CONCACAF Champions League, Preliminary Round 2nd Legs: Dallas, Santos, Seattle Headline Teams To Advance

The CONCACAF Champions League preliminary stage first legs were largely one-sided, leaving little in doubt in many of the ties as we head to the second legs, but a few are still up for grabs

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Seattle Sounders Vs. San Francisco FC, CONCACAF Champions League: Sounders Pull Off Extra Time Win

The Seattle Sounders advance to the group stages of the CONCACAF Champions League after 120 harrowing minutes of football, beating San Francisco FC 2-0 on the night and 2-1 on aggregate. After a disappointing reverse in Panama, where the Sounders dominated but lost 1-0, the Sounders needed to score at least twice to avoid extra time at Qwest CenturyLink Field.

They didn't quite manage that, although an Alvaro Fernandez goal in the 40th minute courtesy of a Leonardo Gonzalez delivery did manage to avoid an embarrassing aggregate defeat. Despite a huge amount of pressure by the hosts and almost ludicrously easy opportunities to score in the second half, the ninety minutes passed with the score 1-0 to the Sounders, and the game progressed to extra time.

A single goal from San Francisco would have seen them holding a commanding aggregate/away goals lead, and that if the visitors scored Seattle would then have to win 3-1 to avoid being dumped out. Small wonder that the home crowd appeared somewhat anxious during the opening stages of extra time. In fact, that aura of vague fear didn't dissipate even after Nate Jaque slammed home a loose ball to give Seattle a 2-0 lead - San Francisco would still go through if they scored.

Fortunately for the enraptured home crowd, their guests never really threatened to crack the Sounders' defence, and it was the hosts who threatened more for the remainder of extra time. San Francisco gave it a good run, but like many teams far better than they are, failed to get the result they needed in the Northwest. Seattle, in the meantime, limp into the group stages. The fact that their performance was pretty poor is neither here or there - they got in, and that's what matters.


Olimpia Vs. Santos Laguna, CONCACAF Champions League: Santos Advance Despite 2-1 Loss

Santos Laguna entered the second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League preliminary tie leading Olimpia 3-1 so it wasn't going to take much to put them through to the group stage. Doing so wouldn't be easy though as they had to travel down to Honduras and keep the match from getting away from them in a hostile environment. The match did get away from them as Olimpia absolutely dominated, but Olimpia's dominance didn't turn into enough of an edge on the scoreboard as their 2-1 win only sent Santos through, 4-3 on aggregate.

It was an early goal that just about wrapped things up for Santos. A 13th minute finish by Cristian Suarez put the Mexican side ahead 1-0 and 4-1 on aggregate, a seemingly impossible deficit for Olimpia to overcome. It was anything but impossible though as Olimpia gave it a good run.

Just two minutes after Suarez put Santos on top, Roger Rojas equalized for Olimpia. The striker was able to get to the edge of the six-yard box and finish to make the tie interesting again. Sure, they still needed two more goals to force extra time, but it was feasible.

The rest of the match was an Olimpia onslaught. By the time the final whistle blew Olimpia had 17 shots to Santos' three. They had 18 corner kicks to Santos' two. The Hondurans were everywhere and in complete control, but it only resulted in one more goal as Brayan Beckeles tallied in the 86th minute when it was too late. Santos has been dominated, but all that mattered was that they were through to the group stage.

Santos will open group play on August 16 or 17 against Honduran side Real Espana. The Colorado Rapids and Metapan are also in Group B with them.


Monaracas Morelia Vs. Tempete, CONCACAF Champions League: Morelia Book Spot In Group Stage

Monaracas Morelia and Tempete had to play 90 minutes today by rule, but it was really unnecessary. Morelia won the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League preliminary tie 5-0 and were just out for a nice run in the park in the second leg. Tempete were completely outmatched in both legs and it was no surprise that Morelia's backups cruised to a 2-0 victory in the second leg for a 7-0 aggregate win to book their spot in the group stage of the tournament.

Not only was Morelia never challenged in the slightest by a thoroughly outmatched Tempete side, but this second leg, which was Tempete's home leg, had to be played in Mexico because the Haitian side doesn't have a suitable stadium. Even as Tempete managed to keep Morelia from scoring in the opening half hour, they never really were even. They were defending for their lives and nothing they did could really be construed as an attack.

In the 30th minute Angel Sepulveda finally put the score right. With Tempete trying to shield him off a ball and hoping their goalkeeper would come gather it, Sepulveda fought through and poked the ball in for the match's opening tally. It wasn't the best defending, but it was a deserved goal for Morelia's opening dominance and Sepulveda's hard work.

The match crept along with more Morelia dominance, although they didn't play with any urgency because there wasn't any. Luis Angel Sansores got so much space from 12 yards out in the 77th minute that he could have brushed his teeth, taken a shower or even a nap before shooting. Eventually he put the ball in for the second goal of the match and Morelia had themselves a spot in the group stage.

