It was a good week for MLS as four of the league’s five teams competing in the CONCACAF Champions League advanced to the final eight of the regional club championship.
MLS Cup Champions Fall
Surprisingly the one MLS side to disappoint was Cup winners Seattle Sounders. The Pacific Northwest side blew a late lead before falling to Honduran club Olimpia on penalty kicks. Seattle looked to be well on the way to joining their MLS counterparts in the quarters when Olimpia’s Carlos Pineda latched onto a wayward clearance in the 86th minute to volley home from 25 plus yards and send the game to pks where Olimpia prevailed.
LAFC Make History
Trailing 2-0 after leg one it looked as if LAFC was on the way to disappointment but the MLS single season points record holders bounced back at home to overturn a 0-2 deficit with a 3-0 win, eliminating Mexico’s Leon by a 3-2 aggregate score to claim the tie and advance.
No MLS side had previously overcome a 2-0 deficit in CCL play. However, a brace from Carlos Vela and an audacious chip in the 79th minute from Diego Rossi allowed Bob Bradley’s men to avoid the crapshoot of penalty kicks while setting up a quarterfinal showdown with a second Liga MX club Cruz Azul.
Atlanta set the bar high for its MLS counterparts, easily handling their Honduran opponents Motagua 3-0 Tuesday night at Fifth Third Bank Stadium in Kennesaw to take the aggregate series 4-1.
Pity and Josef Martinez terrorized Motagua with a pair of goals. The 3-0 scoreline was no more than The Five Stripes deserved. MLS coaches and players tuning in maybe having nightmares about slowing down Atlanta’s attacking three of the two Martinez’ and Ezequiel Barco.
NYCFC Road Warriors Cruise
Playing in front of a minuscule crowd at the home stadium of the Red Bulls, their chief rival, New York City FC topped AD San Carlos 1-0 to complete a 6-3 aggregate score sweep of the Costa Rican club.
A powerfully headed goal by New York defender Alex Callens from a well taken corner kick by Maxi Moralez was enough to end this game as a contest to set up a meeting for NYCFC with Mexico’s Tigres UNAL.
New York will be back at Red Bull Arena for the “home” leg of the CCL Quarterfinal on Wednesday, March 11 at 8:00 p.m.
Coaching just his second game for NYCFC, Ronny Deila introduced himself to area fans late in the game with his aggressive response to a hard foul on one of his players, pushing the San Carlos player and igniting a near brawl in front of the New York bench.
Remarkably Deila escaped without a caution and while the coach admitted “that I overreacted” he added, “ I wanted to protect my player.”
Henry Leads Montreal to Quarterfinals
After scoring a pair of goals in the opening 22 minutes of the first leg of this two legger against Saprissa last week, Thierry Henry’s Montreal Impact went goalless for the next 158 minutes but managed to advance to the Quarterfinals of the CCL on the strength of those two away goals.
In his first two games in charge of the Impact, Henry has displayed a practical side, sending out his team in a defensive formation in San Juan and coaxing a fine effort from his side Wednesday night at Montreal’s Stade Olympique.
The Going Gets Tough
With four of the remaining spots in the CCL going to MLS squads, odds are good that an MLS side finally brings home the trophy. Right? Ehm, maybe not so much. We have only to go back to last year when Houston, New York Red Bulls, and Atlanta all fell at this hurdle, with only Sporting KC moving on to the semifinals.
What was the common denominator for all three losing MLS clubs? They all played Mexican teams while Sporting KC defeated Panama’s Independiente to advance to the semis where Peter Vermes’ boys fell to Monterrey 10-2!
This year sees MLS clubs matching up with Liga MX sides while Montreal takes on Honduras’ Olimpia. LAFC will play Cruz Azul. Atlanta go up against Club America. And NYCFC battle Tigres UNAL.