Mexico's club teams once again proved their dominance in CONCACAF's premier competition with emphatic aggregate wins in their respective quarter-final series. Club America's 7-3 (1-2, 5-2) thrashing of Jamaica's Portmore United was simple enough, while Toluca's 4-1 (0-2, 2-1) defeat of Olimpia proved the side still have some bite despite the loss of many a big name in the off-season. Costa Rica's clubs also put in good showings with wins over the USA's two representatives. Deportivo Saprissa edged out LA Galaxy while Alajuelense sneaked past New England Revolution.
Toluca took a two-goal lead earned last month in San Pedro Sula back to their Estadio Nemesio Diez on Wednesday. It was always going to be a tough fight-back for the Honduran champions up in the stifling altitude of Mexico City, but despite some good possession early on for Americo Gallego's Red Devils the home-field advantage failed to intimidate the Hondurans.
Juan Manuel Carcamo poked home from close range in the 21st minute against the run of play to give the away side a lifeline and force some nervy moments for the animated - if small - home crowd.
But the 2003 Champions Cup winners and eight-time Mexican champions would not be denied and ended Olimpia's dream early in the second half when Javier Ariel Rosada hammered home a dazzling volley. Only minutes later substitute Carlos Esquivel Silva's deflected strike trickled past the Olimpia keeper and over the line to put the result well and truly beyond doubt with a 2-1 win on the day and 4-1 on the aggregate. Toluca will now take on holders Deportivo Saprissa of Costa Rica in their semi-final.
The competition's other Mexican representative, Club America, eliminated courageous Jamaican outfit Portmore United 5-2 at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. A goal in the first-minute from talismanic Aaron Padilla - match winner in the first leg - looked like having the home side and four-time Champions Cup winners on their way early. But the Jamaicans fought back and earned an equaliser in minute 24 when Anthony Bennet took advantage of a mix-up at the back to poke home. Fatigue appeared to take a toll on the brave islanders in the second half and Padilla grabbed his second in the 56th minute before debutant Santiago Fernandez made it 3-1 just four minutes later. With their heads already down, Portmore conceded two more before the final whistle as Diego Cervantes struck in the 80th minute and Padilla earned his hat trick with a third goal in stoppage time to make the aggregate score a sizable 7-3 for America and their new coach Manuel Lapuente.
A good night to be a Tico
After holding USA's LA Galaxy to a goalless draw in California last month, the bookmakers were picking holders Saprissa for easy passage via the second-leg at their fortress-like Estadio Ricardo Saprissa in San Jose. But two goals down - thanks to Josh Gardner and Landon Donovan - the usually confident Saprissa faithful were looking as bewildered as their gladiators on the pitch when the whistle went for half-time.
But a brave fight back in the second half saw the three-time CONCACAF Champions Cup winners draw level through Walter Centeno and substitute Alonso Solis to force extra time. And with the LA side wilting from exhaustion, Reynaldo Parks grabbed the winner five minutes in with a towering header.
The last match of the busy Wednesday night schedule saw American side New England Revolution under heavy pressure early on the road at the Alejandro Morera Soto against Costa Rica's Alajuelense. With a 0-0 draw in the first leg, the match looked to be heading to extra-time when Carlos Hernandez stepped up and rifled his free kick home in the 90th minute to send the Costa Rican side through to the semi-finals on a slim 1-0 aggregate.
The semi-final rounds will be played in late March in a home/away format before the final home/away series on 11 and 18 April decides which team will represent CONCACAF at the next FIFA Club World Cup. Mexican clubs have won the 42-year-old CONCACAF Champions Cup on 21 occasions while Costa Rican teams have been crowned six times.