The three Mexican Primera teams in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals have had varying degrees of success in league play this season. All three, though, were equally impressive in the CCL quarterfinal round, overwhelming their respective opponents with an explosion of goal scoring. Santos advanced with a 7-3 aggregate score against Seattle, Monterrey with a 7-2 mark against Morelia, and Pumas with an impressive 9-2 aggregate scoreline against Isidro Metapan. The three clubs now look to duplicate this success in the semifinal round, which kicks off on Wednesday night. Monterrey will open at home against Pumas, while Santos travels north to Toronto. Below are brief breakdowns of both these semifinal match-ups, along with game information and television broadcast schedules.
Toronto FC vs. Santos Laguna
March has been good to Santos Laguna. Since the first of the month, the club from Torreon has won four straight league games while also advancing past Seattle in the CCL quarterfinal round. All told, Santos has outscored their opponents by a combined 18-6 margin in the month of March. This doesn't bode well for Toronto, who will take on Santos in the Guerreros' final match of the month.
Santos will come into the series as heavy favorites, but will be without two key veteran players for the first leg. Defensive midfielder Juan Pablo Rodriguez will miss the match due to yellow card accumulation, while attacking mid Daniel Luduena will stay behind in Mexico to rest after picking up a minor injury over the weekend. Unfortunately for Toronto, the rest of the club's top players will be making the trip. The attacking front of Oribe Peralta, Christian Suarez, and a red-hot Herculez Gomez will be a tough task for the Toronto defense. Santos will look to take advantage with the counter attack as they did against Seattle. To stay competitive, Toronto will need to recover quickly and challenge Santos on the wings. Toronto need the win at home to have a real shot at advancing, and it's not out of the question, as Santos has been known to struggle a bit on the road in CCL play. Of course, it may not even matter. As shown in the quarterfinal series against Seattle, perhaps no advantage is safe once the series shifts to Torreon for the second leg.
By the numbers:
1 - Santos wins in their 4 CCL road matches
8 - goals scored by Herculez Gomez in his last 6 games played
6 - Santos goals scored on the road in CCL (group stage and quarterfinals)
17 - Santos goals scored at home in CCL (group stage and quarterfinals)
3 - Santos goals scored in last 3 league road games (2 losses, 1 win)
10 - Santos goals scored in last 3 league home games (3 wins)
Monterrey vs. Pumas UNAM
If not for the CONCACAF Champions League, this season would be teetering on the edge of disaster for Pumas. Just two wins in their first twelve league games of 2012 leaves Pumas in 14th place in the standings and well outside of postseason contention. Despite these struggles, the team is still alive and fighting for the trophy in CCL play. After dropping the first leg on the road last round, Pumas pulled off a stunning 8-0 win over Isidro Metapan at home in the return leg. That victory moved them easily into the CCL semifinals where they will face defending champions Monterrey.
After a rough start to the year, the Monterrey offense has been flying high the last few weeks. Unsurprisingly, the rebirth of the team's scoring form coincided with the return of Humberto Suazo to the club. Currently leading the league in scoring with 23 total goals, the Rayados are a far cry from the side that found the back of the net just three times during the month of January. The biggest challenge of the season, though, may come over the next ten days. Monterrey's two midweek CCL semifinal matches are sandwiched between two of their biggest league games of the season--a date with America at Estadio Azteca and the local Clasico against UANL Tigres. Victor Manuel Vucetich must manage his lineups with care if he wants to succeed on both fronts. At full strength, the team obviously presents an intimidating attack up front. On Wednesday night, Suazo, along with Aldo de Nigris and Cesar Delgado, will look to put pressure on a Pumas backline playing without the injured Dario Veron. A big win at home in the first leg of the semifinal would be optimal for Monterrey, as it would give the team some breathing room to make changes heading into next week's match at the Estadio Olimpico Universitario.
By the numbers:
9 - Goals scored by Pumas in the quarterfinal round (2 matches)
10 - Goals scored by Pumas in league play this season (12 matches)
23 - Goals scored by Monterrey in league play this season (best in league)
0 - Monterrey losses at home this season
1 - Pumas wins on the road this season