Major League Soccer went one for two in the first leg of this week’s CONCACAF Champion League (CCL) semifinals with Toronto FC topping Club America 3-1 in a battle of league champions Tuesday night in Canada before the New York Red Bulls fell 1-0 on the road Wednesday evening to Chivas de Guadalajara.
Neither result guarantees anything; even Toronto’s two-goal lead may not be enough when they kick off at fortress Estadio Azteca in round two while the Red Bulls may rue their inability to score at least one away goal when they host The Goats in the first game of next Tuesday’s CCL program.
Toronto showed impressive resolve and depth in defeating Club America despite playing without regulars Victor Vasquez, Chris Mavinga, and Justin Morrow. Depth has long been cited as a reason that MLS clubs are unable to compete successfully with Liga MX sides in this competition, so Toronto rightly earned many plaudits for Tuesday’s win.
TFC opened the scoring when Sebastian Giovinco earned and then converted a penalty kick in the ninth minute. Andres Ibarguen leveled at the 21-minute mark but Jozy Altidore (44’) and Ashtone Morgan (58’) padded the TFC lead to secure a first leg victory, unfortunately an incident in the increasingly notorious BMO Field Tunnel and Club America coach Miguel Herrera’s reaction to that incident has cast a shadow over the match.
In a wild post-game press conference televised live on Univision Deportes “Pojo” accused members of the Toronto Police Department of physically attacking three of his players.
Here is a sample of the remarks from the controversial former Mexican national team coach.
“In my opinion, if the police are going to be in the tunnel area it should be to separate players, not to hit them. A CONCACAF staffer was present there and saw everything so I hope they report it.”
Toronto coach Greg Vanney saw things differently, telling MLSsoccer.com: “One of their coaches took exception to, I think, the PK, was having a go at Sebastian, and Sebastian kept walking and Johnny [Osorio] stepped in between the assistant coach and Sebastian. I told the coach and the head coach that his coach shouldn’t be talking to our players, he needs to keep moving. And the next thing was an elbow from said coach – [the] assistant coach who was talking – into Johnny’s nose. And if you want to see Johnny’s nose, you can take a picture of it if you want. And then it escalated from there.”
Osorio confirmed Vanney’s version of events to the Toronto Sun:
The Red Bulls 1-0 loss to Chivas de Guadalajara wasn’t quite as crazy, but hey, this is Concacaf, so there was still a little bit of madness to it.
How was this game crazy? Let us count the ways.
1)The Red Bulls conceded in the 26th minute on a turnover from 19-year-old rising club and USMNT star Tyler Adams.
2) RBNY goal-scoring ace Bradley Wright-Phillips, on fire this year in the CCL and MLS, missed a breakaway chance in the 79th minute.
3) New York played a man down from the 73rd minute when veteran defender Aurelien Collin foolishly left his leg in despite playing with an earlier caution.
4) The referee missed a blatant handball in the 60th minute when Chivas’ Carlos Cisneros handled in the box with his arm extended well away from his body.
5) After Adams was fouled a melee ensued during which Jair Pereira, henceforth known to be referred to as “the Chivas Strangler” grabbed Red Bulls midfielder Sean Davis firmly around the throat while already playing with a yellow card.
But for sheer gall, my favorite part of this incident was that when Pereira finally released Davis’ throat from his grip the Chivas man directed a schoolmarm like finger-wag at the referee or perhaps his opponents as if to say, “No, no! there is nothing to see here!”
Yep, Tuesday night should be fun in the Concacaf Champions League. CCL Fever – Catch it!