Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Great 2 Days for MLS

CONCACAF Champions League group play opened up this Tuesday and so far MLS teams have earned the full nine points in their three games played. Sure it involved three home games, but who are we to complain?

Every team ran out a first-team lineup, allowing for injuries and suspensions, which is great to see. I really want to see teams take this competition seriously and perform well. The UEFA Champions League is the second best tournament to watch in the world (behind the World Cup, obviously) and I would love to see something similar here.

Toronto FC 2 - 1 Cruz Azul
By far the most impressive result, Toronto defeated Mexican giants Cruz Azul behind goals from Marco Saric and Mista. Cruz Azul was able to pull one back late off a free kick by former Pachuca star (and known enemy for anyone who was way into previous CCLs or Superligas) Christian Gimenez, who seems to have put on about 94 pounds.

The best part of the result is, TFC deserved every bit of it. They went out there and played their collective asses off up and down the field and could've won by more if it wasn't for a shockingly bad DeRo pass meant for US U-20 striker Fuad Ibrahim late in the game. In this extremely tough group, getting 3 points against Cruz Azul is HUGE. Like, Precious huge.

Touching on the DP theme from last post, Mista looked really dangerous on the attack and this is the first time I can remember thinking "Holy crap, this guy is good!" basically every time De Guzman was on the ball. Hopefully he can keep up that run of form because it's missing from his play in league matches too often.

TFC v. Cruz Azul Highlights

Columbus 1 - 0 Municipal
Emmanuel Ekpo put in an early contender for goal of the tournament to give Columbus the 1-nil victory. The highlights linked below don't quite do it justice but you can still see just how gorgeous the whole thing was from his cutting through 3 defenders to lining up a perfect curling shot to the inside of the back post.

Schelotto had at least 3 chances that he buries on a better day, or this scoreline could've gotten out of control. As it stands, the Crew took their first step towards what should be a pretty easy qualification from the weak Group B.

Columbus v. Municipal Highlights

Real Salt Lake 2 - 1 Arabe Unido
Group A is the group of death, and right now the two teams sitting on top are Toronto FC and Real Salt Lake. That's a pretty welcome sight for MLS fans.

It wasn't easy for RSL though. They went down early on a deflected goal in the 13th minute. Not long afterward, Arabe Unido defender Nahill Caroll was sent off for an awful two-footed challenge on Dreads Beckerman and the game was on. Saborio pulled a goal back in the 45th minute off a gorgeous cross by Chris Wingert and then tallied again five minutes into stoppage time on a penalty.

"Wait, what?! Five minutes!" you say? Yes. And actually there were eight minutes of stoppage time total.

You see, desperate for a 1-1 draw down a man and away from home, Arabe Unido found it possible to suffer life threatening injuries from any and all contact. Referee Paul Ward did an amazing job handling the situation, getting writhing Panamanians off the pitch as quickly as possible and issuing yellow cards for obvious time wasting. He also made the right call when Nelson Gonzalez was body checked away from a header he put past defender Jose Justavino (aka the short dude with giant-Super-Monkey-Ball-esque ears) in the box.

Another good outcome for MLS is that Arabe lose two players for their match next week at home against TFC: Caroll for the straight red and Andres Santamaria for two yellows for dissent. That was going to be their best chance all stage of getting 3 points and they'll be missing two starting defenders. If TFC can go down to Panama and win, Arabe is all but eliminated and at least one MLS team is guaranteed to move forward.

Real Salt Lake v. Arabe Unido Highlights

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