Americas Leagues review
The title races in a host of major leagues continue to take shape. In Brazil's state championships, many of the knockout-phase berths have already been filled, as is the case in Mexico's title-deciding Liguilla, while clear patterns are emerging in the American MLS. FIFA.com has all this and more in its latest look at the Americas’ league scene.
Argentinian Clausura: Spectre of the drop looming
River Plate, unbeaten away from home since Juan Jose Lopez took their reins, extended that run to eight games with a 0-0 draw at Gimnasia La Plata to keep hold of top spot. The point also aided Los Millonarios’ bid to stave off relegation, decided over points average over the past three years. Velez Sarsfield, who were grateful to a late equaliser from Victor Zapata in their 1-1 draw at Colon, remain a point behind in second with a game in hand. This week Velez are set to play the remaining 83 minutes of their game against San Lorenzo which was suspended on matchday 6, with the meeting to be held behind closed doors at a neutral ground.
Big game: In the Avellaneda clásico, Racing Club sank Independiente 2-0 to end a painful run of six years without a win over their neighbours and arch-rivals. Goals from Gabriel Hauche and Teofilo Gutierrez each side of the interval secured local bragging rights, and dragged El Diablo closer to a relegation dogfight.
Headline-grabber: A hat-trick from Tigre striker Denis Stracqualursi cemented his place at the top of the Clausura scorers’ charts with eight goals, though his clinical finishing only earned his side a point against struggling giants Boca Juniors at the Bombonera. Another forward in the news was Cristian Fabbiani, who scored his first goals in Argentinian football since finding the net for River Plate back in 2009. This time around El Ogro struck a vital first-half brace for All Boys in a 3-1 win over fellow relegation candidates Huracan.
American Major League Soccer: Conference tussles take shape
Despite playing without their biggest stars, Los Angeles Galaxy were still able to secure a 2-1 win over Chicago Fire thanks to goals from Chad Barrett and Omar Gonzalez. The three points keep Galaxy in second spot in the Western Conference behind a Salt Lake City side that have won all four of their opening games. The Fire, for their part, sank further to the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
Big game: Now fully recovered from the serious car accident that put his life at risk, USA forward Charlie Davis continued to impress with a goal in DC United’s 3-0 win away to Toronto, a result that keeps the capital club firmly in the hunt in the East.
Headline-grabber: Former France international Thierry Henry opened his account for this MLS campaign with a rare header that put the seal on New York Red Bulls’ 3-0 win over San Jose Earthquakes. The New York outfit had not won since their season opener on 19 March, but the three points take them back within striking distance of surprise Eastern leaders Philadelphia Union. The latter were held 1-1 at home by Seattle Sounders, after the visitors’ Alvaro Fernandez grabbed an injury-time equaliser.
Mexican Clausura: Trio clinch Liguilla berths
Pumas UNAM, Tigres and Morelia all booked their places in the end-of-season Liguilla, which leaves just five spots still up for grabs. Cruz Azul will have to wait to seal their berth after losing 2-0 at Puebla, though three sides all won on their travels to revive their hopes of qualification. Atlas did so by beating Pachuca 2-1, Santos Laguna followed suit with a 1-0 win at Guadalajara and Toluca overcame hosts San Luis 2-1.
Big game: The matchday was not particularly kind to home teams, with only Puebla and Pumas UNAM winning on their own patch. The latter picked up an emphatic 3-0 victory against Queretaro to cement their place at the top of Group 3 and the overall standings.
Headline-grabber: Necaxa’s relegation was confirmed after they fared no better than a 1-1 draw with Atlante. Los Necaxistas’ Javier Ledesma gave his side the lead, only for Los Potros to level the game via a Christian Bermudez penalty and quash their opponents’ hopes of recovering from the poor form that has dogged them since the Apertura 2010.
Brazilian state championships: Familiar foes limbering up
The regular phase of the state championships are drawing to a close, with a significant number of subsequent knockout clashes already decided. In the Paranaense championship, Coritiba secured a remarkable 20th consecutive victory when beating Romai 4-1, a result that keeps them five clear of closest chasers Atletico-PR. With the two sides meeting next time out, O Coxa need just a draw on home soil to clinch first place.
Big game: There were goals aplenty on a decisive day of action, including Atletico-MG’s 7-1 mauling of America de Teofilo Otoni. The latter will need to pick themselves up quickly ahead of their Mineiro state semi-final against regular-phase top dogs Cruzeiro, while buoyant O Galo will take on America. Goals also rained down in the Catarinense championship, where Figueirense trounced Imbituba 6-0 away from home.
Headline-grabber: Flamengo and Fluminense will go head-to-head in the semi-finals of the Taca Rio, the second phase of the Carioca state championship. Fla, who won the first phase of the competition - the Taca Guanabara - drew 1-1 with Macae to finish second in a Group A led by Vasco da Gama. Flu, for their part, beat Nova Iguazu to take top spot in Group B. The other semi-final clash will pit Olaria, who finished ahead of Botafogo to progress from Group B, against Vasco.
The semi-final line-up in the Costa Rican Torneo de Verano is now known, with the first semi pitting Alajuelense, last-eight conquerors of Perez Zeledon, against Herediano, who won their quarter-final against Limon. The other two-legged last-four ties will feature Deportivo Saprissa and San Carlos, victors over Santos and Cartagines respectively.
Olimpia clinched first place in the regular phase of the championship in Honduras after a 2-1 win over Vida. The three points takes their tally to 33, beyond the reach of any rivals. Conversely, Hispano’s relegation was confirmed with one matchday of the season to go. Olimpia and second-placed Motagua (28 points) are guaranteed to be involved in the end-of-season Liguilla, with the final matchday set to decide which of the trio of Vida, Marathon and Real Espana take the last two available spots. Hispano are mathematically still in the running but competition regulations prevent already relegated teams from taking part in the Liguilla.
Universidad Catolica remain clear of the pack in the top flight in Chile, though their 1-1 draw with Colo Colo allowed closest chasers Universidad de Chile to cut the gap to five points after a 2-0 success against La Calera. Union Espanola, meanwhile, washed away some of the bitter taste of their Copa Libertadores exit with a 4-2 win over Huachipato.