Wednesday, February 24, 2016

It Happened in North America: DC United fall in Mexico, Seattle concedes twice in draw with America

Queretaro 2-0 DC United
The battle of MLS versus Liga MX began in Queretaro, Mexico, where DC united looked to grab a crucial away goal before heading back to our nation's capital. The first half produced no goals, but a few nice chances for both sides. Queretaro held a 60-40 possession advantage, but DC was able to match them with nine shots in the opening frame, including one that found the woodwork.

The second half slowed to a crawl with the fatigue from the altitude and the first competitive game of the season clearly affecting DC United. They did, however have a couple of nice chances around the hour mark. Taylor Kemp almost casually curled one into the top corner, but found the crossbar. Fabian Espindola almost buried a long throw twice in the 68th minute, but was denied both times. DC was starting to look the better team, but Queretaro would find themselves on the board just after the 70 minute mark. A well placed blast by Yerson Candelo from just outside the top of the penalty area left Andrew Dykstra helpless in goal and DC fans upset back in the States. More disaster struck against a tired United back line when a well placed pass floated to Edgar Benitez, who was alone on Dykstra for the easy second goal. That was all she wrote. United never really got another great chance to score. It's a shame their good opportunities early in the second half bore no fruit.

The first goal was likely something DC United could manage in the second leg. Being down a goal heading into home is nothing that couldn't be overcome. The second goal made next Tuesday's match at RFK Stadium much more difficult.

Seattle Sounders 2-2 Club America
The Sounders have little hope of beating Club America over two legs. A multiple goal win combined with a clean sheet would make next week's trip to Estadio Azteca a little easier, and neither one of those things came true.

Jordan Morris made his professional debut on a very big stage against the defending CONCACAF Champions. In the beginning, it looked like Seattle would be the better team throughout. No moment showed this better than Morris coming within inches of his first professional goal less than 15 minutes into his career. His header was cleared off the line by an outstretched Hugo Gonzalez in goal. As the first half progressed, America slowly started to gain more and more of the ball and earn more and more solid chances. Clint Dempsey broke the America spell with a gorgeous free kick goal in the 44th minute, but Seattle couldn't get used to the lead. Darwin Quintero got behind the high Seattle line on a long pass just a minute later to equalize for America heading into the break.

Club America looked like they were going to slow things down at the start of the second half. As they started to do jsut that, Seattle got a second goal thanks to a corner. Dempsey rose his head to a 52nd minute set piece to earn his brace and give Seattle the lead again. They were able to hold onto it for more than a few second this time although that's not to say America wasn't trying. Within five minutes of the goal, Oribe Peralta had two great chances. One was user error as he flopped a shot well wide and the other was a great save from Stefan Frei. Perlata was able to make good on those chances in the 70th minute. He headed home a looping pass over the Seattle back line to level the score once again. They were not done attacking, although that would be the last goal. They were increasingly making Seattle look like they had wilted away over the course of the 90 minutes.

America will certainly take this as a victory. Two away goals in a draw should be more than enough to push them through in the home leg. America got progressively stronger and more capable of both poking through the Seattle defense and suppressing their attack as this match got later. Some good home cooking combined with the violent atmosphere in Mexico City should be enough for them to move along. Seattle's best hope will be for a 1-0 smash and grab win, but I think it will be mighty difficult for them to keep this Club America side off the scoreboard for 90 minutes, let alone finding a goal of their own.

We saw a theme over both of these matches. The MLS sides looked pretty strong early on, but waned as the game progressed. They also allowed goals on silly defensive communication mistakes. This was no doubt a result of MLS being in their preseason and Liga MX being right in the middle of theirs. Surely, Club America are a more talented side than Seattle, but the goals in their match could have been prevented with some more organized defensive play. The same can be said for DC United and Queretaro. United also had the misfortune of being quite unlucky with some of their strong chances.

Regardless of the reasoning, both of these MLS sides are in deep trouble in next week's second legs.

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