03 August, 2010

CONCACAF Champions League Heats Up

Tonight was a good night full of soccer. I sat down at the end of the day looking for sports, any sports, and found a CONCACAF Champions League doubleheader on Galavision. Both matches were the second leg of elimination matches. The first match was San Francisco FC of Panama visiting Cruz Azul, and the second match was Seattle Sounders traveling to San Salvador to take on Asociacion Deportiva Isidro Metapan.

First, never watch a game from Cruz Azul's Estadio Azul. Every time Cruz Azul took a shot or a corner kick, regardless of whether they found the target or missed entirely, an extremely obnoxious car-horn-like sound blared over my television, completely overwhelming television announcers Jorge Ottati and my old friend Fernando Clavijo, who I will always remember from his days with the San Jose Earthquakes. The old NASL Earthquakes who wore red, not these new MLS guys.

Anyway, with the sound off, it was still obvious that Cruz Azul is the best team in CONCACAF without a doubt. After winning last week's first leg 3-2 in Panama, Cruz Azul destroyed San Francisco 6-0. Javier Orozco scored a hat trick for Cruz Azul with the first and last goals of the game. Maximiliano Biancucchi also added two goals for the Cementeros.

Cruz Azul will play in Group A of the CONCACAF Champions League along with Real Salt Lake, Arabe Unido of Panama, and Toronto FC. In a game that was not televised here, Toronto FC tied Motagua of Honduras in dramatic fashion, 2-2, after winning the first leg at home 1-0. Toronto already had the advantage in the away goals rule, trailing 2-1 on the road, when Chad Barrett tied the game in the 79th minute.

Next, the game I was waiting for: Seattle Sounders at Metapan. Seattle had won the first leg 1-0 after inserting Fredy Montero as a substitute, and he was the only player to score. Tonight, Metapan took advantage of an atrocious defensive lapse by right back Tyrone Marshall and center back Patrick Ianni to take a 1-0 lead and tie the series. Marshall was beaten to the end line by Metapan's left wing, and Ianni inexplicably abandoned his man, Anel Canales, who easily headed the ball into the net. Once again Seattle had to insert their big guns in the second half, in need of a goal to advance. Nate Jaqua and Uruguayan Alvaro Fernandez (Seattle's newest player, acquired July 29) entered the game with their bright neon green uniforms standing out against the muddy kits of the rest of the team on a rainy night in San Salvador. Fernandez immediately started giving the defense fits, and they fouled him repeatedly, until finally in the 74th minute, Fernandez headed a cross from James Riley past Metapan's keeper to tie the game 1-1 and win the series for Seattle.

Seattle will play in Group C of the CONCACAF Champions League along with Monterrey of Mexico, Saprissa of Costa Rica, and most likely Marathon of Honduras, who only need to hang on to a 3-0 aggregate lead tomorrow night.

Tomorrow's action will be even better. There is another double header on Galavision. First, the LA Galaxy must overcome a 4-1 deficit against the Puerto Rico Islanders. We're all rooting for Puerto Rico, right? Next, from Torreon, Mexico, Santos Laguno will attempt to add to their 1-0 lead over San Juan Jabloteh of Trinidad and Tobago. In the first leg, Santos Laguna and Chile forward Rodrigo Ruiz scored in the 83rd minute to break the stalemate in Trinidad.

Should the LA Galaxy or Santos Laguna qualify for the group stage, they will be paired away from their countrymen Columbus Crew and Toluca, who automatically qualify for the group stage, along with Olimpia of Honduras and Municipal of Guatemala. The last two group stage berths will go to the winners of two matches that are tied in aggregate: CD FAS of El Salvador tied Xelaju of Guatemala 1-1 in the first leg, and Brujas of Costa Rica tied Joe Public of Trinidad and Tobago 2-2 in their first leg.

Oh yeah, and before that, on Telefutura will be the SuperLiga semifinal between the New England Revolution and Puebla in Foxboro, MA. Unfortunately I don't get that channel but I'm rooting for New England and MLS, needless to say. Houston Dynamo plays Morelia Monarcas in the other semifinal in Houston, TX. There is a great chance for an all-MLS final if the home teams win.

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