Mexican clubs have once again dominated proceedings in the CONCACAF Champions League, with Santos Laguna, Monterrey, and Pumas all booking their place in the semi-finals alongside surprise packages Toronto FC.
Toronto are the lone Major League Soccer survivors after having defeated Los Angeles Galaxy in the quarter-finals, and will be looking to overcome a stiff test in Santos Laguna. Meanwhile, reigning champions Monterrey open the semi-finals at home against fellow-Mexican side Pumas.
The competition is rapidly nearing its end as these four teams are set to begin the penultimate round on Wednesday. FIFA.com previews all the details.
With Major League Soccer just getting underway, Toronto FC are perhaps the shock qualifiers for the semi-finals phase of the CONCACAF Champions League. The Canadians dumped out Los Angeles Galaxy in the quarter-finals, securing a 2-2 draw at BMO Field before upsetting the MLS champions 2-1 at the Home Depot Center in their second leg. Toronto goalkeeper Milos Kocic put on an impressive display, however, denying Republic of Ireland international Robbie Keane on multiple occasions to help seal the Canadian club’s surprise progression. In fact, it marks the first time a Canada-based club has appeared in the semi-finals of the competition.
While Toronto represent MLS’s last hope for regional glory, one tall task still lies ahead for the Canadian side. As joint-Mexican Clausura leaders, Santos are in fine form on all fronts and boast incredible depth in attack. Herculez Gomez, Oribe Peralta, and Christian Suarez all make for a lethal trio up front as each netted en route to Albiverdes’ triumph over Seattle Sounders in the quarter-finals. Overturning a first-leg deficit, Santos ran riot in Torreon to beat fledgling side Sounders 6-1 and book their place in the semi-finals. And while Santos sights might be set on a domestic title, a chance at regional silverware will not be put on the wayside.
Pumas UNAM advanced to the CONCACAF Champions League semi-finals by a hefty margin, defeating Metapan 9-2 on aggregate in the last eight. However, with shaky domestic form as of late, Azul y Oro will have to upset the form book if they are to overcome Monterrey. Pumas fell 2-1 at the hands of America in their last Clausura fixture and are now 12 points adrift of the summit, while Monterrey have kept pace with the leading pack, coming off a resounding 4-0 win over Estudiantes Tecos yesterday. However, both sides have a proud history in the regional showpiece during its modern era, with Rayados the current holders.
Monterrey, who edged MLS side Real Salt Lake to claim last season’s title, are desperate to reach the final once again and are set to welcome Pumas first at Estadio Tecnologico in front of one of the most devoted crowds known throughout Mexico. The defending champions will certainly be looking to gain an early edge over Pumas on home soil, with their undisputed goal king in Humberto Suazo finding his stride alongside the likes of Mexican internationals Aldo de Nigris and Luis Ernesto Perez Gomez. Suazo, who scored twice in each leg of Monterrey’s quarter-finals tie against Morelia, could prove a mighty task for a Pumas side who will be without centre-back Dario Veron through injury. Veron suffered a fractured foot in the second leg of Pumas last-eight tie against Metapan, and the loss of his leadership will likely be felt among their youthful side. Even so, Pumas will be savouring their second appearance in the semi-finals in just three years, and hoping for an upset.
Player to watch
After a short loan spell at Real Zaragoza, Chilean international Humberto Suazo made his return to Mexico one to remember in 2010. Chupete went on to score ten times in the Apertura 2010, helping Monterrey to their fourth league title. In addition, Suazo proved vital to Rayados victory over Real Salt Lake in the CONCACAF Champions League final last year and has continued to impress on the regional stage. Despite speculations of a transfer early this year, the 30-year-old has been in rampant form as he bagged a brace in each leg of Monterrey’s last-eight win over Morelia and looks on course to overtake Mario de Souza Mota as the club's top scorer.
12 – The number of Mexican clubs that have appeared in the CONCACAF Champions League semi-finals over the last four years.
What they said
“We’re all very proud. The whole city should be proud of us. It’s a great result,” Toronto FC goalkeeper Milos Kocic on the Canadian club’s progression through to the semi-finals.
Have your say
Can Toronto FC defy the odds and defeat Santos Laguna to reach the CONCACAF Champions League final? Can Pumas upset defending champions Monterrey?