Tigres UANL vs. Vancouver Whitecaps | Champions League semifinals, 1st Leg

Tigres UANL vs. Vancouver Whitecaps - March 14, 2017 - DL image

Tigres UANL vs. Vancouver Whitecaps
2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League Semifinals, 1st Leg
Estadio Universitario – San Nicolas de los Garza, Mexico
Tuesday, March 13 – 10 pm ET
WATCH: TSN in Canada, Galavision in USA; Facebook Live

The Vancouver Whitecaps enter the lion’s den – or more accurately, the tigers’ den – on Tuesday night, hoping to survive an experience that has mauled many dozens of MLS teams over the years.

VWFC are visiting Tigres, one of Mexico’s highest-performing clubs in recent history, at their Estadio Universitario home, one of the most imposing venues in Liga MX, for the opening game of their home-and-away, goal-aggregate semifinal series in the CONCACAF Champions League. It’s no slight to call Vancouver the pronounced underdogs in this one.

Tigres’ star-studded squad will have to visit BC Place for the return leg on April 5. But job 1 for the Whitecaps is to keep things close enough this week to have a fighting chance back on home soil. The series winner advances to the CCL final, which will crown North America’s top club.

All-Time Series

This is the first meeting between the two clubs. Perhaps it’s worth noting here, however, that MLS sides are 2-42-8 all-time on Mexican soil.

Tigres UANL

Packed with star players like Andre-Pierre Gignac, Jurgen Damm, Ismael Sosa and Eduardo Vargas and led by wily veteran manager Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti, the Monterrey-based powerhouse has achieved a great deal lately, starting with the 2015 and 2016 Liga MX Apertura titles as well as runners-up finishes in last year’s CCL and the 2015 Copa Libertadores.

This season they’ve experienced a bit of a championship hangover from their delirious Christmastime triumph over Club America in the “Gran Final,” stumbling out to a sub-.500 record in Liga MX Clausura play thus far. But they seem to have righted the ship in recent weeks, including a 4-1 aggregate dispatching of Pumas UNAM in the CCL quarterfinals, and just got the unexpected benefit of a weekend’s rest due to the referees’ strike in Mexico.

  • Suspended: N/A
  • Int’l Duty: N/A
  • Injury Report: MF Javier Aquino (left hamstring), Israel Jimenez (ACL tear), Luis Martinez (ACL tear)

Projected starting XI (4-4-1-1): Nahuel Guzman — Luis Advincula, Hugo Ayala, Juninho, Jorge Torres Nilo — Damian Alvarez, Jesus Duenas, Guido Pizarro, Jurgen Damm — Eduardo Vargas — Andre-Pierre Gignac

Notes: Tuca Ferretti’s methodical, possession-heavy approach can also be executed via a 4-2-3-1 shape, but with the home fans at “El Volcan” (“The Volcano”) likely to provide noisy support as their team nears yet another trophy, he may be less conservative on Tuesday … Javier Aquino is nearing a return from a hamstring problem and could see minutes in this series … Andre-Pierre Gignac has been arguably Liga MX’s brightest star over the past year and will be the chief danger for Vancouver.

Vancouver Whitecaps

The ‘Caps have sustained two mediocre results over the first two weeks of league play: They were held to a 0-0 draw at home vs. Philadelphia on March 4 before losing 3-2 at San Jose on Saturday, a game that featured an early 2-0 lead for the visitors as well as a costly red card for goalkeeper David Ousted.

But CCL is another story, and head coach Carl Robinson will surely play up the David-and-Goliath nature of this semifinal matchup to motivate his troops.

“The game is not won over one leg,” he told reporters. “It certainly can be lost. We know that. But we’re in the mix and we’ve got a chance at winning it. We need to play to our maximums and perform at our levels. Maybe if they don’t, then we’ve got a chance.”

  • Suspended: MF Russell Teibert (caution accumulation), MF Mauro Rosales (cup-tied via CCL appearances with FC Dallas last year)
  • Int’l Duty: None
  • Injury Report: MF Christian Bolaños (right knee patellar tendonitis), DF David Edgar (right knee PCL, MCL and meniscus), D Brett Levis (ACL tear), FW Yordy Reyna (left foot metatarsal fracture on Feb. 15 and surgery Feb. 21)

Projected starting XI (4-2-3-1): David Ousted — Jake Nerwinski, Kendall Waston, Tim Parker, Jordan Harvey — Matias Laba, Andrew Jacobson — Alphonso Davies, Kekuta Manneh, Brek Shea  — Fredy Montero

Notes: Robinson started two markedly different lineups over the first two weeks of MLS play, with many of his usual regulars rested at San Jose with an eye towards the Tigres trip … Teenage phenom Alphonso Davies sat out the weekend match and seems likely to start on Tuesday despite his tender age … Vancouver fielded new acquisition Brek Shea in an unorthodox lone striker role in their CCL quarterfinal second-leg win over the New York Red Bulls; showcase frontrunner Fredy Montero has yet to start for the Whitecaps but may be given that opportunity against Tigres.