Chivas restore some Liga MX pride with classy defeat of Seattle Sounders
GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- Three thoughts following Chivas Guadalajara's 3-0 CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal second-leg win against the Seattle Sounders that sees them advance to the semifinals 3-1 on aggregate.
1. Chivas pegs one back in Liga MX-MLS rivalry
Just as it appeared Major League Soccer teams were in for a perfect week in CONCACAF Champions League play against Liga MX opposition after Toronto FC and the New York Red Bulls advanced, all-Mexican outfit Chivas -- the least likely Liga MX team to go through given their current form -- pulled out an impressive and authoritative display against opposition from the north to knock out the Seattle Sounders.
Seattle had gone into the game with a 1-0 lead from the first leg, but struggled to get into the match against a Chivas side virtually out of playoff contention in Liga MX and needing to turn around the deficit to keep their season and hopes of winning a trophy alive.
It was a fine Oswaldo Alanis strike from a direct free kick 25 yards out that handed Chivas the lead and settled what had been a nervous crowd inside Estadio Akron.
The momentum Chivas created -- and, in part, Seattle ceded them -- led them to push forward in search of a second. That came five minutes later through Eduardo "Chofis" Lopez, who latched onto a perfectly-weighted through-ball from Mexico international Rodolfo Pizarro, which left the Sounders back-line flat-footed. Lopez lofted the ball over Stefan Frei and headed it home. Jesus Godinez wrapped up the scoring with a neat flick nine minutes from the end with the Sounders pushing for an away goal.
This was a deserved win for Chivas, who dominated the game and could count all three goals as classy.
In the first half, Chivas had 71 percent possession, but only forced one real save from goalkeeper Stefan Frei. Statistics like that have been the story of Chivas' season and the worry heading into the second half will have been that this was going to be another game in which Chivas looked technically superior than the opposition, but couldn't convert those nice touches and inter-plays in midfield into wins.
Under-pressure Chivas coach Matias Almeyda will be extremely relieved that his team found its scoring touch just in time to advance to the semis in front of just over 28,000 fans.
2. Injury-plagued Sounders disappointed
Ahead of the game, the news left-winger Pizarro and center-back Jair Pereira had returned to the starting XI was a significant boost to Chivas. Seattle's injury problems were compounded by the news Uruguayan international Nicolas Lodeiro hadn't traveled and the team was already without Jordan Morris for the season after he suffered a knee injury against Santa Tecla in the previous round. When Will Bruin and Chad Marshall both went off in the first half with injury problems, it was an uphill struggle for the Sounders.
Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer had to readjust and will lament also not being able to field Osvaldo Alonso or Victor Rodriguez, who both missed out through injury. It would be a fair complaint, but on the night the Sounders didn't show anywhere near the kind of pluck, organization and attacking threat as Toronto FC had done Tuesday night in knocking Liga MX champion Tigres out of the CCL.
Injury-hit Seattle fell short, while Chivas -- under immense pressure going into the game -- rose to the occasion.The Guadalajara team's season is alive again and for a club that is arguably the biggest in North America, the hope of winning a continental trophy with a team that only fields Mexicans is still real.
3. Mouth-watering MLS vs. Liga MX semis set
If you'd hand-picked the semifinals from a neutral perspective ahead of this tournament, you couldn't do much better than the ones the CCL has in store. Both Chivas against New York Red Bulls and Club America against Toronto FC promise so much in terms of team quality and clout for the respective club brands.
The involvement of Mexico's biggest two clubs will guarantee the tournament receives attention south of the border and the fact the Red Bulls and Toronto knocked out Mexican opposition in the quarterfinals signals that neither will approach the semis with any sense of dread.
The prospect of an all-Liga MX Clasico Nacional in a continental final will be talked about in Mexico, but from the MLS side their is a desperation to stop Liga MX extending its run of winning the CONCACAF club tournament for the 13th consecutive time.
Especially after the last couple of weeks and the talk of the gap closing between North America's two biggest leagues, a win for Club America or Chivas in the final would feel like a kick in the teeth for MLS and its supporters.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.