After an intense fortnight of fixtures, the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) Champions League (CCL) Round of 16 has been concluded, with a mixed set of results for the 5 MLS teams going into the Quarter Finals.
Austin FC: Eliminated 3-2 vs Violette AC (Haiti)
After playing a rotated side in the first leg against Haitianside Violette AC, Austin was stunned in a 3-0 loss in which Miche-Naider Chery netted a first-half brace, before an Amro Tarek own goal left the Texan side with an uphill battle coming back into Austin. The second leg saw the MLS side field a much more familiar starting lineup, and after defeating Real Salt Lake 2-1 in domestic play between the two legs, the unchanged team went into the home game high on confidence, with attack after attack leaving Violette unable to do anything but park the bus. The Haitian team traveled to Austin short-handed, with a 3-man bench further providing Austin the advantage. Paul Decius made some impressive saves to keep the game scoreless heading into half time, but Austin made the breakthrough early in the second half, Sebastian Driussi hammering home to give the home side hope of a comeback.
A second goal would follow 12 minutes later, with a Driussi header aided by a goalkeeping blunder from Decius giving Austin 30 minutes to score a third and tie the game. Austin applied constant pressure for the remainder of the game, with 35 total shots–10 on target–to Violette’s 0 attempts, further highlighted by Austin’s 76% possession. Despite this utter dominance, Violette would hang on into 11 minutes of stoppage time with a last second block completing what may be the greatest upset in CCL history. Violette will face Club Leon of Mexico in the Quarter finals, with the first leg coming on April 3.
Philadelphia Union: Advance after 4-0 win vs Alianza (El Salvador)
Much like Austin,Philadelphia sent a rotated side to the opening leg of their tie against their CCL opposition–though Philly’s team managed to secure a 0-0 draw in El Salvador in a gritty match, with the main highlight being a pitch invasion from a dog, who managed to grab the match ball before being carried off.
The return leg in Philadelphia saw a stronger side line up, minus Andre Blake, the Union’s star goalkeeper, after an injury meant Joe Bendik got the start in goal. This would prove to be a non-issue in the game,as Philadelphia would dominate after a first half red card for Alianza’s Alexis Renderos–the defender given his marching orders after a second yellow card 40 minutes into the game.
Philadelphia took the lead in the stoppage time of the first half with aDamion Lowe header off a corner kick. Another set-piece, a Daniel Gazdag penalty, would double the lead in the 62nd minute–before a triple substitution in the 65th would see the night’s third goalscorer, Andreas Perea, come into the game.
An off-season signing from Orlando, Perea would net his first in the 81st minute, with a low driven strike finding the back of the net and putting the tie to bed. His second followed just 3 minutes later, slotting home from the edge of the six-yard box to cap an impressive showing from the Union–who will face Atlas in the quarter-final, after a thrilling 4-0 comeback victory against Olimpia booked the Mexican side’s place in the next round.
Orlando City SC: Eliminated on away goals after 1-1 draw with Tigres UANL
Knocked out in one of the cruelest manners, Orlando City managed to hold Tigres UANL to a 0-0 draw in Mexico, with keeper Pedro Gallese managing to keep Gignac and co. from taking a home win to defend in the States.
Andre-Pierre Gignac would not make the tripto Orlando, giving Sebastián Córdova a chance to play behind Nicolás Ibáñez, Gignac’s strike partner in the first leg. Córdova took his chance when it came in the 21st minute, scoring a goal that not only gave Tigres the lead, but an extremely valuable away goal that meant Orlando would need to score at least two to advance.
A 75th minute substitute would see Ercan Kara enter the field, and it would be an acrobatic bicycle kick from the Austrian striker that provided Orlando with a glimmer of hope in the 89thminute. A lengthy stoppage time would see a sending off for both teams, but Tigres would maintain their slim advantage to advance through the tie after a nervy ending. Tigres will take on Motagua in the Quarter Finals, after the Honduran tie advanced in similar style, drawing 1-1 against Pachuca, beating the Mexican giantson away goals.
Vancouver Whitecaps: Advanced 7-2 vs Real España (Honduras)
Vancouver took advantage of a home first leg in this one, dismantling Real España 5-0 and almost certainly booking its place in the Quarter Finals. After a Triston Blackmon goal in the 21st minute, strikes from Ryan Raposo (59th), Pedro Vite (70th), and Brian White (77th)–as well as a Devron Garcia own goal in the 64th–Vancouver felt comfortable fielding a rotated XI for the second leg.
After a rather uneventful first half, an outstanding 66th minute strike from Brian White on the edge of the box seemed to bring the second leg to life, with España responding immediately through a Getsel Montes goal in the 67th. Ramiro Rocca would give the Honduran side a 2-1 lead on the night inthe 75th minute, beating the incoming Thomas Hasal in the Vancouver goal. Sebastian Berhalter would combine with Simon Becher in the 83rdfor an equalizer, the latter netting the goal that tied the match.
It was Montes who would once again come up with afast reply, making the game 3-2 in the 86th, giving his side a consolation victory in front of the Honduran fans. Vancouver’s overall win means they will face LAFC in an all-MLS Quarter Final.
Los Angeles FC: Advance after 4-2-win vs Alajuelense
Like Vancouver, LAFC put themselves in a solid position after their first leg–with a 3-0 victory in Costa Rica courtesy of a Denis Bouanga hat-trick. Despite its seemingly secure position, LA fielded a strong side for its home leg, showcasing the side’s depth inthe process, rotating in Aaron Long and Stipe Buik in place of Jesús Murillo and Bouanga.Despite a strong lineup, LA would find itself behind in the 8th minute. After VAR review it was decided that Italian veteran Georgio Chiellini had handled the ball in the box. Former LA Galaxy defender Giancarlo Gonzalez would step up, the 35-year-old dispatching from the spot to give the Costa Ricans hope.
An early second half goal from Aarón Suárez in the 51st gave LAFC reason to worry, with Alajuelense one goal away from forcing the tie to penalty kicks with 39 minutes left of the 90. The score would stay 2-0 on the night until the 83rd minute, when captain Carlos Vela put some distance between the sides with a lob over Leonel Moreira, who had played an impressivegame in goal to keep the Costa Rican side in the game. Despite a 2-1 loss on the night, LAFC advances to play the Vancouver Whitecaps in the Quarter Finals.
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