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CONCACAF Champions League

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CONCACAF Champions League
 By Tom Marshall

Liga MX dominates MLS in CONCACAF Champions League first legs

In the Liga MX vs. MLS CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals first legs this week, it's advantage Liga MX, arguably in all four.

Queretaro overcame D.C. United 2-0 at home on Tuesday to take a healthy lead to the U.S. next week, while Tigres won by the same margin at Estadio Universitario against Real Salt Lake on Wednesday.

Club America has the advantage against Seattle Sounders following Tuesday's 2-2 draw in CenturyLink Field, with L.A. Galaxy finishing 0-0 with Santos Laguna on Wednesday in California.

Here's a look at what was expected from the Liga MX clubs and how they did:

Queretaro 2-0 D.C. United

This was a case of job done, rather than any dominant performance and victory.

Gallos Blancos sold key players Orbelin Pineda, William da Silva and Danilinho in the offseason and have struggled so far to cope without them in the Liga MX. That was the case again against D.C. United, who should've been in the lead at half-time.

Queretaro enjoyed 59 percent of possession, but coach Victor Manuel Vucetich will not be happy his team received 17 shots (nine on target) and Gallos Blancos' best player was goalkeeper Tiago Volpi.

It was a lethargic Queretaro side, which suffered the blow of Emanuel Villa leaving the field with an injury in the first half. Replacement Yerson Candelo stole the show in the second half with a superb long-range finish in the 71st minute to hand Gallos Blancos the lead. Edgar Benitez extended it seven minutes from the end, with D.C. United wilting fast from the lack of competitive matches.

In the end, and despite the difficulties, this was a really positive result and one that should see Queretaro ease into the semifinals. However, on the basis of Clausura so far and Tuesday night's evidence, Queretaro is the Mexican team you least expect to lift the CCL trophy.

Seattle Sounders 2-2 Club America

But for the sheer brilliance of Clint Dempsey, this match -- by far the best of the four -- could've been a memorable victory for Las Aguilas.

Dempsey netted a delightful direct free kick before half-time and scored again after the break. Replies from the Mexican team came via Darwin Quintero and Oribe Peralta. The two away goals hand America the initiative ahead of the home leg in the Estadio Azteca next week.

The main positive for America was Quintero, who put in perhaps the best performance of his career with Las Aguilas. The Colombian looked like his old Santos Laguna-self and MLS fans will need no reminding of just how dangerous and difficult to play against when he is on form.

With Moises Munoz back from injury for the second leg, there should be more assurance from America at the back and the team -- celebrating its centennial -- will be favorite to go through at altitude in Mexico City.

The Sounders, however, went after the Liga MX side and gave enough warnings to suggest they will not make next week's second leg easy for America.

Tigres RSL CCL 160224
Liga MX's Tigres hold a two-goal advantage over their MLS rivals Real Salt Lake.

Tigres 2-0 Real Salt Lake

A little like Queretaro, Tigres didn't really get going, but did secure a result that will be difficult for Real Salt Lake to turn around in Rio Tinto Stadium.

This was an off-color performance from Liga MX champion Tigres, but they did stick to their possession-oriented game and managed to score two scrappy goals, without conceding.

Real Salt Lake can really only have themselves to blame for not getting what would've been a vital away goal. Yura Movsisyan was clean through on Nahuel Guzman's goal in the 41st minute, but couldn't finish, while Joao Plata seemed to have got past the Tigres keeper, but spurned the opportunity in the 90th.

In-between all that, France international Andre-Pierre Gignac -- with his new gray-colored hair -- saw Nick Rimando save his penalty on the stroke of half-time. It wasn't the 30-year-old's best night in a Tigres shirt, but the former Marseille striker be keen to make amends and net in Salt Lake City.

If Tigres are to win the tournament, they'll have to play better than on Wednesday, but Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti's and his players know the extra gears are there.

After giving a 5/10 performance and still winning 2-0, Tigres remain the favorite for the CCL trophy.

L.A. Galaxy 0-0 Santos Laguna

The most positive result out of the four MLS teams, although Santos will back themselves to get victory in Torreon, especially if missing forwards Andres Renteria (suspension) and Djaniny Tavares (injury) are back.

This was a strange game between a LA Galaxy side with an average age of 29.9 years (including six players over the age of 30) and a young Santos (average age 25.8 and no players over 30).

The younger side seemed to respect the stars like Steven Gerrard, Ashley Cole and Robbie Keane a little too much early on, hanging back and not attacking with intent. That may have been down to not having Renteria and Djaniny, who usually provide the outlets for Luis Zubeldia's team's swift counters.

After the break, Santos came out a bit more and was the better team for large swatches of the second half, with the Galaxy tiring.

Interest was high in seeing how Giovani dos Santos would do against a Mexican club, but he was on the fringes of the game and only showed brief flickers of the talent he possesses. He'll need to do more to get back into Juan Carlos Osorio's national team, but this was his first game of the season.

Santos remains an interesting prospect in the CCL. On their day, they can beat anyone and this was a solid away performance against a MLS franchise that has spent big money to assemble its current team and will be deeply hurt should it not reach the CCL semis.

Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.


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