Cifuentes Stunner Compounds Canadian Misery, Philadelphia Navigate Atlas in Guadalajara

The latest round of Scotiabank Concacaf CHAMPIONS League has concluded, leaving two Major League Soccer teams in the running to claim a second consecutive CCL title for the league.

George Edwards

The latest round of Scotiabank Concacaf CHAMPIONS League has concluded, leaving two Major League Soccer teams in the running to claim a second consecutive CCL title for the league.

Unsurprisingly to most it is last year’s MLS Cup finalists who advanced to the semifinals, with Los Angeles FC and the Philadelphia Union set to compete in a two-legged tie to decide who will represent MLS in the final against either Liga MX powerhouses Club Leon or Tigres UANL.

LAFC 3-0 Vancouver Whitecaps (6-0 agg.)

LAFC went into the second leg of their quarter final with Vancouver with one foot in the semifinals after a comprehensive Denis Bouanga-inspired 3-0 victory in the first. Despite this seemingly conclusive scoreline, the Californian side ran out the exact same starting lineup as the first leg, Head Coach Steve Cherundolo avoiding any temptation to field a weakened squad ahead of Sunday’s El Trafico tie with the LA Galaxy. The result reflected the lineup, with the side opening the scoring in the ninth minute through a Carlos Vela penalty, the Mexican veteran cooly dispatching past Vancouver’s incoming Goalkeeper, Thomas Hasal.

The young Canadian goalie would be beaten again in the 31st minute, with Ilie Sanchez chipping an inch-perfect ball to Carlos Vela, who would find the net again after a stellar touch and finish. Up to that point, however, the game had been end-to-end, with both teams having chances and both goalkeepers being forced into stops.

If hope wasn’t already dead to the Whitecaps, Jose Cifuentes would kill it in spectacular fashion in the 65th minute. The Ecuadorian, a half-time substitution for Ilie Sanchez, would leave his mark on the tie with a scorching strike from the edge of the box. Receiving a cutback from Bouanga, the midfielder would move centrally to his right, before pulling the ball back to his weaker left foot and unleashing a shot toward the Vancouver net. The strike careened off the inside of the left goalpost before flying back across goal into the opposite side of the net to an explosionof noise inside the BMO Stadium.

Aside from a speculative attempt at a long-range lob over the head of goalkeeper John McCarthy, Vancouver was largely silenced after the goal, with a mountain of seven goals required to overturn the deficit. The Canadian side will hope to shake off this defeat and maintain their domestic winning streak, facing an out of sorts Austin FC on April 15.

Atlas 2-2 Philadelphia Union (2-3 agg.)

While LAFC and Vancouver looked to have largely concluded as a contest before the second leg had even begun, Philadelphia went into its away leg at Atlas with far less certainty of progression. While the Union were dominant in the home leg, the side could only gain the upper hand on the scoresheet through an 89th minute Daniel Gazdag penalty kick, despite Atlas being reduced to 10 men after Anderson Santamaria’s first half sending off.

It looked as if heartbreak could be brewing for Philadelphia early on, with a deft move, capped off by a Julian Quinones strike, beating Andre Blake in the 11th minute to level the aggregate score. Fortunately for Philly, a 28th minute equalizer was on the cards after it was judged that Julian Carranza’s goal was onside. Carranza’s smart touch to bring down Jack McGlynn’s lobbed pass before clipping it pastJose Hernandez, who replaced Camilo Vargas in the Atlas net, provided Philadelphia with a two-goal cushion with away goals considered.

Atlas was far from done, however. On the brink of halftime Ozziel Herrera charged down the right flank before swinging the ball into the waiting Argentinian striker Julio Furch, who made no mistake from close distance, leaving the tie 2-1 on the day. The game would remain that way until the 78th minute, when Julian Carranza would net his second to give the Union some breathing room. From here the game would remain 2-2, with Aldo Rocha letting his temper get the better of him for Atlas, with two yellow cards in quick succession leaving Atlas with 10 men for the second leg in a row. Philadelphia can now look forward to a 2022MLS Cup rematch in the semifinals, welcoming LAFC to Subaru Park on April 26.



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