Morelia will begin group play on August 16 at Costa Rican side Alajuelense. Also joining them in Group B is the LA Galaxy and likely Motagua.


FC Dallas Vs. Alianza FC: Dallas Wins 1-0 To Advance To Group C

FC Dallas rode a first half goal from Ugo Ihemelu to advance to the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League. Dallas downed El Salvadorian side Alianza FC 2-0 on aggregate in the series. 

It was a hot night at Pizza Hut Park, as temperatures reached 107 degrees at kickoff. Alianza wasn't able to overcome the heat and the early pressure from Dallas as the Toros pressured for the series' second goal throughout the first half until Ihemelu knocked off the corner kick from Ricardo Villar

Dallas had other chances in the first half before the game's only goal. Brek Shea had a shot early on that was rebounded by Villar into the net. The goal was called off due to a handball called on Villar. 

Dallas nearly had a chance for insurance late with a corner kick that found George John. The header from the defender just skimmed the crossbar. 

Alianza had only a few chances in the game, one came late in the game. Rafael Edgardo Burgos had the best chance on Kevin Hartman's goal but it sailed just wide. 

Dallas now moves on to the group stage of the Champions League where they will first meet Pumas UNAM. Group C also includes MLS side Toronto FC and Panamanian side Tauro FC.


FC Dallas Vs. Alianza FC: Halftime, Ihemelu Puts Dallas Up 1-0

With a 1-0 advantage after the first leg of the play-in round with El Salvador side Alizana FC, FC Dallas made sure to get the best start possible in the return leg at Pizza Hut Park. Midway through the first half, on a night where temperatures hit 107 degrees, Dallas got a first half goal from Ugo Ihemelu

The goal came off a corner kick for Dallas. Ricardo Villar sent in a nice ball to the middle of the box where Ihemelu was able to get on the end of it. Its possible an Alianza defender helped guide it into the back of the net.

Dallas controlled most of the first half with the possession and chances on goal. Early on it seemed like Dallas had a goal from Villar, who rebounded a Brek Shea shot. The goal was called off because the center official ruled that Villar handled the ball before putting it in the back of the net. 

Dallas did pick up a scare late in the half when midfielder Jackson Goncalves was tripped up from behind. His ankle appeared to be stepped on and he was immediately subbed off in place for Ruben Luna

Should the result stand, it will see Dallas become the forth MLS team to advance into the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League tournament for this year (Toronto FC, the Colorado Rapids and the Los Angeles Galaxy are already in the group stage). 


Real Esteli Vs. Toronto FC, CONCACAF Champions League: Reds Advance 4-2 On Aggregate

Winning the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League preliminary stage tie 2-1 worked well enough for Toronto FC so they decided to do it again in the second leg. What it resulted in was a 4-2 aggregate win that puts the Reds into the group stage of the tournament. It wasn't as easy the second time around considering they had to do it away from the comforts of BMO Field, but Ryan Johnson scored two goals and Real Esteli's tournament came to an end.

The pitch at Estadio Independencia in Nicaragua was horrendous with high, patchy grass that made for an uneven playing surface and as a result the quality of play was terrible. Even the most basic, simple passes were an adventure and the ball could bounce in unintended directions.

Because playing on the ground was borderline impossible Johnson decided to have a go from the air. A ball bounced up and he took a crack at a 20-yard left-footed volley. It was a great shot that left the keeper diving without a chance at the ball as it rippled the netting in the upper corner for a 1-0 lead.

Up two goals on aggregate with just over 45 minutes remaining it looked like Toronto would be able to cruise to the finish line, but being TFC they had to make it difficult on themselves. Just before the halftime whistle Andy Iro was whistled for a hand ball and Esteli had themselves a penalty. Manuel Rosas blasted the penalty home and the match was tied at 1-1.

The second half began was Esteli just one goal away from forcing extra time, but Toronto ended any drama quickly. An awful clearance by goalkeeper Carlos Mendieta made for an easy Johnson finish and the Reds were on their way to victory. They held on the rest of the way and a spot in the grou stage was theirs.

TFC will join Mexican side Pumas, Panamanian side Tauro and the winner of FC Dallas and El Salvador’s Alianza FC in Group C. They will play Tauro in their group stage opener on August 18 in Panama.


Real Esteli Vs. Toronto FC, CONCACAF Champions League: Lineups

Toronto FC should be very comfortable heading into the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League preliminary stage tie against Real Esteli, but Milos Kocic should have also held onto a simple rolling ball. The Toronto keeper didn't though, allowing Esteli to get a goal in the first leg and instead of a 2-0 home win the Reds only won 2-1 to make things very interesting in the second leg. That gaffe by Kocic means a 1-0 win for Esteli will see them through on away goals , forcing Toronto to play positively and look to score a goal of their own got a little comfort.

