where they are tied with Santos Laguna on three points with a plus-one goal difference. They will take to the road for the first time in Champions League next week whey play Real Espana in Honduras, while Metapan will host Santos.
Ding dong, the wicked witch is dead! For the first time in history, a Major League Soccer club has won a match in Mexico in North America's biggest continental competition. Thanks Jair Benitez and Marvin Chavez's goal, along with a very well organized and composed defense, FC Dallas have defeated UNAM Pumas 1-0 at the Estadio Universitario to take three points in CONCACAF Champions League.
Pumas played a mostly reserve side with Juan Carlos Cacho and Javier Cortes being the only regular starters to crack their starting lineup tonight, but that doesn't mean anything should be taken away from Dallas. They have still finally done what no other team has ever been able to do, and they got their win because they were the better team on the night.
The goal came in the second half, mostly thanks to Benitez but eventually finished off by Chavez. The Dallas left back surged forward in the 66th minute, hitting a fantastic shot off of the post. Chavez was ready in the box and pounced on the rebound, finishing to give Dallas a lead they would hold on to until the end.
Pumas brought out regular starting striker Martin Bravo in an attempt to salvage points, but the Dallas back line and Kevin Hartman - who had a great game - held strong to shut out Pumas at home and give Dallas the historic victory.
To Herediano's credit, they hung tough for 20 minutes against the defending CONCACAF Champions League champions. Not really, because Monterrey was dominating them, but they managed to keep the Mexicans off of the scoreboard for 20 minutes. Then Dario Carreno got involved. He scored a hat trick in 14 minutes, completely taking over the match despite being in Costa Rica and helping send Monterrey to the top of Group D with a 5-0 win.
After 20 minutes of scoreless play, Carreno tallied to put Monterrey in front. In the 21st minute he made it 2-0. The striker had already made his impact, but wanted to add just a little bit more so he scored once more in the 34 minute to complete the hat trick.
The rest of the Monterrey team wasn't about to watch Carreno have all of the fun though. Only two minutes after Carreno stretched the Monterrey lead to 3-0, Jesus Manuel Corona found the net to put Monterrey in front by four. Just for good measure, Aldo de Nigris added one in the second half and Monterrey had themselves a 5-0 scoreline despite playing without star striker Humberto Suazo.
The win puts Monterrey on top of Group D, even on points with Seattle at three apiece, but in front with their plus-five goal difference. The champions will continue Champions League play on Tuesday when they host Seattle for the top spot in the group.
After last year's debacle in the CONCACAF Champions League, it's not surprising that the LA Galaxy are taking this edition of the tournament seriously. On Tuesday night, they made huge strides towards qualifying for the knockout stages of the competition, defeating a very strong CD Montagua side 2-0 at the Home Depot Center. The visitors started Honduran internationals Amado Guevera, Jerry Bengston and Johnny Leveron, but the Honduran side was no match for the Galaxy over 90 minutes.
Landon Donovan had an absolutely fantastic game, setting up his teammates for numerous chances, working hard in midfield and scoring a goal of his own on a fantastic finish. The opening goal was scored in the 12th minute by Adam Cristman, capping off a great team effort and assisted by AJ DeLaGarza. Donovan added the second in the 59th, finishing off a great cross from David Beckham, who started and went 73 minutes.
The Galaxy are top of Group A, just edging out Alajuelense, who upset a full strength Monarcas Morelia side, on goal differential.
There might not be a MLS player who enjoys CONCACAF Champions League more than Seattle Sounders forward Mike Fucito. Although seldom used in regular-season matches, the third-year player now has five goals and an assist in his past five CCL matches, including two in Tuesday's 4-1 win over Comunicaciones.
Both of Fucito's goals on Tuesday came after the Sounders were down to 10 men. Lamar Neagle was shown a straight red card in the 58th minute for what appeared to be a sloppy follow through on a kick. Just three minutes later, Fucito scored his first goal when Fredy Montero found him on the left side of the penalty area. In the 67th minute, Alvaro Fernandez put Fucito in another dangerous position, and he again scored.
Fucito also assisted on the Sounders' first goal, finding Brad Evans on a corner kick. That goal leveled the match 1-1.
Until Evans' goal, the Sounders had been playing from behind for almost the entire match. Jairo Arreola gave Los Cremas a 1-0 lead in the 2nd minute when he was left unmarked at the far post.
In the span of six minutes, Mike Fucito has given the Seattle Sounders' fortunes a massive turn. Fucito scored two goals, in the 61st and 67th minutes to put the Sounders up 3-1. Both goals came shortly after the Sounders were down to 10 men when Lamar Neagle was shown a straight red card.
On the first goal, Fucito was able to collect a Fredy Montero pass just outside the penalty area, got the corner on his defender and beat the goalkeeper to the far post. Montero was replaced in the 63rd minute by Mauro Rosales.
The second goal was very similar, but on the opposite side of the field. Alvaro Fernandez was able to find Fucito streaking down the right side of the field, and Fucito once again beat the goalkeeper to the far post.
Fucito now has five goals and an assist in his past for CCL matches. Earlier in the match, he picked up his first career CCL assist when his corner was headed in by Brad Evans.
About three minutes before Fucito's goal, it was looking pretty bad for the Sounders when Neagle was shown a straight red card on what looked to be a sloppy follow through on a kick.
The Seattle Sounders could not have gotten off to a much worse start than they did in their CONCACAF Champions League match against Comunicaciones, as Los Cremas scored in the 2nd minute to take a 1-0 lead. But the Sounders were able to eventually wrestle control of the match away about midway through the half and Brad Evans found the equalizer in the 35th minute to send the game into halftime tied 1-1.
After Evans' goal, which came off a Mike Fucito corner kick, the Sounders created several quality chances. The best of those came around the 45th minute when Fredy Montero was able to control a ball just outside the goal box. But Montero sent his shot just wide.
The Sounders out shot Los Cremas 6-3 in the half and had four corner kicks to none. Los Cremas came out strong, but did not seem intersted in keeping that up beyond the first 15 minutes or so.
Brad Evans has never really been known as much of a scorer for most of his MLS career. In 2011, he seems intent on changing that. With four goals in MLS play already under his belt, Evans scored in the 35th minute to bring the Seattle Sounders level, 1-1, with Comunicaciones in CONCACAF Champions League play on Tuesday.
Evans' goal was a nice piece of work. The central midfielder made a late run into the box on a Mike Fucito corner kick and rose above the Comunicaciones defense to get a clean header that hit off the underside of the cross bar. Fredy Montero had won the corner just moments earlier when he was able to get to a loose ball. The goal was Evans first in CCL play.
The Sounders had slowly been taking control of the match ever since Los Cremas took the lead in the 2nd minute. Twice it appeared as if they had earned penalties, but each time the referee waved it off.
There was one glaring oddity in the Seattle Sounders' starting lineup for their CONCACAF Champions League match against Comunicaciones: Terry Boss as goalkeeper. That decision proved particularly questionable early, as the seldom-used goalkeeper badly misplayed a cross that led to a Comunicaciones goal in the 2nd minute.
Jairo Arreola was able to beat James Riley at the far post to score his first goal of the tournament. But it was on a ball that should have never gotten to him. Bryan Ordonez sent a low cross through the box that seemed to be within Boss' grasp, but he backed off and found himself in no-man's land.
Prior to this game, Boss had appeared in just two competitive matches -- both in the U.S. Open Cup -- and his last appearance was against Manchester United in a friendly. In that one, he allowed six goals in just a half of play, a game in which he suffered a concussion. He had not so much as appeared on the bench since that game
The Seattle Sounders have promised to take the CONCACAF Champions League seriously, but there was at least one curious name in their starting lineup against Comunicaciones. Terry Boss, who has been recovering from a concussion and has not even been on the Sounders bench since their loss to Manchester United a couple weeks ago, was given the start over Kasey Keller.
Other than Boss, though, the Sounders are using a lineup of mostly first-teamers. Every other player in their starting lineup has started at least four MLS games and that player, Lamar Neagle, has appeared in 15. The other notable name in the Sounders' starting lineup is Brad Evans, who has not played since June 18 while recovering from a leg injury.
Seattle Sounders starters: Boss; Fucito, Evans, Ianni, Riley, Gonzalez, Fernandez, Montero, Carrasco, Neagle, Hurtado; bench: Keller, Friberg, Jaqua, Levesque, Rosales, Sanyang, Scott.
Comunicaciones staters: Paredes; Martinez, Morales, Ramirez, Marquez, Castrillo, Thompson, Montepeque, Ordonez, Machado, Arreola; bench: Guerra, Arriola, Trigueros, Mejia, Sandoval, Gomez, Ciani.
The days of Ruben Omar Romano playing his second team in the group stages of CONCACAF Champions League group stages may be long gone...but Dario Cocca is doing the exact same thing. With a tough league match against Monarcas Morelia looming large this weekend, Santos Laguna opted to play their B team in Torreon on Tuesday night, and that gamble paid off. Santos' stars got some much needed rest as their team prevailed 3-2, but it wasn't without a struggle.
Real España pushed Santos for the entire game, equalizing twice after Santos had taken the lead. Juan Enriquez gave Santos an early lead in the first half, but a great goal finished by Edder Delgado on a well-choreographed set piece made it 1-1 just before halftime. Santos were given a gift with a Sergio Bica own goal right after halftime, but Allan Lalin equalized in the 67th.
At that point, Cocca decided to bring out some big guns and the move paid off. Christian Suarez added the game winner shortly after entering the game, then star defensive midfielder Juan Rodriguez came in to close out the game. Real España's Julio Rodriguez received a red card in the 79th minute, all but ending the game for the visitors, who put up a valiant effort but will leave Torreon with no points to show for it.
It wasn't so long ago the MLS team were not considered to be particularly relevant in CONCACAF Champions League. Up until last year's tournament, no MLS team had ever advanced as far as the semifinals, let alone won a championship under the current format.
Of course, that all changed when Real Salt Lake came up just short in the finals against Monterrey. RSL's performance showed that MLS teams can not only compete in CCL, but they can even stand toe-to-toe with Mexican teams. During their near storybook run, RSL twice tied Mexican teams in Mexico and actually beat Cruz Azul at home.
With five MLS teams in this year's tournament, we could see an unprecedented number of teams advance into the Knockout Stage. We here at SB Nation Soccer have taken a look at each team's chances and given an overview of who we think stands a good chance of advancing. Spoiler alert: We think four teams stand good chances of moving along, with only Toronto FC really looking like a longshot.
CONCACAF Champions League play kicks off on Tuesday with games involving the LA Galaxy, Seattle Sounders, and Monarcas Morelia. On Wednesday, UNAM Pumas and FC Dallas play the week's marquee fixture.
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