Five matches defined the week with the biggest one coming south of the border. Queretaro’s stunning 5-2 victory over Santos Laguna was one of three major upsets of the week – one in each league – as some CONCACAF Champions League teams had a rough outing on the eve of returning to group play. In total, the eight North American league-based CCL clubs finished the week 3-4-4 with Cruz Azul, Monterrey and Puerto Rico the only teams to earn wins.
Queretaro more than doubled their previous six-match goal total of four with the victory over the Champions League side, which had allowed just three goals in their league campaign. In Major League Soccer, it was last-place DC United downing Champions League side Toronto FC, 1-0, as the Canadians suffered their fifth shutout in six league games. The upset of the week in USSF Division-2 also came at the expense of a Champions League participant with Puerto Rico falling at home, 2-1, to Montreal midweek.
The Islanders did rebound to down league-leading Austin, 3-1, over the weekend much like the Los Angeles Galaxy, whom they knocked out of the CCL in the Preliminary Round, handily took a showdown of league-leaders by defeating CCL club Columbus by the same scoreline to advance from a three-way tie for first with the Crew and Real Salt Lake after a recent spell of poor form.
Major League Soccer
The Los Angeles Galaxy entered the weekend without sole possession of first place in quite some time after going three straight winless and dropping three of the previous five matches. But the dominant side from the fist half of the season re-emerged Saturday in a first-place showdown with the Columbus Crew, walking away with a 3-1 victory and breaking the three-way tie at the top of the table that was created Thursday with Real Salt Lake joining the fray with a scoreless draw in Seattle.
Thursday’s match was not the only scoreless encounter of the week with the Chicago Fire and Toronto FC finishing likewise the night before and Dallas playing San Jose to a stalemate in California Saturday. For Chicago and Toronto, the drought continued into the weekend with Toronto falling at home, 1-0, on a late goal from ex-TFC player Julius James to last-place DC United while the Fire dropped a road contest, 1-0, to the Philadelphia Union, which picked up their its first shutout of the year.
Only three teams posted more than a goal in a match this week. Joining the Galaxy, Chivas USA downed visiting New England Revolution, 2-0, Friday evening and the New York Red Bulls won at home, 3-1, Saturday against the Colorado Rapids.
Goal scoring was not as much of an issue as the second tier of American-based soccer continued its march toward the close of the regular season. Only one of the seven matches finished tied, a scoreless draw between Portland and Carolina Saturday, and all six others saw the winner find the back of the net at least twice.
The action began Wednesday with the Montreal Impact posting a surprise 2-1 victory in Puerto Rico on a pair of goals from Ali Gerba, but the Islanders rebounded with a 3-1 win over the league-leading Austin Aztex Saturday while the Impact dropped a 2-1 decision in Miami as the league saw all 12 teams in action on the same night for only the second time this campaign.
The other three matches Saturday evening all finished with the same 3-0 scoreline. Rochester won at home, 3-0, against Tampa Bay while the visiting sides won the other two with Vancouver victorious in Baltimore and Minnesota on the road against St Louis. The results put Rochester at the top of the league and extended Vancouver’s advantage in the NASL Conference to six points. Crystal Palace Baltimore has lost five consecutive while the unbeaten runs of Vancouver and Portland reached nine (3-6-0) and seven (4-3-0), respectively. Two goals from Simone Bracalello helped end Minnesota’s eight-game winless stretch (0-5-3) while Tampa’s victory drought reached eight (0-5-3).
Minnesota is the last team in the playoff zone, three points clear of the rest as St Louis, Baltimore, Miami and Tampa Bay have a combined four victories since August 1 (4-11-14). All four, however, are still within range as Miami sits eight points back in last with four games remaining, three of which are at home.
