Whether or not it’s a result of the new format, there’s been goals galore so far in the 2012-13 edition of the CONCACAF Champions League. Last week’s action saw an average of 3.25 goals per game. Most importantly, all three MLS teams in action recorded victories that put them in command of their groups. Here’s how it all went down.
Santos Laguna 5-0 Aguila
- Santos, last year’s runner up, got their campaign off to a good start steamrolling Salvadorian side Aguila behind a hat-trick from Carlos Quintero. The win puts Los Guerreros atop Group 1 on goal differential and sets up a showdown with MLS side Toronto FC in a match that could ultimately decide the group. MLS fans will remember last year’s meeting between the sides when Santos knocked TFC out of the Champions League 7-3 on aggregate after a 6-2 beat down in Mexico. Toronto, however, will head into this game confident knowing they managed to hold Santos to a 1-1 draw at BMO field last year. For Aguila, it would appear their Champions League campaign is over, barring a remarkable comeback in their final two group games.
Real Salt Lake 2-0 Tauro FC
- Real Salt Lake has always taken the Champions League seriously and Tuesday was no exception. In a game they had to win, RSL rolled out a mostly first choice XI and were rewarded with a 2-0 victory thanks to goals from Alvaro Saborio and Kyle Beckerman. It wasn’t all roses for the MLS side, though, as a clumsy tackle from Beckerman resulted in a deserved red card. The captain’s suspension could prove costly when the two teams meet again in Panama, a match Tauro must win to harbor any hopes of making the knockout rounds.
Xelaju 1-0 Guadalajara
- In the biggest upset of the tournament thus far, Guatemalan outfit Xelaju managed to knock off Mexican giant Chivas Guadalajara as Edgar Chinchilla’s headed effort off a corner proved the winner. Guadalajara had a number of chances in the second half and probably should have taken a point from the contest, but credit goes to Xelaju for playing a positive game and creating enough chances themselves. Thanks to a first round draw with W Connection Xelaju now sit atop the group on four points. Guadalajara can still make the knockout rounds, but this loss means they can’t afford to slip up in their remaining games.
Caledonia AIA 0-0 Marathon
- Caledonia and Marathon battled to a scoreless draw in a match that was anything but dull. Suspect goalkeeping from both sides saw a number of chances, but neither side could take advantage. Marathon came closest to breaking the deadlock when it hit the post from close range while Caledonia managed to miss an open goal from 18 yards out. Each team took a point, but the result was much more favorable for Marathon who has only played one game and has a chance to take control of the group when they meet current leaders Seattle in four weeks. Caledonia, meanwhile, need a win in their next game if they want to keep their chances of advancing alive.
Alajuelense 2-2 Tigres
- Thriller of the week goes to this match, an open contest that saw plenty of chances for both sides and a dramatic, stoppage time equalizer. Diego Caivo gave the hosts the lead with a beautiful volley, but that seemed to wake up Tigres and the visitors found a deserved equalizer off the foot of Alonso Zamora following an extended spell of dominance. Tigres continued to play well to start the second half and took the lead after Manuel Viniegra headed home a free kick, but Luis Valle’s 20-yard blast in stoppage time assured a share of the points. The result gives Tigres control of the group with four points but Alajuelense are also in good position having only played a single game.
FAS 1-3 Houston Dynamo
- This game was a testament to Houston’s depth as they rolled out a reserve-heavy lineup and still came away with a dominant 3-1 victory. Dynamo legend Brian Ching headed in the opener and Cam Weaver doubled the lead just seven minutes later. FAS’ poor marking on crosses continued as Je-Vaughn Watson put the game out of reach with a powerful header in the 60th minute. FAS did manage to pull one back when Jonathan Aguila pounced on a failed clearance, but the result was never in any doubt. Alexander Larin was superb for FAS in a losing effort and as noted by Darrell Lovell on twitter, it wouldn’t be surprising if an MLS team put in a discovery claim on him. With no points from two games FAS looks done, but Houston have a showdown in Honduras with Olimpia to decide the top spot in the group.
Chorrillo 1-2 Municipal
- Chorrillo knew they had to win and for much of the first half it looked like they would do just that. However, the Panamanian side was made to pay for multiple wasted opportunities when Municipal took the lead through Luis Rodriguez. Chorrillo leveled when Johnny Ruiz managed to chest the ball down and finish from close range, but then proceeded to miss three golden scoring chances. Their profligacy in front of goal was punished once again when Municipal’s Yosimar Arias found space in the box to pivot and fire a late winner off the post and in. The win see Municipal level on points with defending champion Monterrey while Chorrillo is all but dead with zero points from two games in an exceptionally tough group.
LA Galaxy 5-2 Isidro Metapan
- What a way to close out last week’s Champions League action: seven goals, a controversial red card and a competition milestone all in one game. The Galaxy predictably dominated from the outset, but it was Metapan that took a shock lead in the 17th minute against the run of play. The writing was on the wall for the LA defense, which had been allowing too much space, and they paid for it when Nicolas Munoz poked home a rebound following Todd Dunivant’s goal line clearance. It was all Galaxy from then on as Jose Alvarado put a David Beckham cross past his own keeper to tie the game. Robbie Keane, wearing the captain’s armband in Landon Donovan’s absence, gave LA the lead heading home another Beckham cross. Beckham was involved on the third goal as well, doubling the Galaxy lead directly off a corner kick. It was the 1,000 goal scored in CONCACAF Champions League history, a fitting achievement for the Englishman’s already impressive resume. There was controversy in the 70th minute when Keane was questionably booked for a dive and then sent off after arguing with the official. Down to 10 men, the Galaxy refused to take its foot off the gas and was rewarded with two Juninho goals bracketing a Metapan penalty to make the final score 5-2. LA is now atop the group on goal difference while Metapan is still in the mix to advance with three points from two games.
MLS Outlook: It was an excellent week for the league as all three teams in action recorded important victories. Of the five MLS sides in the competition, three sit atop their respective groups while Toronto and Houston are both second due only to a difference in goals scored. This week sees four MLS sides in action. Toronto plays Santos on Tuesday, LA face Puerto Rico Islanders on Wednesday; both Houston and Seattle play on Thursday. Toronto has by far the toughest test of the week facing off against a Santos team that dismantled the Reds when the two sides last met. The other three teams should have no problems although Houston shouldn’t look past Olimpia. It’s still early, but to see four MLS teams make the knockout rounds wouldn’t be a shock; this week will go a long way to determining whether that becomes a reality.