This past week, the semi final first legs of the CONCACAF Champions League took place. The four teams to make it this far in the 2018 competition are Toronto FC, Club América, New York Red Bulls and Guadalajara. Two sides representing Major League Soccer and two representing Mexico’s Liga MX.
Coming up this week on Tuesday 10th April, the return legs will take place. Here on MLSFootball, we have a preview for you.
CLUB AMERICA (1) VS. (3) TORONTO FC
If you want to see an explosive tie, this one began in the pre-match press conference with Club América’s manager Miguel Herrera letting sparks fly during the pre-match press conference when he claimed, “our league doesn’t compete with the MLS.” Fortunately for football fans, that didn’t prove the case as the first leg saw the 2017 MLS Cup, Canadian Championship winners and Supporters Shield holders take a first leg lead.
Greg Vanney is blessed with some big-game players and they had to step up to the mark against Herrera’s impressive side. Sebastian Giovinco got the hosts off to a best start possible by earning, and dispatching, a penalty in the opening stages, only for Andrés Ibargüen to equalise after a jinking solo run into the box. The most important goal of the tie was scored by Jozy Altidore just before half time, which will have changed the complexion of the teamtalks at half time.
Two defenders combined just before the hour for Toronto’s third, Auro playing the ball across the face of goal for homegrown Ashtone Morgan to finish at the far post. As with all two-legged affairs, this isn’t over. Toronto have to protect their aggregate lead in the thin, smoggy, intimidating air of Mexico City in the second leg inside the caldron of Estadio Azteca. Stoking the fires were the events taking place after the game with accusations of Toronto police being heavy-handed with Herrera’s players and the referee referred to as a ‘clown’. For more on that particular aspect of the first leg, see this week’s MLS Rundown.
Player to Watch: Michael Bradley, he’ll be in the thick of everything and must mastermind a controlled team performance.
Prediction: Club América 1 – 2 Toronto FC, Toronto go through to the final.
NEW YORK RED BULLS (0) VS. (1) GUADALAJARA
Going under the radar in comparison to the events at BMO Field was New York Red Bulls travelling to Chivas of Mexico.
New York Red Bulls have been inconsistent in Major League Soccer with two wins and two losses coming from their opening four games. Their last league match was a 4 – 3 loss to Orlando City and despite initial promise, it was the Mexican team who took the lead on 26 minutes through Isaac Brizuela.
Red Bulls’ central midfield man Tyler Adams looked to find Sean Davis but Chivas pounced like a panther onto the loose ball, sending Pizarro and Isaac Brizuela on a counter attack. Rodolfo Pizarro held onto the ball as long as he could before sliding a pass through for Brizuela to finish and crucially he took it early, not allowing the goalkeeper to set himself.
Rodolfo Cota in the Chivas goal held firm, the most promising Red Bulls attack coming just shy of the 80 minute-mark as Bradley Wright-Phillips was quickly closed down. They must welcome Chivas to the Red Bulls Arena without defender Aurelien Collin, who received his marching orders and will be suspended for the second leg, along with midfielder Alex Muyl, who will be watching from the sidelines due to an accumulation of yellow cards.
Much like Toronto FC, New York Red Bulls are still in this tie. A 1 – 0 loss away from home is not the most ideal result but it’s far from the most damaging either. Earlier Red Bulls’ form was discussed with two losses bringing down two victories but both of those wins came at their home with a 4 – 0 triumph over Portland Timbers on the opening day followed up by a 3 – 0 win over Minnesota United. If the New York club can repeat either of those scorelines this coming week, they’ll advance.
Player to Watch: Bradley Wright-Phillips, if New York want to move on in the competition then his striking prowess will be crucial.
Prediction: New York Red Bulls 2 – 2 Guadalajara, Guadalajara go through to the final.