America totally dominated but couldn’t make it count and were a penalty shootout away from going out in the Round of 16 against Comunicaciones from Guatemala. America dominated the game but a lack of finishing from the team, a great performance from Comunicaciones goalkeeper, and a subpar performance from a couple of players saw them to only tie the game and had to rely on penalties to get their ticket. The win also comes on a black day for Mexican soccer when Tigres needed a last minute goal from their goalkeeper to get through against a team from El Salvador, even though they played their A team. America will now face Atlanta United in the Quarterfinal stage.
America went with a strong team that was missing a couple of pieces (the biggest might be Guillermo Ochoa). America went on the offense as the home side. The first opportunity came early when a cross from Leonardo Suarez was left by Comunicaciones goalkeeper Jose Calderon. An America attacker whiffed on the rebound and the defense was able to clear it. Later America got close when off a corner kick, Bruno Valdez got a free header but it went wide. Then it was Giovani Dos Santos who got a shot that was saved by Calderon. Later it was Sebastian Cordova, who came close when he made a great move in the area to get by a defender and then his shot was saved by Calderon. Off the ensuing corner kick, Santiago Caseres got a header and it hit the post.
Comunicaciones finally had a chance when Agustin Herrera got the ball in the area but his shot got blocked by the defense. America had a great chance when Leonardo Suarez got the ball in the area but his shot was saved off his feet by Calderon. Comunicaciones got close again when a long range shot from Jostin Daly went close. The halftime whistle blew and America had completely dominated but luck and Calderon had kept them off the scoreboard.
The second half started and America substituted Federico Viñas for Roman Martinez. Comunicaciones got a chance that Herrera wasted right to Jimenez. America then had a chance later on when a left-footed shot by Dos Santos got stopped by Calderon. Then against all odds, Bruno Valdez brought down Herrera and the referee gave a penalty kick. Herrera took the penalty and converted the kick giving Comunicaciones a surprising 1-0 lead.
America’s desperation suddenly set in and they came close when a Cordova shot went wide. Then off a counter attack, Allan Yanes brought down Cordova in a terrible lunge and got straight red carded. After that America substituted defender Jorge Sanchez for attacker Andres Ibarguen. Comunicaciones came close to scoring when they got a three-on-two attack, but Rodrigo Saravia’s shot went wide. Then off a free kick, Gerardo Gordillo held on Valdez for the whole play and the ref gave a penalty kick, despite the expected (but wrong) protest from the Guatemalan players. Emanuel Aguilera took the penalty kick and scored it past Calderon to tie the game 1-1.
In the first play of the area, America’s keeper Oscar Jimenez was forced to make a stop from a shot by a Comunicaciones player. America then looked to have scored a minute later but it was ruled offside. Jesus Escoboza got subbed in as the last substitution of the game for a disappointing Leo Suarez. America looked like they had gotten a goal as a Valdez header was almost bumbled in by Calderon, but he regained control before sending it to the corner kick. Although America’s players protested, the ref ruled it didn’t go in. The final minute had a desperate America pinning down a Comunicaciones team that was waiting for the penalty shootout. After another great play from Cordova found Ibarguen in the area but his shot was miraculously saved again by Calderon and an America attacker couldn’t get to the rebound. Even with all the trying, America couldn’t get it done and the tie held up.
America was going to open the penalty shootout with Emanuel Aguilera, who got his shot past Calderon for the 1-0. Freddy Thompson stepped up and got his kick past Jimenez, who was easily beaten. Alonso Escoboza took the next kick for America and placed it to the upper corner for the 2-1. Maxi Lombardi took the next kick for Comunicaciones and tied it up for a 2-2. Valdez took the next one for America and scored the 3-2. Rafael Montero took the next one and although Jimenez guessed right, it went past him and it was tied 3-3. Ibarguen took the next kick and fooled Calderon for the 4-3. Herrera took his penalty kick and this time Jimenez stopped his kick. Cordova took the fifth kick and “saved” America with his kick putting the icing on a great performance, the only one for America. America won through penalties by a 5-3 margin.
It was a dark day for Mexican football in the Concacaf Champions League. It was a heroic win as Tigres needed a last minute goal from Nahuel Guzman to get through against Alianza. Not only are Alianza from the less developed El Salvadorean league, but Tigres vastly beats them in cost and they had their best possible starting lineup. America didn’t have as close to their best lineup, but that’s mostly because of injuries that have hampered them. They were still enough to be in first place in Mexico, but it’s a worrying sign that they suffered so much against Comunicaciones. A lot of their new signings like Leo Suarez have not played well, and they continued doing a poor job.
Both teams should pick it up because they face MLS sides that will have better squads than the one they struggled to defeat tonight. America will hope to get players like Henry Martin healthy and back for the next leg as they need to improve considerably especially in the final third to have a chance against Atlanta United.