Portland got an away result (in unconvincing fashion), whereas a 10-man Atlanta team got a massive win in the land of Pura Vida. Two more MLS teams take the pitch tonight.
5 p.m. CDT @ Saprissa • San Jose, Costa Rica • FS1
The (likely) path to the semis: Saprissa (CRC), Atlanta United (MLS)
Tonight’s outlook: Having followed the final year of Randall Leal’s time at Saprissa – and kept tabs on the Morados since – this site has a soft spot for Saprissa. That’s why it brings me no pleasure to report that the team has been quite bad this year. Losing Johan Venegas to Alajuelense in the offseason and hemorrhaging other talent in the past couple years, this is not your slightly-older brother’s Saprissa team.
That said, it’s still tough for MLS teams to go get results in Central America. The Saprissa name can be as intimidating as the team’s actual quality (in this instance, much more so!). A Philly team that has to replace some crucially important pieces will be hoping to eke out a draw in order to win the series in the home leg.
Bowing out: To me, the Union has a fairly easy path to the semifinal developing. Atlanta’s big service-break in Costa Rica last night gives Philly the likelihood of playing 1) the less-difficult team, and 2) a much less-grueling road game should Saprissa be dispatched. The Union should be able to get to Mexico’s América in the semis, but will still have a hard time taking down Concacaf’s best-equipped club.
7 p.m. CDT @ León • León, Guanajuato, Mexico • FS1
The (likely) path to the semis: León (MEX), Cruz Azul (MEX)
Tonight’s outlook: TFC drew the short straw and gets a Liga MX team in the first round. That’s not to say Costa Rican or Honduran competition is easy. It’s just not expected to be the same level of difficulty as a two-legged tie against a squad from the region’s best league. The flipside of that is that León is this year’s designated “Liga MX team that doesn’t feel like it deserves to be in the competition,” coming in eighth on the table right now.
For this evening, though, I don’t see a Toronto team dealing with all the logistical difficulties that Canadian MLS sides have had to deal with for the past 10-plus months having a simple time going south of the border and getting a result. Keeping it within a goal and hoping to win on aggregate after a strong “home” leg in [quickly consults Google] Kissimmee, Florida is the more-realistic thing to hope for.
Atlanta exceeded similar expectations last night, but a Liga MX side is a more difficult ask.
Bowing out: Even if Toronto manages to squeak by León – or quite frankly if the Canucks make fairly easy work of Los Panzas Verdes – I don’t see a second-straight win in a two-legged series with a Liga MX side. Although Cruz Azul put itself behind the eight-ball last night by only drawing a Haitian team(!) in a scoreless outing against Archaie, getting through the home leg to take on TFC should be the motivating factor to ensure Canada does not have semifinal representation.
Will look to the other MLS team in the competition – Columbus Crew – as their game approaches tomorrow.
We also briefly talked about CCL on the second episode of the Club and Country podcast! Check it out below, with all your rate/review/subscribe reminders applying, as well.