Pumas' Matias Britos (left) won SCCL Player of the Week honors for his play against Tigres in the first leg of the 2016/17 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals. (Photo: Mexsport)
The 2016/17 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal, first-leg matches are complete, with three ending in a draw, setting up exciting second legs next week. CONCACAF.com takes a look at some the brightest and most important moments from the series openers.
Tigres 1, Pumas 1: Chile international Eduardo Vargas opened the scoring for the host just before halftime with a blistering strike from distance. In the 62nd minute, Matias Britos leveled with a header, marking Pumas’ first-ever SCCL away goal against a Liga MX side and also resulting in its first-ever away point against Mexican opposition.
New York Red Bulls 1, Vancouver Whitecaps 1: This meeting of MLS rivals had a little bit of everything, including a penalty save by Vancouver’s David Ousted and the sending off of teammate Cristian Techera, the SCCL’s joint-top scorer. Ultimately, goals from the Whitecaps’ Kekuta Manneh and New York’s Bradley Wright-Phillips canceled each other out. They’ll meet again Thursday in Vancouver, with both seeking a first-ever trip to the SCCL semifinals.
Kellyn Acosta, FC Dallas (55’ v Arabe Unido): The 21-year-old midfielder scored twice during his side’s 4-0 victory at home. His first was particularly impressive. After Roland Lamah dropped a pass from inside the penalty area back toward the penalty arc, Acosta snapped a 20-yard right-footed curler beyond Miguel Lloyd’s dive.
Eduardo Vargas, Tigres (41’ v Pumas): The midfielder’s first-ever SCCL goal gave Tigres a first-half lead in what finished a 1-1 home draw. After Jurgan Damm’s scintillating run opened up space on the right, Vargas took his pass, touched it forward and then lashed a right-footed strike that sailed inside the left post.
Alfonso Blanco, Pachuca (20’ v Saprissa): Blanco made four saves to help preserve a 0-0 away draw on a night Pachuca put only one of their own efforts on target. His best stop may have come 20 minutes in, when he arched back to push a dipping, 18-yard effort from Marvin Angulo to safety over the crossbar.
David Ousted, Vancouver Whitecaps (47’ v New York Red Bulls): Ousted’s only stop in Vancouver’s opening leg 1-1 draw was more impressive for its poise than its athleticism. After defender Jakob Nerwinski conceded a penalty, Ousted stood his ground to make a kick save as Sacha Kljestan’s tried to sneak his spot-kick down the middle.
Alfredo Saldívar, Pumas (43’ v Tigres): Just two minutes after Tigres had scored the opening goal in what finished as a 1-1 draw, the visitor was in danger of falling a second goal down following a defensive giveaway in their own penalty area. Instead, Saldivar dove right and extended his fingertips to deny Eduardo Vargas’ low attempt at a first-half brace.
Red Card: Cristian Techera, Vancouver Whitecaps (70’ v New York Red Bulls): After Techera was sent off for his studs-up challenge, the visitor survived the final 20 minutes shorthanded at Red Bull Arena to preserve a 1-1 away draw. Vancouver will now play the second leg with its all-time leading SCCL scorer suspended.
Substitution: Nicolas Castillo, Pumas (61’ v Tigres): It only took one minute after Castillo’s insertion for Pumas to level their match at 1-1, with the substitute providing the service for Matias Britos. Then he almost found a winner himself in the 84th minute, smashing the crossbar with an eight-yard volley.
TOP INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCES
Matias Britos, Pumas (v Tigres): Not only did Britos net the equalizer against Tigres, he proved to be constant thorn in the host’s side. The 28-year-old was constantly moving and stretching the defense, always making himself available for the ball, taking three shots and completing 73% of his passes.
Kellyn Acosta, FC Dallas (v Arabe Unido): Acosta was the only player in the first leg of the quarterfinals to score multiple goals, and he did it despite playing a holding midfield role. He became the third FC Dallas player to score multiple SCCL goals in his career, only a few minutes later before Michael Barrios became the fourth with the final goal of a 4-0 win.
TOP TEAM PERFORMANCE
FC Dallas (v Arabe Unido): Even with Acosta’s individual brilliance, Dallas’ dominance over Arabe Unido could not be ignored. FCD controlled the match throughout and outshot the Expreso Azul, 11-2. That was no small feat, as Arabe Unido had won three straight away from home in SCCL play, including a victory over Monterrey in last year’s group stage
ONE LAST THING
If Saprissa and Vancouver progress to the semifinals, it would mean four different semifinalists from four different countries. It would be the first time that has ever happened in the SCCL, though clubs from three different nations have made the semis on multiple occasions.