Cruz Azul won the second leg of the Round of 16 by a score of 4-0 over Jamaican side Portmore United. Cruz Azul dominated the game, but like in the first leg, their level of play wasn’t the best until the second half. Portmore United resisted well until the altitude of Mexico City hit the team hard in the second half, as did a bad injury to one of their teammates. Cruz Azul continued to use an alternate squad, with the surprise being that goalkeeper Guillermo Allison started over Sebastian Jurado. Jurado is one of the top young prospects in Mexico while, Allison is second rate goalkeeper who had said during the off season that he wanted to leave the team. There were boos from the crowd for the 90 minutes every time Allison touched the ball. Cruz Azul has qualified to the Quarterfinals and will wait on the winner of the Leon vs LAFC series. Leon won the first leg in Mexico by a score of 2-0.
Without Jurado, the game started with Cruz Azul immediately owning the possession just like the first leg. It didn’t take long for them to have a good chance when Lucas Passerini went alone against goalkeeper Kemar Foster, but his shot was stopped by the keeper. A minute later, Passerini got a shot from near range and Foster stopped it with a great stop. In the ensuing corner kick, another close range shot was blocked by the Portmore defense. Cruz Azul wasted an incredible opportunity when Pablo Ceppelini got a pass and was alone in the area and got his shot saved by Foster from the closest range possible. It was a bad miss even when Foster made a great save. Finally in the 21st minute, Cruz Azul was able to open the scoring when Jonathan Borja made a good cross that found Orbelin Pineda, who one time volleyed it past Foster for the 1-0.
Portmore almost tied when Ricardo Morris got through against goalkeeper Allison and his shot went wide after being brought down. Replay showed that the play probably deserved a penalty from Allison. Cruz Azul could have gotten another chance when Pineda once again volleyed another cross in the area but this time it went wide. In injury time, Cruz Azul had a chance but Alex Castro shot was stopped by Foster. The halftime whistle blew and although Cruz Azul had played better, it was still having a disappointing level of play against the Jamaican side just like in the 1st leg.
The second half started with Cruz Azul once again trying to go into the attack, as Portmore sat back even when they were trailing the series by two goals and 45 minutes away from being eliminated. In one of the first attacks, a cross into the area made Foster crash into Ryan Wellington, who ended up badly injured. Both medical teams from Cruz Azul and Portmore went to the field to give help as the player looked to be knocked out. He was taken out of the game. About a minute after the substitution was made, a cross by Jaiber Jimenez was headed in by Passerini, who took advantage of a weak attempt by the Portmore defense and Foster for the 2-0.
Cruz Azul made their first move when they subbed out Rafael Baca for Yoshimar Yotun. A long range shot by Alex Castro forced Foster to make another save. Cruz Azul made another move by subbing out Pineda for Misael Dominguez. Then after a counter attack, Jorge Garcia got brought down in the area and a penalty kick was called. Pablo Ceppelini took the peantly and in “Panenka” style lobbed it over Foster for the 3-0.
A minute later, Portmore had a great chance after a mistake by a Cruz Azul defender, but Roberto Johnson’s shot went wide. Luis Romo took another shot from long range that forced Foster to make a save. Later he was subbed out for Diego Barraza in the last substitution from Cruz Azul. Passerini had a good opportunity but he tried to lob it over Foster and he got a hand on it. The ball slowed down enough for a defender to clear it to Passerini, whose cross was too strong and went over Cruz Azul’s attackers. The final minutes had Portmore United players exhausted which meant Cruz Azul dominated possession and had them pinned down in the area. Then in a great combination play from Cruz Azul, Jonathan Borja got a shot from just outside to finish it by scoring it past Foster for the 4-0. The ref then didn’t give a minute of injury time and blew the whistle in the 90th minute for the win and the ticket to the Quarterfinals of the Concacaf Champions League.
The game was an important step for Cruz Azul, although the result was expected from the start. Cruz Azul should have dominated, not only as they are the superior squad but they had the altitude advantage in Mexico City. Thus their domination was expected. What wasn’t expected was keeper Jurado being benched in a very controversial move. Jurado went from being one of the best prospects, who was supposed to be competing with Jesus Corona for the number one goalkeeper spot, to sitting in the bench for a goalkeeper of average quality and who fans of the team actively dislike.
The question now turns into who will be the goalkeeper in the Concacaf Champions League for the Quarterfinal series. Also with the increase difficulty of either team they face in the next round, there is also the question of what squad will Cruz Azul have. Even with the second half performance, this squad doesn’t seem to be good enough to get through either Leon or LAFC. Cruz Azul got the win, but they must improve a lot so that their tournament doesn’t end in the next round.