The moment of truth has arrived for the LA Galaxy, San Jose Earthquakes and Sporting Kansas City: The second and decisive legs of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal clashes with Mexican heavyweights Club Tijuana, Toluca and Cruz Azul, respectively. Catch up on all the news and updates from these three matchups below.
XOLOS PREPARE LA AMBUSH: This week's matches kick off on Tuesday night with Club Tijuana vs. LA Galaxy, the series that probably burns the hottest due to the clubs' close proximity and shared pursuit of Southern California youth talent (10 pm ET, Fox Sports 2/Galavision).
And no one has done more to add spice to this contest than Herculez Gomez, the former Galaxy striker who now leads Tijuana's large US contingent. Herc has served up some choice quotes this month and he did so again on Monday, reports MLSsoccer.com's Scott French:
“We can be very unpredictable, and that's a very dangerous fighter to face,” said Gomez, who has made MLS teams his personal punching bag over a long history of CCL success. “The good thing about a fight, it just takes one punch. And we're one of those teams, we have some punch.”
In case you missed it, Gomez also took to Twitter a few days ago to aim a dig at Galaxy fans after LA's first-leg home win at StubHub Center:
Love LAG and all, but never said anything that wasn’t accurate. Mid week games weren’t a prob for Seattle nor TFC.— herculez gomez (@herculezg) March 15, 2014
Just wish more of you would have showed up to support your team. Regardless, still lots to play for -for both teams.— herculez gomez (@herculezg) March 15, 2014
His fellow Yank Joe Corona also chimed in with a reminder about Tijuana's dominant home form at Estadio Caliente over the past two years, while Greg Garza chatted with the ExtraTime Radio crew about why and how his Xolos will triumph in this border battle.
For their part, LA are prepared to weather a flurry of early pressure from their hosts, then venture forward in search of a crucial road goal. Notably, coach Bruce Arena claims the artificial turf at Estadio Caliente is not all that bad compared to its US counterparts.
SPORTING HEAD SOUTH: Sporting Kansas City are en route to Mexico City for Wednesday's decisive showdown with Cruz Azul (10 pm ET, FOX Sports 2/Galavision), who defeated Tijuana 2-1 in their reserve-heavy Liga MX meeting over the weekend.
On Monday SportingKC.com broke down the numbers behind this matchup, including a glance at Cruz Azul's dominant home record during the CCL group stage. Ominously for SKC, Goal.com notes, La Máquina's star striker Marco Fabián scored both goals, putting him in good form heading into the second leg at Estadio Azul.
Then again, something similar might also be said for KC defender Aurélien Collin, who scored for his team in Saturday's 1-1 home draw with FC Dallas en route to a place in the MLS Team of the Week.
SKC rested a few important starters, including linchpin midfielder Graham Zusi, over the weekend and the team looks fresh and sharp, if this video clip from training is any indication:
Preliminary diagnosis for Jason Hernandez, per @SJEarthquakes spokesman: Left quad strain. No info on availability for Wednesday in Toluca.— Geoff Lepper (@quakesbeat) March 16, 2014
Mark Watson said it was "unlikely" Stewart or Goodson would be available Wednesday in Toluca. Stewart agreed, but Goodson was more hopeful.— Geoff Lepper (@quakesbeat) March 16, 2014
Brandon Barklage put his chances of returning vs. Toluca at "50/50." No further word on Jason Hernandez.— Geoff Lepper (@quakesbeat) March 16, 2014