Friday, September 10
Necaxa 1-1 Toluca
It took the preseason favorites 71 minutes before Hector Mancilla broke the deadlock against the promoted side. But Necaxa spoiled Toluca’s bid to keep a share of their group lead when Obed Rincon stunned the visitors in the 89th minute with the equalizer. Scoring – NEC: Obed Rincon 89… TOL: Hector Mancilla 71
Saturday, September 11
Queretaro 5-2 Santos Laguna
The shocker of the week, Queretaro not only defeated co-league leading Santos Laguna, but did so by more than doubling their goal total of four from the previous six contests against a side that had allowed only three in just as many games. The visitors opened the scoring three minutes in when the keeper dropped the ball in the middle of the box in a leaping challenge, allowing for an empty netter by Cristian Benitez. Then it all went wrong. Joaquin Beltran leveled on a corner in the 28th and Sergio Blanco took advantage of two errors, getting on the end of a long goalkeeper punt behind the defense to take the lead just before the half and putting away a failed clearance in the 69th. An own goal kept it close, but Blanco finished the hat-trick in the 88th with Hector Altamirano finishing it off two minutes into stoppage time. Scoring – QUE: Joaquin Beltran 28, Sergio Blanco 45, 69, 88, Hector Altamirano 92+… SL: Cristian Benitez 3, Own goal 71
Jaguares Chiapas 4-0 Puebla
Jaguares finally picked up its first victory, topping the group’s second-place side in convincing fashion and leaving Atlas as the only winless club. Carlos Ochoa put away a low cross in the area from 14 yards three minutes before the break. After Christian Valdez made doubled the advantage with a 15-yarder off the right post in the 52nd, Ochoa picked up his second three minutes later with a tap-in from inside the six. The final strike capped a three-goal, seven-minute span when Danilo Veron went down the center before being flipped over by the challenging keeper at the top of the box, allowing the ball to roll to Jorge Rodriguez for any easy finish into the empty goal. Scoring – JAG: Carlos Ochoa 42, 55, Christian Valdez 52, Jorge Rodriguez 59
Tigres UANL 0-1 Monterrey
Monterrey maintained its status as the lone unbeaten side in the league with a narrow victory on a first-half stoppage time goal from Humberto Suazo, who drove down the middle and let loose a shot from the edge of the box under challenge. Scoring – MON: Humberto Suazo 46+
Pachuca 1-1 Chivas Guadalajara
Winless since the opener, Pachuca found themselves trailing in the 37th minute when a 40-yard blast from Patricio Araujo was mishandled by Miguel Calero with the momentum taking the ball across the line after popping up out of his hands. Eleven minutes into the second half though, a cross found the head of Franco Arizala for a 15-yard equalizer. At the close of the match, Calero nearly made up for the header when he traversed the pitch and sent a header narrowly wide of the post on a free kick. Scoring – PAC: Franco Arizala 56… GUA: Patricio Araujo 37
Atlas 1-3 Cruz Azul
The visitors took advantage of facing winless Atlas to preserve their presence at the top. Horacio Cervantes finished off a nice series off a short corner with a header from the top of the six across goal into the far side 16 minutes in. An odd defensive error led to the second when a ball angled back toward the arc was cut off, but errantly sent to a wide open Javier Orozco on the other side of the area for the easy finish. A good play in the upper left corner of the area in the 74th led to a strike from Atlas but Cruz Azul foiled the notion of a tie two minutes from time when a ball popped from the left flank to the midfield where Christian Gimenez gathered, side stepped a defender and rifled a shot from 20 yards. Scoring – ATL: Gregorio Torres 74… CA: Horacio Cervantes 16, Javier Orozco 33, Christian Gimenez 88
Atlante 0-1 Estudiantes Tecos
Estudiantes kept Necaxa from pulling away from them at the bottom of their group with a last-minute strike from Alberto Ramirez that soared just under the crossbar. The bigger play, though, may have been Mario Rodriguez stopping an 18th minute penalty from Johan Fano. Atlante’s keeper Moises Munoz also stopped a shot from the spot, but the penalty was a minute after the winning score, making the save virtually meaningless. Scoring – EST: Alberto Ramirez 88
Sunday, September 12
Pumas UNAM 0-1 San Luis
San Luis registered a surprising victory late on the road versus Pumas with Tressor Moreno converting from the spot. The hosts had the first great chance to take the lead, but Dante Lopez sent his shot off the crossbar. Scoring – SL: Own goal 28
Morelia 0-2 America
With co-group leader Toluca playing to a draw two days before, America took advantage and grabbed sole possession of the group lead, finding the net five minutes in when Vicente Vuoso, combined with Daniel Montenegro, sent his shot to the far post. Facing a title contender on the road, America built safety via Miguel Layun, who put away a cross that the keeper was unable to handle. Scoring – AME: Vicente Vuoso 5, Miguel Layun 58