Another night in the CONCACAF Champions league and another night with an MLS team bowing out, no surprises there. I recorded both matches and caught them when I got home tonight, only to find that neither game was entirely watchable, and neither match provided enough excitement or decent enough play to keep a viewer entertained. The Cruz Azul v Herediano match was probably the best of the two matches and the outcome had pretty much been decided last week in Costa Rica when Cruz Azul won 6-2, gaining a win and 6 away goals in the process. There were only the two matches tonight so here is a quick breakdown of the action that took place.
New York Red Bulls (USA) 1 – 2 W Connection (Trinidad and Tobago)
Watching the worst team in the MLS compete in any match gets tiresome at times, but watching the complete debacle of a team who made it to the MLS Cup the previous season is something else entirely. NYRB’s came out of the match with W Connection last week with a 2-2 draw and two away goals in the bag, something no one could have ever predicted would have happened, given the form of NY this season. So coming off the first leg last week it looked as if NY had a good chance to somehow right their ship in the CCL at least this season and move forward with one positive thing. All the Red Bulls had to do was to not lose the match and not give up 3 goals, should be an easy task when you are playing at home one would think. Not the case though, as we would find out soon enough. The Red Bulls were without their number one player, Juan Pablo Angel, but in a match where the side just needed a 0-0 draw his absence should not have influenced the result much. NY would start out quick with a goal in the 18th from the ageless John Wolyniec, taking a 3-2 aggregate lead in scoring. NY still looked as if they could pull off the win until sometime around the halfway point of the first half when the team just completely forgot how to play. All of a sudden fans and spectators watched as NY imploded. Passes were not being completed, defense was now just a word, and scoring chances were nowhere to be seen. W Connection would take advantage of this as Andre Toussaint would equalize in the 39th, beating Seth Stammler one on one before putting the ball past NY’s keeper Danny Cepero. W Connection were not through though and still needed a goal to put them into the group stages of the competition. Taking full advantage of the opportunity, Toussaint would pick off a pass from the back line of NY and put another past Cepero in the 45th, putting W Connection up 2-1 going into the half. Now one would think that something would happen in the locker room at halftime to energize the Red Bulls at home and push them to score another match, giving them a chance at moving on in the tournament, this would not happen tonight though. The Red Bulls pushed but so did the T&T side. Neither team would find another goal in the second half nor would the Red Bulls become the second MLS side to advance this week, leaving only DC United to advance while the Red Bulls and Toronto FC were sent home early. Rumor is that Red Bull’s coach, Juan Carlos Osorio, has a job until the end of the season but with the sack race one I would not put it past NY to find a way to get him out sooner.
Cruz Azul (Mexico) 0 – 0 Herediano (Costa Rica)
Having seen the 6-2 demise of Herediano in their home leg last week, I was almost expecting what I saw tonight. It looked as if Cruz Azul were fielding a complete second string side in the match to rest their stars with advancement almost imminent. Herediano would come out swinging though, trying to at least give a good performance against the stronger Mexican side. The match produced no goals but both keepers saw plenty of action as both sides looked for a breakthrough. Cruz Azul will advance through this round as expected, and I have to say that although there were no goals scored, the fast paced box to box action made this match much more enjoyable to watch than the first match of the evening. Look for Cruz Azul to be a tough match in the group stages, and possibly on into the knockout rounds.
Looking forward, there are 3 matches slated for tomorrow night, all three of which have the winning side from leg 1 on the road. Panamanian side San Francisco will make the trip to T&T to face off with San Juan Jabloteh to start the night, San Francisco lead 2-0 on aggregate and look the side most likely to move through to the group stages in this tie. Taking place at the same time in Panama, Honduran side Olimpia will be taking their 2-1 advantage on the road to face Arabe Unido, this could possibly be the most interesting match on the night with Olimpia leading on aggregate but Arabe Unido having the away goal from the first leg. Look out as I think Olimpia will make it through this leg in the end but will be in for a fight to the finish. Closing out the night Costa Rican side Liberia will take on Honduran side Real Espana to see who gets to move on and who gets to go home. Liberia look to be the top side in this matchup with their convincing 3-0 win in the first leg and I would not look for much to change, making Liberia the final club to advance to the group stages, closing out the Preliminary Rounds of the CCL. The action should be interesting tomorrow night and I will be following from a distance as FC Dallas welcome Houston to Frisco for a match that could prove to be even more interesting with FC Dallas’ current form and the rivalry that exists between these two sides.