Monday, September 20

North America Round-Up: Minnesota Makes Major Push for D2 Playoffs

While the top clubs in Mexico were victorious in Mexico, it was a week for the underdogs north of the border. CONCACAF Champions League losers Toronto and Seattle posted big wins in Major League Soccer while in the second tier Minnesota stole the headlines with a significant climb into the playoff picture with a pair of victories as the league leaders went winless and the two Floridian clubs were eliminated from contention.


The big shock of the week was the US Open Cup Final preview between the midweek CONCACAF Champions League losing Seattle Sounders, who will host the cup final, and CCL winning Columbus Crew in Ohio, where the visitors stunned the Eastern Conference leaders, 4-0, with newcomer Blaise N’Kufo tallying three goals on the night Saturday. It was the first time Columbus had lost back-to-back league matches this year.

The other CCL clubs both posted wins Saturday. Real Salt Lake used an Alvaro Saborio penalty just before the break to beat the visiting Chicago Fire. Toronto FC, which lost its CCL contest under new interim coach Nick Dasovic were trailing after a Brian Ching goal in Houston, but Dwayne DeRosario scored with two rockets on lengthy free kicks on the hour mark and four minutes into stoppage time for the win.

The week started with San Jose winning at home, 1-0, against Philadelphia Wednesday with championship contenders New York and Dallas exchanged goals in Texas for a 2-2 draw Thursday. Another title contender avoided an embarrassing upset at home to DC United with Landon Donovan scoring two great goals in the final nine minutes to give Los Angeles a 2-1 win Saturday night.

In other results, the Colorado Rapids blanked visiting New England, 3-0, to remain squarely inside the playoff picture Saturday while Kansas City won on the road in Sunday’s lone fixture, 2-0, against Chivas USA to keep themselves in the race for the postseason.


With leaders Austin, Rochester and Vancouver going winless on the week, the headliners were the NSC Minnesota Stars, who posted a pair of 1-0 victories to put themselves right in the middle of the playoff hunt. They took advantage of a 19th minute Devon McKenney send-off against Carolina with a Devin Del Do strike to down the RailHawks Wednesday. They then grabbed a third consecutive win Saturday against the Whitecaps with another Del Do goal.

Austin came up empty on two occasions, both in dramatic fashion. On Thursday, Maxwell Griffin’s score in Tampa looked to be enough before Aaron King struck in stoppage time for a 1-1 draw. Two nights later in St Louis, The Aztex answered a Brad Stisser strike with an equalizer in the first minute of stoppage time from outside the area by Eddie Johnson only to see 16-year-old Luis Gil, on loan from RSL, strike his first professional goal two minutes later for a 2-1 win. Rochester was unable to capitalize to expand its lead, falling in a 2-1 stunner at home as Miami rallied on goals from Danilo and Abe Thompson in a busy game that saw all three goals in the first 24 minutes Friday.

The RailHawks rebounded with a 4-2 road victory over struggling Baltimore, which has lost six straight, with three goals in the first 14 minutes. The two strikes not only pulled the hosts within a goal, but ended a run of five games without a goal that dated back to their last win, ironically, against Carolina, 2-1.

Another dramatic finish this week saw Portland register a surprise 1-0 win in Puerto Rico on a stoppage time strike from Kalif Alhassan as they stretched an unbeaten run to eight game and a shutout streak to four games and 424 minutes.

The week wrapped Sunday with a result that had profound affect on the playoff race as Tampa Bay travelled to Montreal representing themselves and rival Miami. A 3-0 loss behind a pair of Ali Gerba goals knocked both Florida sides out of the playoff chase and solidified the Impact’s chances.

Trailing Puerto Rico by seven points and the duo of Minnesota and Montreal by eight, AC St Louis is the only club outside the playoff zone capable of reaching the postseason, but must be nearly perfect in its final three games against Miami and league leaders Austin and Rochester with at least one of the three failing to earn a win.


Friday, September 17

Estudiantes Tecos 2-2 Pumas UNAM
In a wild back-and-forth affair, the home club got on the board first with a blistering 35-yard shot that was just over the keeper’s reach and under the bar off the foot of Jorge Zamogilny 20 minutes in. A similar shot from 40 yards by Jehu Chiapas tied the match up when goalkeeper Mario Rodriguez, who made an excellent save earlier, mishandled the ball as it struck the ground beside his feet. Pumas took the lead on a ball played behind the defense that Martin Bravo ran onto and quickly shot inside the post from 15 yards. But in the 53rd minute Chiapas gave Tecos hope as he was sent off for a studs-up tackle. The visitors clamped down though and the terms were leveled with Elgabry Rangel seeing red eight minutes from time for a foul on a Pumas breakaway. Three minutes later the hosts scored on an bizarre play in which a cross from the right being cleared out was headed off a Tecos player, ricocheting directly to Mauro Cejas who bodied it down and struck a 10-yard volley for the draw. Scoring – EST: Jorge Zamogilny 20, Mauro Cejas 85… PUM: Jehu Chiapas 38, Martin Bravo 47

Saturday, September 18

Cruz Azul 3-0 Queretaro
Just under a half-hour into the match, the league leaders opened the scoring when Emanuel Villa headed in a cross from the left from the top of the six in front of the far post. Six minutes later a ball slipped deep down the left was popped high on a cross to the far post, where it was headed back to the middle of the six for an easy empty netter from Maxi Biancucchi. With the match in hand, Adrian Cortes struck a brilliant free kick three minutes into stoppage time from 20 yards into the upper right corner. Scoring – CA: Emanuel Villa 28, Maxi Biancucchi 34, Adrian Cortes 93+

Monterrey 2-0 Atlas
The lone unbeatens were kept in check by the rain-soaked field, woodwork and visiting Atlas, the lone winless side, for 50 minutes before a six-minute span made the difference. Goalkeeper Pedro Hernandez made a significant error when passing the ball, sending it directly to Aldo De Nigris, who buried the shot in the 51st. Humberto Suazo was left all alone for the second strike in the 57th minute. Scoring – MON: Aldo De Nigris 51, Humberto Suazo 57

Santos Laguna 2-1 Necaxa
The darling promoted side nearly had another impressive draw, but saw it slip away with two late goals by one of the title contenders. Juan Mosqueda gave the visitors the advantage four minutes before the break on a corner to the near post that was flicked onto the open man for an easy score. But just before the match went to halftime, the hosts leveled on a great give-and-go in which the Cristian Benitez spun and played the ball into space for Felipe Baloy, who finished from 10 yards seconds before the whistle. A deserving draw was snatched with another late goal on a fantastic give-and-go, this time with Benitez on the receiving end for a 15-yard winner three minutes into stoppage time. Scoring – SL: Felipe Baloy 45, Cristian Benitez 93+… NEC: Juan Mosqueda 41

Chivas Guadalajara 0-3 Jaguares Chiapas
A defensive error 15 minutes sealed the fate for Chivas as a high ball was mis-headed backwards by a defender, allowing Carlos Ochoa to touch the ball around the keeper at the edge of the box and send it into the empty net. The home side kept themselves in the game despite playing a man down after an Omar Bravo red card in the 36th, but stoppage time clinched the victory for the struggling Jaguares side, who with the win still sit last in Group C. A minute into the added-on time, a cross toward the far post was deflected away by the keeper only to be headed in from five yards by Ochoa, who managed to squeeze in the hat-trick three minutes later when he took advantage of a spread out defense in stoppage time to round out the scoring from 14 yards.Scoring – JAG: Carlos Ochoa 15, 91+, 94+

San Luis 1-0 Pachuca
Surprising San Luis remained a contender to win Group B with third straight victory. Just before 10 minutes had passed, Othoniel Arce sent the ball into back of the net for what stood as the winner. Scoring – SL: Othoniel Arce 9

Atlante 2-0 Morelia
Deadlocked for over an hour, a simple corner in the 63rd minute was headed down and over the line by Andres Carevic for the home side. With eight minutes remaining, Atlante was on a fast counter that was stopped by a foul 28 yards from goal. Johan Fano launched a beautiful dead ball that soared over the wall and just past the stretched out fingers of the netminder inside the left post. Scoring – ATL: Andres Carevic 63, Johan Fano 82

Sunday, September 19

Toluca 2-1 America
The home side kept even with San Luis in the table with a big win over America. It was not easy beating Guillermo Ochoa, but the breakthrough finally came in the 24th minute when Hector Mancilla turned and unleashed a blast past the keeper. Four minutes into the second half the visitors found an equalizer through Vicente Vuoso, who put away a Pavel Pardo ball away at the far post. Sinha tallied the Toluca winner in the 77th on a fantastic free kick. Scoring – TOL: Hector Mancilla 24, Sinha 77… AME: Vicente Vuoso 49

Puebla 1-3 Tigres UANL
Itamar Bautista’s hat-trick in 35 minutes downed the host side. The first came from inside the box in the 22nd minute with the second seven minutes later when a long ball came to him for an easy finish. He finished his scoring 10 minutes before the break and Publa would find only one in response as Gabriel Pereyra connected on a free kick. Scoring – PUE: Gabriel Pereyra 64… TIG: Itamar Bautista 22, 28, 35

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