Vasco da Gama moved to the top of the pack in Brazil while Chivas Guadalajara dominated their Azteca clasico against Club America to take over first place in Mexico. Farther north, Thierry Henry’s star-studded New York Red Bulls finally made certain of their place in the Major League Soccer play-offs, sealing the tenth and final spot on the nervy road to MLS Cup. Join FIFA.com for our weekly wrap-up of all the action from around the Americas.
Brazil: Vasco vault
There was one clear winner in the 31st round of the Brazilian Championship: traditional giants Vasco da Gama. Taking advantage of slip-ups from their fellow title contenders, the so-called Gigante da Colina regained top spot with a 2-0 win over Bahia, in which the influential Diego Souza was again the hero. The No10 created countless chances with his midfield wizardry and scored the second goal to move Vasco up to 57 points, two more than Corinthians, who could only draw 1-1 with Internacional. Despite not picking up all three points, the result was an impressive one for a Corinthians side who were forced to play with ten men for nearly the entire game. “This draw has the taste of a win,” was the assessment of relieved defender Paulo Andre after the final whistle.
Vasco are also five points ahead of Botafogo and Flamengo, with both the Rio de Janeiro sides suffering poor results at the weekend. Botafogo lost to lowly Avai while Flamengo could only draw against a Neymar-inspired Santos.
Mexico: Contrasting Clasicos
It was a weekend dominated by a pair of traditional clasicos in Mexico’s Apertura. Tigres and Monterrey let the occasion get to them in the Northern Clasico, playing out a timid 0-0 draw in which visitors Tigres controlled possession but failed to find a way to goal. However, the mouth-watering clash between America and Chivas Guadalajara at the Estadio Azteca had drama to spare. Chivas humbled their eternal rivals 3-1 at their sprawling stadium - twice a FIFA World Cup Final™ host and the spiritual home of Mexican football - and moved into first place in the league in the bargain. Having scored eight goals in their last two outings, the side from Guadalajara are well worthy of their place at the top. It took them just 19 minutes to grab all three goals against America; Antonio Gallardo, Marco Fabian and Erick ‘El Cubo’ Torres were all on target early.
USA: Better late than never as Red Bulls charge
The big-money New York Red Bulls, featuring such global household names as Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez, finally clinched the last remaining play-off spot in Major League Soccer at the weekend to seal the final field of ten. Playing without suspended talisman Henry, the Bulls sent a capacity home crowd into raptures in their last regular season game when unfortunate Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon put through his own goal after eight minutes. “We need to defend as we did today," said Red Bulls coach Hans Backe as he looks ahead to the tense, nerve-shattering play-offs, which begin this week. "We need our key players to take their chances. It is a small margin to win these games. It's like you're going into the World Cup every time.”
The New Yorkers will meet FC Dallas in a one-off ‘wild card play-in’ while Colorado Rapids host Columbus Crew in the other ‘play-in’ mid-week. Sporting Kansas City, Houston Dynamo, Philadelphia Union, LA Galaxy, Seattle Sounders and Real Salt Lake are already sure of their place in the Conference Semi-finals.
Action in Argentina was suspended due to the country’s national elections, but Alianza Lima kept up their pace at the top of the standings in Peru with a 1-0 win over Colegio Nacional de Iquitos, the goal coming from Roberto Ovelar after 20 minutes.
In Chile, Universidad de Chile failed to take advantage of their big win over Flamengo in the Copa Sudamericana mid-week, drawing 1-1 against Palestino. As a result, they were unable to stretch their lead at the top of the table. However, they still have an eight-point cushion with only four games to go before the Clausura ends.
Over in Colombia, Atletico Junior moved into first place in the Torneo Finalizacion with a 3-2 win on the road against Atletico Huila. In a tight race, Itagui are only a point back of the leaders with five teams within striking distance.