After last night’s action, we’ve got one in and four still alive. The league is not likely to place five clubs in the eight-team knockout stage, but three is a genuine possibility. Let’s take a look.
• Seattle Sounders FC got two goals from the normally defensive-minded Osvaldo Alonso to tie Comunicaciones 2-2 in Guatemala City last night and clinch a spot in the CCL quarters.
The 25-year-old Cuban midfielder twice pulled his side level, hitting a bouncing volley off a goalmouth scramble just before halftime to make it 1-1, and punching in another in similar circumstances with one minute to play for the crucial final scoreline.
Highlights and postgame comments here:
The Sounders are in first place in Group D with a 3-1-1 record and can finish no worse than second place, regardless of what happens in their group-stage finale against Monterrey (3-2-0) next month.
The result is another highlight in what’s shaping up to be an excellent season for the Pacific Northwest side. The Sounders are headed to the MLS playoffs and have the second-best record in the league (15-6-9); they’ve reached the final of the US Open Cup—where they’ll be looking for their third straight title on Oct 4—and they’re in the CCL knockout stage.
Not bad for a club in just its third year of existence.
• Toronto FC hosted UNAM Pumas last night, less than two weeks after the Mexican side had thrashed them 4-0, and just three days after MLS club Chivas USA blanked the Reds 3-0. To make matters worse, Toronto was missing three players, including Torsten Frings, due to suspension, and could not afford a loss if it was to keep its hopes of advancing alive.
It was close, and the Reds could twice thank the posts for keeping them in it, but Toronto hung on for a 1-1 tie against a reserve-heavy Pumas side.
Peri Marosevic took a nice layoff from Danny Koevermans to put Toronto up 1-0 in the 36th minute, and Marco Palacios tied it up for the visitors six minutes after the break.
Behold Pumas’s Diego De Buen rattling the upright from 30 yards in the highlights below:
Pumas now leads Group C with a 2-1-2 record and eight points while Toronto (2-2-1) is tied with FC Dallas for second with seven points.
• Dallas plays at Panamanian side Tauro FC tonight (8:00 ET, Fox Soccer Channel) with a chance to reclaim the top spot. The Hoops have just one goal in their last six games and have struggled to three straight MLS losses. But they did hit the woodwork three times in their most recent game, a 1-0 defeat to Houston on Saturday, and they’ve welcomed back winger Marvin Chavez from injury. Tonight would be a great time to bust out of their slump.
• Much like FC Dallas, Los Angeles jumped out to a fast start in CCL play but has faltered of late, dropping consecutive road games to Morelia (Mex) and Alajuelense (CR) to slip to third place in Group A. The Galaxy faces Morelia at the Home Depot Center tonight (10:00, FSC), and pretty much have to win to keep their quarterfinal hopes alive.
They’ll also be looking to avenge a controversial 2-1 loss to the Mexican side two weeks ago, when LA had a Robbie Keane goal incorrectly disallowed in the waning moments.
• The Colorado Rapids are 1-2-1 in Group B and sending a mostly second-choice team to El Salvador for tonight’s matchup against Isidro Metapan (12:30 a.m., FSC, delay).
Metapan was blitzed 6-0 by Mexican side Santos Laguna in its last CCL game, but can clinch a spot in the quarters if it beats Colorado and Santos ties or beats Real Espana in Honduras.
So which of the remaining four MLS clubs will advance? (See current standings here.)
FC Dallas may have the clearest route. If the Hoops can defeat winless Tauro tonight, then they’d head into their final game, on Oct 18 against Toronto, needing only a draw to advance.
Los Angeles needs to beat Morelia at home tonight, a result that, assuming Alajuelense knocks off 0-0-4 Motagua tomorrow, would leave LA and Morelia tied for second with nine points and Alajuelense in first with 12.
The Galaxy faces last-place Motagua in Honduras in its group-stage finale, while Morelia hosts Alajuelense.
If LA wins out, and Morelia beats Alajuelense, the group would wind up with all three teams on 12 points, in which case the first tiebreaker is head-to-head competition between the three. The second tiebreaker is head-to-head goal difference, and the third is head-to-head away goals.
As for Toronto and Colorado, we’d say Dallas is too big an obstacle for the Reds in Group C, and the Rapids, who seem to have placed less of a priority on the CCL than the others, are the biggest longshot of the five MLS teams in the competition.