Two MLS clubs remain in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League as the competition advances to the semifinals. FC Dallas and the Vancouver Whitecaps will both attempt to become the first MLS club in history to win the competition.
FC Dallas advanced after beating Panamanian side Arabe Unido 5-2 on aggregate. They dominated the first leg with a 4-0 win at home and were able to use the second leg as a pre-season game which they lost 2-1 away. FC Dallas will play the first leg of the semifinal on Wednesday, March 15, in Dallas, against Mexican powerhouse Pachuca. This matchup will be a tough test for the Hoops, especially as the amount of games played increases and squad rotation becomes more and more important.
If the second leg against Arabe Unido is any indication of how FC Dallas will fair this year, then work defending set-pieces will need to be done before their semifinal matchup. Dallas gave up two goals in stoppage time to headers off a free-kick and a corner. If they want to succeed in the next round, they’ll have to stop bleeding goals off of set-pieces. The second leg will take place at Pachuca on April 4.
The Vancouver Whitecaps played host to the New York Red Bulls for the second leg of their quarterfinal matchup and were able to pull out a convincing 2-0 victory to advance 3-1 on aggregate. Vancouver will travel to Tigres UANL (Mexico) on March 14 to begin their semifinal series. Vancouver looked good in their second leg quarterfinal win, with Fredy Montero coming in off the bench to score in his debut. They will have to stay strong as they face the same uphill battle of a new season that FC Dallas faces and a Tigres team that lost in the Championship in 2016.
FC Dallas and Vancouver qualified as the sixth and seventh teams in MLS history to reach the semifinal stage of the Champions League, and will attempt to cause the first all-MLS championship in history.
Tigres UANL comes off a strong quarterfinal performance as they beat Mexican colleagues Pumas UNAM 4-1 on aggregate and 3-0 in the second leg. They will be trying to gain success in some form as they currently sit in 15th position in the Clausura Liga MX with only two wins in eight games.
Pachuca also found their stride in the second-leg against Costa Rican side Saprissa in their 4-0 win that secured their place in the semifinal. Pachuca sits in first position in Liga MX and will look to continue their success against FC Dallas.
With the MLS season just starting, and Clausura Liga MX play well underway, it is no-wonder why we have never seen an MLS team win the CONCACAF Champions League. While MLS teams are working players into their lineup, dealing with new signings and team chemistry, Mexican teams have been able to settle in to squad rotations and are already turning toward mid-season form. Winning will prove to be a tough task for the MLS, but if it happens the league will surely gain some much needed respect.