Americas Leagues review
Mexico’s big cats Pumas stumbled while Boca Juniors and River Plate’s revivals spelled trouble for Estudiantes in Argentina. There was a border conflict in Major League Soccer, where holders Colorado Rapids moved to the top of the table, as Vasco, Cruzeiro and Palmeiras all strutted their stuff in Brazil. FIFA.com reviews the weekend that was in the New World.
American Major League Soccer: Galaxy stalk rising Rapids
It was a case of draws galore in MLS, with five games ending in tangled scorelines. Defending champions Colorado are top of the table, two points ahead of LA Galaxy and three better than Philadelphia Union and Real Salt Lake.
Big game: Sporting Kansas City travelled to Vancouver to take on the Whitecaps, one of MLS’ two new teams for 2011 and the second on Canadian soil. KC’s ace Teal Bunbury was booed and jeered with every touch of the ball, the Canada-born striker having decided to represent USA at international level. “It’s not a surprise; I was expecting it,” said the striker, son of former Canuck legend Alex Bunbury and an American mother. He angered the crowd further by helping to carve out a 3-0 lead for the visitors with a pair of goals. The home fans had the last laugh, however, as their boys sealed a share of the spoils in a 3-3 barnstormer. Brazilian Camillo Sanvezzo, who scored twice in stoppage time, emerging as Vancouver’s hero.
Headline-grabber: LA Galaxy’s Brazilian Leonardo headed home a David Beckham free-kick to see off surprise Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia Union 1-0. Juninho – who arrived at the same time on loan last season from Brazil’s Sao Paulo – very nearly managed to bring his tally for the young season to three, only for the crossbar to deny his stinger mid-way through the second half. The Paulista pair are responsible for three of the team’s four goals so far this season. Colombian Juan Pablo Angel has the other, as LA Galaxy continue to lean on their South American stars.
Argentinian Clausura: Boca help rivals River
Boca Juniors did their bitter rivals River Plate a favour by bagging a second win on the trot, and their first at home, in a Clausura campaign that had started poorly. A late goal by Lucas Viatri sealed Boca’s win against previous lone leaders Estudiantes, who now share top spot with River. Argentinos Juniors are one point behind the leading duo and the only remaining undefeated side after beating Banfield on the road.
Big game: Relegation candidates Olimpo, who had been stunning pundits with impressive performances this term, fell to their second straight defeat at home when Velez Sarsfield came calling. Ricardo Alvarez put Velez into the lead in the first minute of play before Martin Rolle equalised just before the interval. Emiliano Papa settled the affair in the 55th minute, making light of the absence of marksman Santiago Silva and diminutive creator Maxi Moralez, who both missed out with suspensions. Velez jump six places into fourth with 14 points from seven matches, leapfrogging Olimpo in the process.
Headline-grabber: Troubled Buenos Aires giants River Plate breathed a sigh of relief against the ghosts of what would be unthinkable relegation (based on combined points totals from recent seasons) after a 1-0 win over Quilmes, a side who have yet to win a game in the Clausura. The result was far from convincing, but it sees River into a share of first place thanks to a rare favour from rivals Boca, who beat leaders Estudiantes 2-1 as La Bombonera shook to the rhythm of its former glories. "We beat a great team," said Riquelme, who has scored in the last two rounds.
Mexican Clausura: Lowly Jaguares tame Pumas
Tigres climbed to within two points of rampaging leaders Pumas UNAM, who lost their first game of the campaign at the weekend. While Group 3 leaders Pumas remain on 25 points, Tigres – who lead Group 1 and have lost only one game so far – are on 23 after victory against Atlante.
Big game: Pumas UNAM must have been expecting another win when they travelled to bottom-feeders Chiapas at the weekend, an 11-game unbeaten streak trumpeting their arrival. But the ball being round, it began to bounce Jaguares’ way. Hometown hero Antonio Salazar grabbed a pair of goals and Edgar Andrade added a third in the 33rd minute. Pumas mustered only a 75th-minute consolation as the long-suffering home fans celebrated escaping from last place. “We must remember the way this feels,” was the stern reaction of Pumas coach Guillermo Vazquez Herrera.
Headline-grabber: Queretaro stormed back from a two-goal deficit to take all the points against visitors San Luis. Osmar Mares and Juan Cuevas scored early in the mid-table clash for San Luis before Emilio Lopez pulled one back after 28 minutes. Carlos Bueno – who arrived at the beginning of the season with the mandate to get goals – then took over the game. The Uruguayan former PSG and Boca Juniors striker, and Queretaro’s current top scorer, did his job with two goals to ensure victory.
Brazilian state championships: Vasco, Cruzeiro and Palmeiras shine
Palmeiras stayed top of the Paulista championship, proving again that they have the best defence in the land. Managerless Santos lined up all their top stars at their Vila Belmiro but Neymar, Elano, nor Ganso, could find a way past a well organised rearguard as Kleber provided the knockout punch in a 1-0 win for Palmeiras.
Big game: Vasco da Gama showed no mercy to Bangu, with Felipe leading the way in an inspired performance. Banging home the fourth goal in the 4-0 victory, he was a constant threat with his creativity and probing play. Alecsandro also scored his first goal in a Vasco shirt as the side – who failed to qualify for the semi-finals of the Taca Guanabara – strengthened their chances of finishing top of Taca Rio’s Group A and reaching the next round.
Headline-grabber: Cruzeiro further cemented their reputation as the best team in Brazil with another resounding win in the Minas Gerais championship. The side are still alive in the pan-South American Copa Libertadores and were indebted to Montillo, with the Argentinian playmaker scoring the pick of the goals in a 4-1 defeat of Guarani. He promptly lifted his shirt to reveal a message of love and support for his young son, who has been in hospital with pneumonia.
Nacional kept hold of top spot in Uruguay with a 3-0 rout of Racing, Argentine idol and creator Marcelo Gallardo finding his scoring touch to claim the leaders’ second. In Chile, meanwhile, Colo Colo slipped further away from the play-off places with their second successive loss, going down 2-1 at Audax.
Nacional edged Olimpia 2-1 in a top-of-the-table clash in Paraguay, seeing the Asuncion giants climb to within two points of their vanquished foes in first place. In Colombia, Once Caldas remained on top of the table despite a 1-0 loss to Deportivo Pereira.