By DAN KARELL
Major League Soccer didn’t have the best of nights on Thursday with both the Los Angeles Galaxy and the Houston Dynamo losing, but the league will have a chance to make up for it in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal round.
All three American teams who qualified for the knockout rounds were paired with clubs from Mexico including the Los Angeles Galaxy taking on nearby Club Tijuana, giving Tijuana’s Herculez Gomez another chance to show his skill in front of an MLS audience in the CCL for the third consecutive season.
The other pairings include Sporting Kansas City and Cruz Azul, the San Jose Earthquakes and Toluca, as well as Arabe Unido and Alajuelense. The matches are scheduled to take place next March, with the first leg on March 11/12 and the second leg on March 18/19.
CONCACAF confirmed the pairings on Friday morning.
It’s the first time that both Sporting KC and the Earthquakes are in the CCL under it’s current format, though the Earthquakes did make the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Cup in 2004 and Sporting KC played in the SuperLiga in 2009. The Galaxy advanced to the semifinals of the last edition of the CCL before bowing out against eventual champions Monterrey.
For Tijuana, it’s their first time in the CCL but they’ll use the experience gained from their impressive run in the Copa Libertadores last spring to help them next March. Gomez in particular has been lethal in the competition in the last three years for Santos Laguna and Xolos, scoring 12 goals in 17 matches.
An MLS team has yet to win the competition under it’s current format, with Real Salt Lake coming the closest in 2011 before falling to Humberto Suazo and Monterrey.
Playing without three of their best players in Brad Davis, Jermaine Taylor, and Oscar Boniek Garcia on Thursday evening, the Dynamo fell 1-0 to Panamanian side Arabe Unido thanks to a tap-in in the 61st minute by Unido’s Jose Gonzalez. The result places Arabe Unido in the knockout stages of the competition and leaves Major League Soccer with three teams in the next round.
Meanwhile in El Salvador, the already-clinched Los Angeles Galaxy were on the wrong side of a 4-0 scoreline to Isidro Metapan on Thursday evening.
With a reserve-laden squad in El Salvador, the Galaxy were no match for the home side as Nicolas Muñoz scored a hat-trick in four minutes and rounded off his night with four first half goals as the Galaxy couldn’t keep up with the veteran forward.
What did you think of these matchups? Looking forward to the Galaxy facing Tijuana? Do you see any of the MLS teams defeating their Mexican opposition? Which team stands the best chance of advancing?
Share your thoughts below.