The inaugural match of the Leagues Cup belonged to the Liga MX contender, as Cruz Azul cruised to a 2-0 win over a reserve-heavy Chicago Fire side at SeatGeek Stadium on Tuesday night.
Though the Fire could rarely break into the attack in the first half, they held fast against the Liga MX giants until the eve of halftime. That's when Mexican international Roberto Alvarado conjured up a flash of improvisational brilliance after a long throw into the Fire penalty box, scooping the ball over Chicago HomegrownAndre Reynolds II and flicking a nimble side volley past goalkeeper Richard Sanchez.
With Chicago coach Veljko Paunovic electing to rest several key starters ahead of a big MLS Eastern Conference clash vs. D.C. United at the weekend, their Mexican guests dominated possession for most of the night, though Fabian Herbers drew a diving parry from Jesus Corona with a daisy-cutter of a shot shortly after the break.
Elias Hernandez capped the victory with a 90th-minute strike on the counterattack, sending La Maquina on to the Leagues Cup semifinals.
- THE BIG PICTURE: Chicago need more than moral victories at this advanced stage of their frustrating season, though their reserves and youngsters can feel good about their showing vs. blue-chip opposition. As for Cruz Azul, their quality and cohesion was evident and they look eminently capable of making a run in this tournament.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Alvarado changed the game with his quick feet and daring spirit, conjuring a golazo out of almost nothing, and at an influential moment in the match to boot...
- MAN OF THE MATCH: We'll give ex-Orlando City midfielder Yoshi Yotun the nod, as the Peruvian was quietly effective in asserting Cruz Azul's control of the center of the park, and nearly found the net to boot.
- CHI: Saturday, July 27 vs. D.C. United - MLS (8 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US; DAZN in Canada)
- CAZ: Saturday, July 27 vs. Toluca - Liga MX (10 pm ET)