Neymar hits 100, play-offs set in Mexico

The race to reach the play-offs in Mexico went down to the wire at the weekend, while the state championships in Brazil have edged toward their final phases.

In Argentina, defending champions Boca Juniors moved back into familiar territory atop the table, and Major League Soccer’s most-successful club DC United began to show remnants of their former selves. takes a look at all this action and more across the Americas.

Argentina: Boca, Velez take charge
Boca Juniors and Velez Sarsfield, two of the three Argentinian sides still competing in the Copa Libertadores, showed no signs of wear as they both collected hard-fought wins in the latest round of Argentina’s Torneo Clausura. Defending champions Boca Juniors edged Colon de Santa Fe 1-0 at the Bombonera thanks to a fine side-volley from Uruguayan international Santiago Silva, effectively ending their visitors’ six-game unbeaten run in the process. As Azul y Oro took up top spot, second-place Velez Sarsfield stayed just one point behind with a 2-0 victory over Estudiantes through Federico Insua and Juan Manuel Martinez goals.

Newell’s Old Boys were made to settle for a share of the points against All Boys, who are in the odd predicament of fighting for the current title while also battling to avoid relegation due to their three-season points average. Tigre are in a similar dilemma, and could actually move level on points with Velez in second position should they grab a win over Belgrano on today.

Brazil: Neymar stars, Botafogo go Loco

The state championships throughout Brazil are rapidly nearing an end. Brazilian heavyweights Santos and Sao Paulo met in the Campeonato Paulista semi-final, and once again, Neymar was in inspired form for Peixe. The 20-year-old was in search of his 100th goal in the Santos’ shirt, and it, along with two others, duly arrived for the Brazilian wunderkind as Santástico defeated Sao Paulo 3-1 to claim their place in the final. Neymar now boasts 102 goals for Santos and ranks as their third-highest scorer in the post-Pele era. In the other last-four fixture, Guarani earned local bragging rights in the city of Campinas with a 3-1 victory over local rivals Ponte Prete, setting up a final meeting against reigning state champions Santos.

In Rio de Janeiro, Botafogo claimed the Taca Rio to set up a meeting with Fluminese, winners of the Taca Guanabara, in the Campeonato Carioca. Uruguayan forward Sebastian ‘El Loco’ Abreu proved the difference as he bagged a first-half brace to help Botafogo to a 3-1 win over Vasco da Gama at the Engenhao stadium. Elsewhere, Internacional defeated Gremio 2-1 to win the Taca Farroupilha and qualify for the state championship final against Caxias.

Mexico: Tijuana, the new kid on the block
The play-off picture was finally settled in the Mexican Torneo Clausura, with Tijuana and Jaguares grabbing the last two slots during the final round of the regular season. Tijuana, who were just established in 2007, qualified for the play-offs for the first time in the club’s short history after a 1-1 draw with Pumas UNAM. The Xolos went ahead through a Duvier Riascos effort, but Javier Cortes equalised in the 89th minute for Pumas. With that result ensuring Tijuana's place in the play-offs, Jaguares and Cruz Azul were left to battle for the final spot. Jaguares did their part by defeating Morelia 1-0 through a Ricardo Esqueda goal, while in the Clasico Joven, Cruz Azul wasted their chance as they finished level 2-2 with America.

Santos Laguna, meanwhile, showed no signs of a CONCACAF Champions League hangover after their midweek loss to Monterrey in the final, and finished atop the Clausura table after a 3-1 win over Atlas. The Torreon-based club are now set to face Jaguares in the quarter-finals of the championship play-offs, while the other last-eight fixtures include Monterrey-Tijuana, America-Pachuca, Morelia-Tigres.

Major League Soccer: DC United show classic form
With Eastern Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City out of action at the weekend, nearest chasers DC United took centre stage as they claimed a 3-2 win over Houston Dynamo at RFK Stadium. The triumph marked the first time in which United have claimed back-to-back wins since June 2009 and extended the capital club’s current unbeaten run to seven games. United forward Maicon Santos and Houston striker Will Bruin both scored twice, while Canadian international Dwayne De Rosario found the back of the net for the first time this season. New York Red Bulls, on the other hand, suffered a major blow as Thierry Henry could be out for up to a month through injury. The Frenchman scored a league-leading ninth goal in a 1-0 victory over New England Revolution, however, pulled up with a hamstring injury in just the 23rd minute.           

The weekend also marked disappointment for Los Angeles Galaxy, who finished level on a goal apiece with FC Dallas. Brek Shea scored from the spot after Irish international Robbie Keane failed to do the same for the defending champions, but thanks to Pat Noonan’s injury-time intervention, Galaxy walked away with a share of the points. Finally, Real Salt Lake made sure they kept close chase of Western Conference leaders San Jose Earthquakes, with a 3-2 win over Toronto FC. The Canadians enjoyed the majority of chances, however, RSL handed the Eastern strugglers a seventh straight defeat when Jonny Steele scored in stoppage time.

In Costa Rica, Deportivo Saprissa took a big step towards booking their place in the first-division tournament final thanks to a 1-0 first-leg defeat of Santos FC in the semi-finals. Mynor Escoe scored the only goal of the match in the fourth minute from the spot. In the other last-four encounter, Herediano and Perez Zeledon played out a 1-1 draw.

Matias Rodriguez scored a double to help Universidad de Chile to a 5-0 victory over cross-town rivals Colo Colo in the Chilean Apertura. Universidad maintained their six-point lead over O’Higgins, who claimed a tough 1-0 win away at Santiago Wanderers.

Finally, CD Lara remained the leaders in Venezuela after a 1-0 win over Llaneros de Guanare. Mineros are just three points behind the leaders, though, after a 4-2 triumph against Deportivo Petare.