MLS’s CCL Dream Deferred Yet Again

A team from Major League Soccer will win the CONCACAF Champions League some day. Just not this year.

After Seattle went out to Santos Laguna in a 1-1 second-leg draw on Tuesday night, the LA Galaxy represented MLS’s last hope for a 2013 CCL finalist. Their task was nearly identical to the one Seattle faced on Tuesday: They were playing on the road in Mexico, and they trailed by a goal after the first leg. Indeed, the Galaxy’s degree of difficulty was slightly higher, since Monterrey had scored two away goals in their first-leg win at Los Angeles.

Bruce Arena’s side had been 10 minutes away from taking a 1-0 win down to Mexico for the second leg when the visitors’ two biggest threats, Mexican striker Aldo De Nigris and his Chilean counterpart Humberto Suazo, each struck in the waning moments to send LA to a severely deflating loss. But the Galaxy have Robbie Keane and Juninho and a rounding-into-form Landon Donovan, and their fans had hopes that they could bag the two goals needed in the return match to either win the tie outright or send it into extra time.

LA generated some chances, but Monterrey ultimately showed why they’re the two-time defending champs. Highlights here:

Real Salt Lake’s narrow loss to Monterrey in the 2011 final is looking like a bigger missed opportunity with each passing year. Jason Kreis’s team got a 2-2 draw on the road in the first leg that year, only to fall 1-0 at home in front of an amped-up crowd at Rio Tinto Stadium. Ouch.

Monterrey and Santos Laguna will meet for the trophy in a rematch of last year’s final. The two-leg decider is set for April 24 and May 1.

CCL: Rough Night for MLS Favorites as Galaxy, Sounders Crash Out

Having crossed “win an MLS Cup” off their to-do list this past fall, David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and the LA Galaxy turned their focus to the CONCACAF Champions League as the 2012 season approached.

Winning that competition would be an MLS first and constitute the next frontier for a club with lofty aspirations. A CCL crown would raise the international profile of the franchise and put the Galaxy in the FIFA Club World Cup, where LA could compete against some of the biggest sides in the world.

Last night, those visions of greater glory evaporated in the air of the Home Depot Center as Toronto FC, a team that has never qualified for the MLS playoffs in five years of existence, eliminated the Galaxy with a 2-1 victory. The win, behind goals from Ryan Johnson and Nick Soolsma, sealed a 4-3 aggregate triumph for the Reds and made them the first Canadian side ever to reach the semifinals of the CCL.

Johnson opened the scoring just after the half-hour mark, beating rookie Galaxy defender Tommy Myer to Soolsma’s cross at the far post and heading the ball back across Josh Saunders’ goal and into the side netting.

Los Angeles replied ten minutes into the second half when Toronto defender Ty Harden turned Donovan’s cross, which was bound for an onrushing Keane, into his own net. But Toronto found the winner in the 67th minute, when Johnson beat Myer again, on the left flank, and crossed for Soolsma at the top of the six-yard box.

Keane failed to finish two clear second-half chances to tie the game.

Toronto will face Mexican side Santos Laguna in the two-leg semifinal on March 28 and April 4.

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Santos Laguna entered their second leg against Seattle trailing 2-1 on aggregate, but made quick work of erasing that deficit in the 90-degree confines of Estadio Corona. The hosts bagged two goals in the first 10 minutes of the second leg to take a 3-2 aggregate lead.

When Seattle’s Fredy Montero found Alvaro Fernandez at the back post to make it 2-1 (and 3-3 on aggregate) it looked like we were in for a sizzling second half.

We were, except that it was all one-way traffic. Former Sounder and 2010 U.S. World Cup veteran Herculez Gomez scored for the hosts five minutes after the break, and added a second in the 68th minute to blow the game open. Gomez has seven goals in his last five games.

Santos would add two more as Seattle pushed forward to try make up the aggregate deficit. When the final whistle blew, it was 6-1 Santos and 7-3 in the aggregate.

CCL: Seattle Downs Santos Laguna 2-1, But More Importantly What Did You Think of Those Kits?

At first glance, we were somewhere between on the fence and not-in-favor-of, but now, after watching these highlights we are warming up to the Sounders’ teal-and-neon-yellow new unis.

Maybe it was the brisk, one-touch play the home side used to defeat Santos Lagunas in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal on Wednesday night. That may have cast the potentially garish kits in a better light.

In any event, judge for yourself in the recap from the Sounders’ website below, which shows UCLA alum David Estrada nodding home the first Seattle goal off a terrific chip over the top from Fredy Montero, and then, moments after 2010 U.S. World Cup veteran (and former Seattle Sounder) Herculez Gomez equalized for the visitors, Brad Evans heading in the winner from Mauro Rosales’s cross.

See here:

The teams meet for the second leg in Mexico—historically a difficult place for MLS sides to play—next Wednesday, March 14 (8:00 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer).