Manuel Veth –
On Tuesday the CONCACAF Champions League kicked off under a new format. Starting in the round of 16 the competition is no longer starting in the group stage, but instead, the big sides from Major League Soccer, Liga MX and other Central American leagues are directly drafted into the knockout stage. The big teams were joined by the 2017 Caribbean Club Champion Cibao FC, from the Dominican Republic and the 2017 CONCACAF League champion Olimpia, from Honduras. We have followed the first set of matches and here is our CONCACAF Champions League roundup.
CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16 – First Leg Roundup
Cibao vs Guadalajara 0:2 – Estadio Cibao FC, Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic
It was a historic moment for Cibao FC. Founded just three years ago with the establishment of the Liga Dominicana de Fútbol Cibao FC finished second in the 2016 Liga Dominicana de Fútbol and qualified for the competition by winning the 2017 Caribbean Club Championship. Massive outsiders 5,000 fans attended the game at Estadio Cibao FC to perhaps witness a football miracle against a Liga MX side that has been struggling lately. The Caribbean Cup champion did well to keep the Mexican giants at bay for 40 minutes until Jesús Sánchez scored the opener in the 40th minute. In the second half Cibao were on par for much of the game, but in the 92nd minute, José Juan Macías put the game to bed. Cibao now have a mountain to climb when the tie returns to Mexico.
Santa Tecla vs Seattle Sounders 2:1 – Estadio Las Delicias, Santa Tecla
The 2016 MLS Cup winners travelled to El Salvador as massive favourites in this tie. Taking an early lead through an absolute wonder goal by Uruguayan Nicolás Lodeiro Seattle, however, learned quickly that playing in Central America is never comfortable. With Seattle still in pre-season preparations, the Sounders started to struggle in the second half with Gerson Mayen scoring twice in the 67th minute and the 76th minute (penalty). Both goals were created through lack of coordination in Seattle’s defence, which highlights that Seattle still have some work to do until the MLS season kicks off next weekend and more importantly in the CONCACAF Champions League return leg against Santa Tecla.
Olimpia vs New York Red Bulls 1:1 – Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica, San José (Costa Rica)
Olimpia had to play in exile, because of the complicated political situation in Honduras. As a result, New York Red Bulls were spared a difficult trip to the Estadio Tiburcio Carias Andino in Tegucigalpa. But in the end, the game was difficult for the Red Bulls against the Los Leones nonetheless. Daniel Royer would later complain that the Hondurans were allowed to much room to play rough. But those are the difficulties of playing in CONCACAF. In fairness, Royer scored the all-important away goal in Costa Rica, which could be decisive for the Red Bulls to reach the next round of the competition.
Motagua vs Tijuana 0:1 – H-E-B Park, Edinburg (United States)
Motagua are the second club from Honduras in the competition and like Olimpia were forced into exile by the delicate political situation in their home country. The 2016-17 Apertura and Clausura champion were considered a difficult draw for Tijuana, but with the club being forced into playing their match in Texas Tijuana almost had a home game as Tijuana is located just across the border from San Diego and therefore just a short distance from Texas—by North American standards. Motagua played a well-structured game for much of the 90 minutes, in the 71st minute newly signed Ignacio Rivero gave Tijuana the 1-0 lead, which could prove decisive in this CONCACAF Champions League tie.
Herediano vs Tigres UANL 2:2 – Estadio Eladio Rosabal Cordero, Heredia
Tigres UANL where understood put a particular focus on the CONCACAF Champions League this season. Drawn against Herediano, they were considered massive favourites. At the same time, Costa Rican teams have always done well in this competition, and playing in Costa Rica is still a tricky proposition—as expected Tigres took a quick lead through Francisco Meza (15’) and built on the result when Lucas Zelarayán scored in the 59th minute. Herediano didn’t give up, however, and a penalty in the 90th minute by Yendrick Ruiz and last-minute heroics by Jairo Arrieta tied the game up. Tigres’ significant advantage will be two away goals that should be enough to see them through to the next round.
Colorado Rapids vs Toronto FC 0:2 – Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City
Awaiting Tigres in the next round will be Canada’s Champion and 2017 MLS Cup winners Toronto FC. Toronto travelled to Colorado where they faced the Rapids. Battling altitude and temperatures as low as -17 degrees Celsius Toronto’s Jonathan Osorio and Sebastian Giovinco secured a 2-0 lead for the Reds. Heading back to Toronto to face Colorado on Tuesday Toronto are now set to complete a dream quarterfinal between the Liga MX Apertura and 2017 MLS Cup champions.
Tauro vs FC Dallas 1:0 – Estadio Rommel Fernández, Panama City
This was perhaps the biggest surprise of the CONCACAF Champions League round of 16. Travelling down to Panama FC Dallas displayed a lacklustre performance, and a 57th-minute strike by Edwin Aguilar means that the 2017 Panamanian Clausura champion are now in control as the tie returns to Texas. Eliminating Dallas would be the latest football wonder in Panama after the country already surprised in CONCACAF qualifying by finishing ahead of the United States to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Saprissa vs América 1:5 – Estadio Ricardo Saprissa Ayma, San José
Club América continue their fantastic form under head coach Miguel Herrera. Facing perhaps the most difficult non-MLS non-Liga MX side in the competition América were excellent throughout the game never allowing Saprissa to get into the game. Within 45 minutes Cecilio Dominguez (2’, 45’) and Mateus Uribe (35’) had made it 3-0 for the Eagles. Renato Ibarra (59’) then added a fourth before Ariel Rodríguez pulled one back for Saprissa (74’). With ten minutes to go, Uribe, however, added América’s fifth goal of the game rounding up a convincing performance that leaves the door to the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League wide open.
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and social media editor at Bundesliga.com. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth. Or contact him via email: [email protected]