With a spot in the group stage of the Champions League on the line, Toronto is going with much of their first choice squad. Torsten Frings will be out there along with fellow new acquisitions Ryan Johnson, Andy Iro and Peri Marosevic. Joao Plata, who scored both goals off of the bench in the first leg gets the start this time, but Danny Koevermans is absent. Kocic also gets a vote of confidence as well after last week's mistake, getting to start again as first choice keeper Stefan Frei is given a rest again.

Toronto FC: Milos Kocic, Richard Eckersley, Doneil Henry, Andy Iro, Danleigh Borman, Terry Dunfield, Peri Marosevic, Torsten Frings, Ryan Johnson, Javier Martina, Joao Plata

Real Esteli: Carlos Mendieta, Manuel Rosas, Elmer Mejia, Rodriguez Felix, Salvador Garcia, Felix Eliud Zeledon, Jaime Ruiz, Franklin Lopez, Francisco Lopez, Samuel Wilson, Juan Antonio Flores


CONCACAF Champions League, Preliminary Round 2nd Legs: Preview

We're just one more week of matches away from the meat of the 2011-2012 CONCACAF Champions League, the group stage. Before that can get underway though, eight more teams need to fill out the field for the group stage and that can only be done with the completion of the two-legged preliminary stage. 16 teams played their first legs a week ago and this week they'll wrap up that stage of the competition with the second legs.

Unfortunately, most of the preliminary stage is already in the bag. Only three ties produced one-goal wins last week and one of those was a win for the away side so as we head to the second legs there isn't a lot left to be determined. Many teams have all but booked their spot in the group stage and only one tie looks like it will result in an upset. The stage has been anything but dramatic.

Real Esteli (NIC) vs. Toronto FC (CAN)- Tuesday, 10 pm ET

It looked like Toronto had this one wrapped up. They led 2-0 at home and were in complete control of the match, but then Milos Nocic inexplicably dropped a rolling ball he came off his line to grab. It was left there for Esteli to finish and they not only cut the aggregate deficit to one, but they had themselves a vital away goal. Now Esteli needs just a 1-0 win and they are through to the group stage, but a Toronto FC win or draw and they are through. The Reds were far superior in the first leg and are coming off of a great 2-2 draw at Portland on Saturday, but they had to expend a lot of energy coming from behind in that match and it might show on Tuesday.

FC Dallas (USA) vs. Alianza (ESA)- Wednesday, 8 pm ET

Dallas went down to El Salvador and picked up a 1-0 victory. With an away goal to their name and a lead on aggregate heading home they shouldn't have a problem holding on and advancing to the group stage. They're in great form, having just defeated Chivas on Sunday to continue their good run of play, and Alianza don't quite have their type of talent. Scoring early and avoiding any stress for the dozens that will be in attendance at Pizza Hut Park.

Tempete (HAI) vs. Morelia (MEX)- Wednesday, 8 pm ET

Poor Tempete never had a chance. They were severely outmanned against a powerful Mexican team like Morelia and it showed as they got run over, 5-0, in the first leg. To make things worse, they'll have to play the second leg in Morelia too. Their stadium isn't up to par for the competition yet so they have to stay in Mexico and probably take another beating.

Puerto Rico Islanders (PUR) vs. Metapan (ESA)- Wednesday, 8 pm ET

Metapan did exactly what they aimed to do in their first leg at home. They defeated Puerto Rico by multiple goals and they kept a clean sheet in downing the Islanders, 2-0. Puerto Rico has had success in this tournament before so they're not completely out yet, but they don't have the most explosive of attacks and Metapan is very organized at the back. It doesn't look good for the Islanders.

Seattle Sounders (USA) vs. San Francisco (PAN)- Wednesday, 10 pm ET

The shocker of the first legs came in this tie when Seattle went down to Panama and were upended by San Francisco, 1-0. The Sounders had been playing extremely well and San Francisco were embarrassed in the Champions League a year ago so it looked like the American side would roll, but a penalty put San Francisco on top and they held on for the win. Now Seattle returns home with zero momentum, having followed up their loss in Panama with a loss in league play, and needing to get a win to advance. Worse, if San Francisco score a goal then Seattle will have to score at least three to advance.

Olimpia (HON) vs. Santos Lagnuna (MEX)- Wednesday, 10 pm ET

It looked like Olimpia were down and out, trailing Santos 3-0 in the first leg and down a man, but they found themselves a late goal and all of a sudden they have a chance again. A 3-1 loss isn't pretty, but it has that vital away goal so now that they're heading back home they need just a 2-0 win to advance. It's an unlikely result. Getting two goals against the center back pairing of Felipe Baloy and Santiago Hoyos is no easy task and then there's dealing with the on fire Oribe Peralta, but Olimpia have a chance, even if a slight one.

Alpha United (GUY) vs. Herediano (CRC)- Thursday, 8 pm ET

Herediano won the first leg, 8-0. That is all.

Municipal (GUA) vs. Motagua (HON)- Thursday, 10 pm ET

Motagua dominated Municipal in the first leg, 4-0. This tie is over. Motagua will be in Group A.

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