The Concacaf Champions League quarterfinal round features three MLS-Liga MX match-ups.
The Clásico Regiomontano is the marquee match of the upcoming Liga MX weekend, but before they take the field at Estadio BBVA Bancomer the Tigres and the Rayados face important challengers from north of the border.
The Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals kick off tonight and Wednesday night. The Tigres are in Houston tonight to face the Dynamo while Monterrey hosts the defending MLS champions Atlanta United on Wednesday night.
Also tonight, Santos pays a visit to the New York Red Bulls and, in the other quarterfinal on Wednesday, Sporting KC visits Panama’s Independiente.
Tigres at Houston Dynamo
In keeping with his disdain for tournaments outside of league play, Tigres coach Ricardo Ferretti is protecting his key players ahead of the derby against Monterrey. Not even making the trip to Houston with the Tigres are top scorer André-Pierre Gignac and Team Mexico winger Javier Aquino.
Coach Ferretti will hope to steal a draw in Houston with a conservative approach, most likely utilizing a 5-man back line led by Team Mexico defenders Carlos Salcedo, Hugo Ayala and “Chaka” Rodríguez.
The Tigres used the same strategy in the Round of 16, declining to use a first-choice line-up in the first-leg match in Costa Rica and came home trailing Saprissa 1-0. In the second leg in Estadio Universitario (again without Gignac), the Tigres advanced thanks to a hat trick from Enner Valencia in their 5-1 win at home. The Ecuadorian striker will again lead the Tigres offense Tuesday night.
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The Dynamo advanced to the quarterfinals by comfortably eliminating Guatemala’s Guastatoya 3-1 on aggregate. The MLS season just opened this past weekend and Houston squeaked out a 1-1 draw against visiting Real Salt Lake.
Santos at New York
The Guerreros dominated Honduran club Marathon by an 11-2 aggregate score but were smacked around this past weekend by León. So it will be a wounded Santos club that takes the field in Red Bull Arena.
Santos thumped Marathon 6-2 in the first leg match with Javier Correa contributing a hat trick, then won easily at home by a 5-0 score.
The Red Bulls also reached the quarterfinals without breaking much of a sweat. The MLS club defeated Atlético Pantoja, a team from the Dominican Republic, by a 5-0 aggregate scoreline. Daniel Royer was the scoring star, netting in each game, but the match-up was not a good test for the Red Bulls.
Over the weekend, New York earned a 1-1 tie at Columbus with Andreas Ivan getting the goal. Columbus dominated the match for long stretches after falling behind in minute 6, but only managed 4 shots on goal.
Atlanta United at Monterrey
Atlanta overcame a 3-1 first-leg deficit against Costa Rica’s Herediano by winning the return leg 4-0 at home. Last year’s top scorer in then MLS – Josef Martínez – led the way for the champs, scoring in the first minute and again in minute 63.
However, D.C. United did not show the champs any respect over the weekend, tarnishing United’s crown by defeating visiting Atlanta 2-0. Scoring the first goal for D.C. was winger Paul Arriola, former Tijuana Xolos player.
For its part, Monterrey struggled against El Salvador’s Alianza, but eked into the quarterfinals thanks to a late penalty conversion in the second leg by Nico Sánchez who had seen a first-half penalty kick blocked by Víctor García.
The Rayados had dominated both matches statistically, but simply couldn’t get the ball on net in the first game in El Salvador. In part, this was due to inept refereeing. Jamaica’s Kevin Morrison was allowing Alianza players to play extremely physical and Monterrey players apparently thought it wiser to avoid injury and survive to play the return match.
In the second game, Monterrey had 70% possession and launched 24 shots, but only 6 were on net. The winning penalty kick came in minute 86.
Over the weekend, the Rayados defeated the Chivas in Guadalajara as Dorlan Pabón scored on two long-range shots.
Sporting KC at Independiente
The Panamanian team is the surprise participant here. Independiente shocked last year’s CCL runner-up Toronto by a 5-1 aggregate score, winning the first leg at home by a 4-0 score. They will certainly hope to be able to pull off a similar outcome Wednesday night.
Sporting KC knocked out Toluca with ease, winning 3-0 at home and 2-0 in Toluca. The Kansas City club lost its MLS opener at Los Angeles FC by a 2-1 score.