The semifinals of the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League are set and feature an all-North American lineup with two Liga MX-MLS clashes.
MLS champs Toronto FC will face Club America, while the New York Red Bulls will square off against Chivas Guadalajara. The match dates and kickoff times are yet to be determined, per CONCACAF.
The saga continues between Mexican and MLS clubs. MLS was a real nightmare for Liga MX fans this year after nearly sweeping almost all Mexican teams out of the quarterfinals.
Chivas Breaks MLS Theme by Routing Seattle.
MLS teams went 3-0 against Liga MX sides in the first leg for the first time in the competitions’ history. Things were looking bleak for Liga MX sides when Xolos went down for good after New York Red Bulls routed them with a 5-1 aggregate score. You could basically hear the sweat dripping down Liga MX fans when current champions Tigres lost 4-4 on away goals to Toronto FC. That just left Chivas. Surprisingly enough, it was the worst team, position-wise, in the league that ended up getting the job done. Chivas handily beat Seattle 3-0 on Wednesday with three outstanding goals to end 3-1 on aggregate. El Rebaño Sagrado dominated the matchup with 66 percent ball possession and 18 shots, with 6 on target, compared to the Sounders’ four with three on target.
America-Chivas Rematch Still Alive.
Serving as a huge motivation factor for both Club America and Chivas, a Super Clasico rematch is still possible in the Champions League final. The two arch-rivals met twice before in the 1985 edition of the tournament, with Las Aguilas advancing past Chivas on a 4-2 aggregate score. The first Clasico of the year in Week 10 of the league delighted the fans with a hard-fought, entertaining matchup that could’ve gone to anyone. It was possibly the best-played Clasico on the pitch in recent memory. Having a rematch in a final, especially in one as important as the Champions League final, would no doubt be the most anticipated CCL final of the past decade. The last time these two met in any type of championship match capacity was in 1984 when America beat Guadalajara, 5-3 on aggregate, to win their fourth domestic title.
Reactions to Near-MLS Sweep.
The first leg of quarterfinals wasn’t the greatest for Liga MX teams. The New York Red Bulls convincingly dispatched Xolos 2-0 in Tijuana. Toronto FC overcame a one-goal deficit to come back and beat Tigres in a battle of domestic champions, and the Seattle Sounders got past Chivas 1-0 in Washington.
Historically, Liga MX is the biggest supplier of dominant teams in the region, and Mexican sides have won the Champions League for the past 11 years. The last time an MLS team won the gold was LA Galaxy’s successful 2000 run where they beat Honduran side Olimpia.
In their past meetings, MLS teams have only a 16-percent win percentage against Mexican teams since 2008. That made the victories of that past week much more startling for the Mexican press.
This was last Thursday’s cover of the Mexican newspaper Record, which began circulating over the web after reporting on the “insulting and unacceptable” defeat of Liga MX teams to MLS sides.
Fast forward to today’s front cover, which features the newspaper telling the MLS and Tigres “this is how a big club acts” after Chivas defeated Seattle 3-0 on Wednesday night.
Tigres coach Ricardo Ferretti was still confident in his side after the first leg, however, he did give credit to the MLS for the talent it possesses.
Others that were pitted against MLS sides also chimed in.
The debate since that first leg last week has been; is the MLS finally bridging the gap in talent between them and Liga MX teams? If anything else, you have to give Toronto and NYRB some credit for getting the job done, especially in foreign soil. Two Mexican squads eliminated in the same round by MLS sides had never occurred before, and the MLS was one more win away from making it three.
Still, concerns have to be raised after the former champion and current runner-up Seattle Sounders were exposed by a struggling Chivas side. Sure, Chivas themselves won a domestic double exactly one year ago, but the team had only won four times in the past 28 league games, including only one win out of 14 games at home, before beating Seattle. Maybe that was just bad on Seattle, we’ll have to see.
ESPN’s Tom Marshall (@mexicoworldcup) released a poll on Twitter asking the question if MLS is closing the gap with Liga MX after the Toronto and New York wins:
Buenas noches! Back to Guadalajara tomorrow for @Chivas vs. @SoundersFC.— Tom Marshall (@mexicoworldcup) March 14, 2018
Quick poll to end the night.
Are Tuesday night's results in @TheChampions a reflection of @MLS closing the gap on @LIGABancomerMX in terms of on-field quality? #ligamxeng
It’s close, and 644 votes is obviously a small sample size when taking into consideration how many fans of both leagues there are, but the results are there. A little more than half say yes, MLS is improving.
What do you think? Could this be the start of something bigger for MLS teams when competing against Liga MX sides? Sound off in the comments below!