MLS teams struggle in CONCACAF Champions League exits

Miami (AFP) – Montreal Impact and New York City FC were dumped out of the CONCACAF Champions League quarter-finals on Tuesday in a blow to Major League Soccer’s hopes of ending a 20-year wait for victory in the competition.

New York’s campaign was snuffed out in clinical fashion by Mexican side Tigres UANL, who are aiming to finally land the continental crown after three losing final appearances in 2016, 2017 and 2019.

Tigres, runners-up to Monterrey last season, cruised to a 4-0 victory, 5-0 on aggregate, after goals from French striker Andre-Pierre Gignac, Leonardo Fernandez, Rafael Carioca and Javier Aquino.

Gignac fired Tigres into the lead with a superb header in the 30th minute before Uruguayan midfielder Fernandez added a second with a cheeky backheeled finish in the 49th minute.

Brazilian veteran Carioca then headed home Luis Quinones cross on 64 minutes before Aquino netted five minutes from time to complete the scoring on a grim night for New York, the MLS affiliate of Premier League giants Manchester City.

The rout marked a difficult few days for City, who had only arrived in Orlando earlier Tuesday after three players tested positive for Covid-19 in the past week.

The premier continental competition for clubs in North America, Central America and the Caribbean, the CONCACAF Champions League’s final stages are taking place at a neutral venue in Orlando, Florida, in order to mitigate risks of disruption from the coronavirus.

Tigres will now face Olimpia of Honduras in Saturday’s semi-finals. 

The Central American club were beaten 1-0 by Montreal in Tuesday’s early game but advanced on the away goals rule.

Olimpia had beaten Impact 2-1 during the first leg in Montreal in March before the pandemic brought sport in North America to a standstill.

Montreal, coached by former France, Barcelona and Arsenal star Thierry Henry, struggled to break down a resilient Olimpia side, who defended in depth for long periods.

The Canadian side were given a lifeline on 57 minutes, when German midfielder Amar Sejdic punished a poor clearance by Olimpia defender Carlos Pineda to curl home a low finish from the edge of the area.

But Henry’s side were unable to carve out clear chances after that as Olimpia held on to reach the last four.

Tuesday’s defeats for New York and Montreal lengthened the odds on an MLS team finally lifting the Champions League. The last MLS team to win the continental title crown was Los Angeles Galaxy in 2000.

With Atlanta United trailing 3-0 from the first leg heading into their second leg game against Mexico’s America on Wednesday, MLS’s last chance of ending the title drought is likely to rest with Los Angeles FC.

Los Angeles face Mexico’s Cruz Azul in Wednesday’s other quarter-final game.

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