Monterrey and Santos Laguna will meet in the CONCACAF Champions League final for the second straight time to decide the region’s club champion. Los Rayados of Monterrey made relatively easy meat of Major League Soccer outfit LA Galaxy, while Santos had a tougher time finishing off their American opponents, Seattle Sounders, in the semi-final round.
LA Galaxy didn’t do themselves any favours in their first leg last Wednesday, collapsing late in the game to allow Monterrey to steal a crucial win on the road. Young defender A. J. DeLaGarza opened the scoring for the Galaxy in the first half of the first leg, but the men from Southern California wasted a string of chances to extend the lead. Robbie Keane and Mike Magee were both guilty of spurning a number of golden opportunities, while several other half-chances also went begging.
Monterrey made LA pay for their profligacy, too, bagging a pair of goals in the last ten minutes. Humberto Suazo and Aldo de Nigris were both on the mark to create a comfortable cushion.
The second leg again saw some late heroics from Los Rayados. De Nigris was on the mark once more, his strike ten minutes from time at the Estadio Tecnologico killing off the Galaxy with a 1-0 result on the night and a 3-1 aggregate win. The victory sees Monterrey qualify for their third straight CONCACAF Champions League final, where they will be hoping to book their passage to the FIFA Club World Cup - again, for the third successive year.
Sounders flounder as Santos surge
Santos Laguna booked their place in their second consecutive continental final with a slim win over Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders. The first leg in the USA’s Pacific Northwest last week set the stage for the victory, Santos pulling off a 1-0 win in hostile territory thanks to a goal from USA international striker Herculez Gomez against a Sounders side missing injured striker Eddie Johnson and Obafemi Martins.
In the second leg, on Tuesday night in Torreon in the North of Mexico, the MLS men put up stiff resistance, but in vain. The contest ended in a 1-1 draw and a 2-1 aggregate win for the Mexicans. Johnson probed in search of a goal in the early moments and Shalrie Joseph also looked dangerous, but it was Santos who scored first through a powerful Carlos Quintero free-kick. An opportunistic 73rd-minute Seattle equaliser from Lamar Neagle set up a tense finish, but the goal the Sounders needed failed to materialise.
“We had chances, and right now the onus is on our guys to finish their chances,” said Sounders coach Sigi Schmid at a post-match press conference. “We haven’t finished chances well enough, and we have to do a better job of that .”
Santos will now line up in the CONCACAF Champions league final, against the very same Monterrey side that beat them in the decider last year. The first leg is scheduled for 24 April, with the return fixture on 1 May. The aggregate winner of the series moves on to represent CONCACAF at the next FIFA Club World Cup, which will take place in December in Morocco.