Wednesday, September 22

Best CCL Night in MLS History

The numbers were daunting coming into Tuesday night’s pair of CONCACAF Champions League matches featuring two Major League Soccer clubs playing against a pair of successful Mexican Primera Division clubs with CCL experience. At the final whistle in Estadio Azul, the MLS clubs finished the night with four points out of six – a monumental and historical effort - as Columbus defeated Santos Laguna, 1-0, and Toronto drew, 0-0, on the road against Cruz Azul.

Prior to the night’s fixtures, MLS teams had recorded only one win in the three years of the competition – Toronto’s 2-1 victory at home against two-time tournament finalist Cruz Azul in the opening week of the group phase. The Mexican sides were 13-4-1 (W-D-L) versus their MLS counterparts, having gone 4-2-0 the first year and 6-2-0 last year. At home, the Mexican sides were 6-2-1 prior to Tuesday.

Much is often made about Major League Soccer’s inability to win in Mexico, but Mexican clubs prior to Tuesday night were 40-4-1 against all competitors in home matches with an amazing aggregate score total of 138-24. Joe Public registered the lone victory by a visitor on October 2, 2008 with a 1-0 decision against eventual tournament champion Atlante.

Santos Laguna took the field in Ohio with only four from its starting eleven on the weekend perhaps looking to rest a squad that has struggled of late, grabbing a stoppage time win against one-win Necaxa this weekend after a 2-2 CCL road draw against Municipal, in which they gave up a two-goal lead, and a shocking 5-2 loss to Mexican minnow Queretaro the weekend before.

A little luck with the ball bouncing his way, Andres Mendoza scored the lone goal on what is arguably the biggest night of Champions League action for Major League Soccer since the debut of the tournament in 2008, striking the winner in the 87th minute for the Crew in the first half of the doubleheader.

The more shocking result though was to come two hours later in Mexico, where Toronto FC registered a scoreless draw against a Cruz Azul side that has been absolutely dominant in Champions League and domestic play, making the Canadian squad the first in MLS history to finish with a better home-away aggregate result against a Mexican club in any phase of the tournament and the third team to earn a draw in Mexico, joining DC United (Toluca, 1-1, 10/20/09) and the Houston Dynamo (Pumas, 4-4, 9/30/08).

Cruz Azul came into the match on a six-game win streak having posted a 3-0 win over Queretaro on the weekend after a 6-0 drubbing of Arabe Unido the week before in the Champions League. Toronto, just eight days after the change in coaching staff, picked up the surprise result against the odds as Javier Orozco, who has 10 goals in the CCL and six in the Mexican Apertura, started the match for Cruz Azul, which suffered only their second shutout of the campaign. In fact, since their 2-0 road loss to Pumas August 8, Cruz Azul had scored at least three goals in all seven victories with the 2-1 loss August 14 in Toronto as the only exception.

In addition to having to shut out Orozco, TFC found themselves scrambling from the get-go while under siege, having to make a substitution for Joseph Nane nine minutes in. Then again just before the half-hour mark, his replacement Martin Saric had to come off for an injury as well, leaving the visitors with only one sub for the rest of the match. The Canadians did well to minimize the quality of the host’s chances though and in the final 10 minutes had a flicker of hope that they could be the first MLS club to ever win a competitive match in Mexico and end Cruz Azul’s 15-game home unbeaten run in all competitions when Fausto Pinto was sent off for a second yellow.

Previous Positive MLS Results v Mexican Clubs in CCL

8/17/10… Toronto v Cruz Azul… 2-1 W

3/9/10… Columbus Crew v Toluca… 2-2 D

10/20/09… DC United @ Toluca… 1-1 D

2/24/09… Houston Dynamo v Atlante… 1-1 D

9/30/08… Houston Dynamo @ Pumas… 4-4 D

Previous Winless Home Matches for Mexican Clubs in CCL

10/20/09… Toluca v DC United (MLS)… 1-1 D

8/5/09… Cruz Azul v Herediano (CRC)… 0-0 D

10/7/08… Cruz Azul v Marathon (HON)… 1-1 D

10/2/08… Atlante v Joe Public (TRI)… 0-1 L

9/30/08… Pumas v Houston Dynamo (MLS)… 4-4 D

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