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Tom Marshall: MLS delivers first blow to Liga MX in CCL

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The CONCACAF Champions League games couldn’t be set up better in terms of intrigue for next week’s quarterfinal second legs, with Liga MX sides failing to win any of the three first legs against MLS opposition.
 
The most hyped game was in Los Angeles on Wednesday where the Galaxy overcame Club Tijuana 1-0 in a match billed as a battle of the two Californias.
 
The reality was there was little between the teams, with Galaxy shading the first half in terms of chances and threatening more – usually through the vibrant Landon Donovan – but Xolos surging back after the break.
 
The Liga MX outfit will be justifiably disappointed not to have taken a draw out the game when it looked at times in the second 45 that the Galaxy were there for the taking.
 
Los Angeles seemed to be wilting having only played one MLS game so far, but hung on for a vital win.
 
In the end, the difference was that the impressive Samuel capitalized on a defensive error (and a slightly fortunate break of the ball) in the 11th minute to hand Los Angeles the lead heading across the border to what will be an intimidating Estadio Caliente next Tuesday.
 
Tackles flew in during the second half, both teams were fired up and the atmosphere – with Xolos fans traveling en masse – seemed electric. It was exactly the type of match the CONCACAF Champions League needs to grow in stature.
 
Next week’s return leg has all the raw ingredients to be a CCL classic and Xolos will be quietly confident, having kept 11 clean sheets in their last 15 home games.
 
But if the Xolos were unlucky on Wednesday, Cruz Azul can’t have any real complaints in its 1-0 loss against Sporting Kansas City earlier in the evening.
 
The reigning MLS champion was sharper, hungrier and made it a very uncomfortable night for the Liga MX leader with its high pressing game.
 
La Maquina could point to Benny Feilhaber keeping a Marco Fabian head out with his arm in the 54th, but Kansas City had its chances and shaded the game against a spluttering Azul.

Surely in the home leg, Cruz Azul coach Luis Fernando Tena will stick to the 4-2-3-1 formation that has sent the team into first position in the league, instead of seemingly trying to accommodate the attack-minded Christian “Chaco” Gimenez and ditching one of the usual holding midfielders. 

The move upset the balance of the team, although Tena should be praised for at least fielding a strong lineup when the vibe in Mexico was that some of the big players would be rested. 
 
One of the major factors in the second leg will be how the altitude of Mexico City affects Sporting Kansas City’s ability to play the same high-energy game that created problems for Cruz Azul in the cold northern climes.
 
On Tuesday, Toluca drew 1-1 at San Jose Earthquakes and was the only Mexican team to score a goal and salvage something positive in the CCL this week.
 
The irony was that Diablos Rojos coach Jose Cardozo was the only Liga MX coach to rest key players (Pablo Velazquez, Isaac Brizuela, Miguel Ponce, Sinha, Paulo da Silva) for the game.
 
A last gasp equalizer by Alan Gordon salvaged a tie for the MLS outfit, but Toluca – with the highest Liga MX stadium in Mexico – was worth at least a draw and only really had difficulties when Earthquakes resorted to an aerial barrage late on.
 
But the main take from all three matches and results is that while it is no secret Liga MX sides have been dominant in the CCL - having won the past eight editions of the competition - this year, once again, it looks like they’ll have to raise the bar that little bit higher to retain it.

Marshall: MLS delivers first blow to Liga MX in CCL

 

The CONCACAF Champions League games couldn’t be set up better in terms of intrigue for next week’s quarterfinal second legs, with Liga MX sides failing to win any of the three first legs against MLS opposition.

 

The most hyped game was in Los Angeles on Wednesday where the Galaxy overcame Club Tijuana 1-0 in a match billed as a battle of the two Californias.

 

The reality was there was little between the teams, with Galaxy shading the first half in terms of chances and threatening more – usually through the vibrant Landon Donovan – but Xolos surging back after the break.

 

The Liga MX outfit will be justifiably disappointed not to have taken a draw out the game when it looked at times in the second 45 that Galaxy was there for the taking.

 

Los Angeles seemed to be wilting having only played one MLS game so far, but hung on for a vital win.

 

In the end, the difference was that the impressive Samuel capitalized on a defensive error (and a slightly fortunate break of the ball) in the 11th minute to hand Los Angeles the lead heading across the border to what will be an intimidating Estadio Calientenext Tuesday.

 

Tackles flew in during the second half, both teams were fired up and the atmosphere – with Xolos fans traveling en masse – seemed electric. It was exactly the type of match the CONCACAF Champions League needs to grow in stature.

 

Next week’s return leg has all the raw ingredients to be a CCL classic and Xolos will be quietly confident, having kept 11 clean sheets in their last 15 home games.

 

But if Xolos were unlucky on Wednesday, Cruz Azul can’t have any real complaints in its 1-0 loss against Sporting Kansas City earlier in the evening.

 

The reigning MLS champion was sharper, hungrier and made it a very uncomfortable night for the Liga MX leaders with its high pressing game.

 

La Maquina could point to Benny Feilhaber keeping a Marco Fabian head out with his arm in the 54th, but Kansas had their chances and shaded the game against a spluttering Azul.

Surely in the home leg, Cruz Azul coach Luis Fernando Tena will stick to the 4-2-3-1 formation that has sent the team into first position in the league, instead of seemingly trying to accommodate the attack-minded Christian “Chaco” Gimenez and ditching one of the usual holding midfielders.  


The move upset the balance of the team, although Tena should be praised for at least fielding a strong line-up when the vibe in Mexico was that some of the big players would be rested.  

 

One of the major factors in the second leg will be how the altitude of Mexico City affects Sporting Kansas City’s ability to play the same high-energy game that created problems for Cruz Azul in the cold northern climes.

 

On Tuesday, Toluca drew 1-1 at San Jose Earthquakes and was the only Mexican team to score a goal and salvage something positive in the CCL this week.

 

The irony was that Diablos Rojos coach Jose Cardozo was the only Liga MX coach to rest key players (Pablo Velazquez, Isaac Brizuela, Miguel Ponce, Sinha, Paulo da Silva) for the game.

 

A last gasp equalizer by Alan Gordon salvaged a tie for the MLS outfit, but Toluca – with the highest Liga MX stadium in Mexico – were worth at least a draw and only really had difficulties when Earthquakes resorted to an aerial barrage late on.

 

But the main take from all three matches and results is that while it is no secret Liga MX sides have been dominant in the CCL - having won the past eight editions of the competition - this year, once again, it looks like they’ll have to raise the bar that little bit higher to retain it.

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