CONCACAF Champions League: MLS and USMNT Wrapup

Andy KontyCorrespondent IIMarch 10, 2013

CONCACAF Champions League: MLS and USMNT Wrapup

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    Three Major League Soccer teams and players from the U.S. Men’s National Team player pool completed the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals this week.

    The Champions League—no, not that one—is the international club competition for members of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football, or CONCACAF.  The winner of the tournament advances to the annual FIFA Club World Cup.

    If you’ve ever wondered how MLS teams compare to club teams from other countries, this tournament provides the answers.  MLS and Liga MX teams have a clear edge in the competition, with the Liga MX teams dominating the tournament’s later rounds.  Three MLS and three Liga MX teams remain in this year’s final eight.

    All of the quarterfinal games are televised in the U.S., and this is some of the most entertaining soccer you will find anywhere.  Played with an expected Latin flair, the pace of the games is very high and the action is end-to-end. 

    Read on to find out how MLS teams and USMNT players fared in the first quarterfinal leg, then leave a comment with your opinion of this tournament.

Houston Dynamo vs. Santos Laguna

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    The first quarterfinal match featured the Houston Dynamo grinding out a 1-0 home win over Liga MX side Santos Laguna

    Houston fielded three players from the recent USMNT player pool: Brad Davis, Ricardo Clark and Tally Hall.  Laguna started Hercules Gomez.

    Brad Davis provided the 89th-minute game-winner with a worm-burner from the 18 and Tally Hall pitched the shutout in goal.  Clark kept Santos from building through the middle of he field, forcing them over the top and out to the wings most of the night.

    Sporting a Greek beard, Gomez was his usual high-energy self putting pressure on the Dynamo back line. If Jozy Altidore had half the horsepower of Gomez’s motor, he would be unstoppable. 

    The game was box-to-box, with both sides charging upfield.  But it was like a baseball game with plenty of baserunners but no RBI. Neither team could find the goal until very late when Davis snuck his shot through the defense.

    Houston got the late win, but they will have to be far more efficient with its chances in the return leg if they hope to see the semifinals

Seattle vs Tigres

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    The Seattle Sounders began the knockout stage on the road at Tigres UANL. The Sounders' mission was to head back to their home-field advantage within spitting distance of of the Liga MX side.

    Three players who recently got Honduran stamps in their passports started in their usual roles.

    Resurgent national team forward Eddie Johnson put his pace up front for the Sounders.  Joining him was January camper Brad Evans.  Up-and-down USMNT midfielder Jose Torres played a full 90 for Tigres.

    The visiting Sounders seemed content to pick up at midfield and try their luck with the counter.  Johnson didn't get much service, however, and Evans was too busy defending in front of the Sounders box to link up. The Sounders generated a few good chances but refused to press Tigres, preferring to stay behind the ball.

    Torres and company did their best to break down the Sounders but were unable to come up with more than a single penalty-kick goal.  Torres showed the holding midfielder skills that USMNT fans keep hoping will show up during the Hex.

    Tigres was only able to come up with a single goal, so Seattle has to like its chances heading north to Seattle where the desert-dwelling Tigres will be at a disadvantage. 

LA Galaxy vs. Herediano

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    The L.A. Galaxy didn't miss Landon Donovan in their home MLS opener.  In the trip to Costa Rica they were desperately short of quality linking up to the final third when they played at Herediano's plastic turf stadium.

    Last year many of the key Galaxy players trained through the offseason, playing competitively with the hope of making a run in the CONCACAF Champions League.  Unfortunately, all they got for their troubles was a broken center-back and a burned-out Donovan.

    The Galaxy looked good against the Costa Rican champions. Omar Gonzalez appears fully recovered from the knee injury he sustained a year ago.

    Todd Dunivant is probably done causing panic attacks among USMNT fans, but he continues to play well for the defending MLS champions.  January camper A.J. De La Garza paired with Gonzales and earned a shutout for Bruce Arena's side. 

    Despite the decided home-field advantage on the fake grass, the Galaxy offered a good account of themselves and generated plenty of threats to the Herediano goal. 

    The Galaxy were unlucky to get an away goal, but the draw means that a home win, perhaps with their captain Landon Donovan, will see the Galaxy through to the semis.