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CCL Preview: LAFC, NYCFC headline MLS sides opening play in quarterfinals

Four MLS teams advanced to the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals, but will need to step up their game if they want to keep their title dreams alive.

Atlanta United, LAFC, Montreal Impact, and NYCFC all booked their spots in the next round of the competition after earning different results in last week’s Round of 16 second legs. NYCFC and Atlanta United walked away with the highest aggregate scoreline among MLS teams and will both face stiff competition from Liga MX opponents in the next round.

Frank de Boer’s Five Stripes got the toughest draw remaining with Club America set to line up against the 2019 U.S. Open Cup winners. Josef Martinez’s ACL injury over the weekend leaves the Five Stripes with a major hole offensively heading into this showdown.

NYCFC will also face Mexican opposition with Tigres visiting the Eastern Conference side this week. Ronny Deila’s side brushed aside San Carlos, but will need a strong showing after suffering their second defeat under the Scotsman this past weekend.

LAFC will take on Cruz Azul in the third MLS-Liga MX quarterfinal tie this round. Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi were sensational in a second leg win over Club Leon and will need more of the same against a stubborn Cruz Azul side.

The Montreal Impact round out the MLS contingent remaining in the competition after holding off Deportivo Saprissa in the Round of 16. Olimpia comes in full of confidence after eliminating the Seattle Sounders on penalty kicks in a dramatic second leg in Seattle.

Here’s a closer look at the matchups facing the five MLS teams in their quarterfinal first legs:

Montreal Impact vs. Olimpia

(Tuesday, 8 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1, TUDN)

Thierry Henry’s picked up his first draw as Montreal Impact head coach on Saturday, but will now turn his focus back on the Concacaf Champions League this week.

Maxi Urruti is coming off a brace over the weekend in a road draw at FC Dallas, and could cause problems for Olimpia, who struggled with the likes of Seattle’s Jordan Morris in the Round of 16.

Jukka Raitala’s injury means Rod Fanni, Luis Binks, and Joel Waterman all could start in a back three for the Impact this week. Joining Urruti in attack will likely be Romell Quioto and Bojan Krkic, who started on Saturday.

Olimpia are unbeaten in their last three games since eliminating Seattle in the CCL and will rely on striker Justin Arboleda has scored twice in this competition so far.

NYCFC vs. Tigres

(Wednesday, 8 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 2)

Ronny Deila’s side brushed aside San Carlos in the Round of 16, but will have their hands full against Liga MX heavyweights Tigres on Wednesday.

Red Bull Arena will play host to the first leg between these two sides, who come in off different results in league play this past weekend.

NYCFC suffered their second loss under Deila in a 1-0 league loss to Toronto FC this weekend with Brazilian striker Heber proving ineffective in league play. The Brazilian has yet to register a shot on goal in two league games, despite having a hat trick under his belt in CCL play.

Heber will be the focal point of the offense for NYCFC, but midfielders James Sands and Alex Ring will also be important in trying to keep track of Tigres’ playmakers.

Tigres needed a late winner from goalkeeper Nahuel Guzman to eliminate Alianza and has since posted two clean sheets, A 3-0 victory over Pumas in Liga MX action saw striker Andre-Pierre Gignac score a hat trick and extend his total to five goals in his last two appearances. Friday’s scoreless draw saw the team rest several starters for their trip to Harrison.

Javier Aquino and Enner Valencia will also be key for Tigres, using their creativity to link up with Gignac.

Club America vs. Atlanta United

(Wednesday, 10:30 p.m. ET, FS2)

Estadio Azteca will play host to the second-ever meeting between Club America and Atlanta United on Wednesday.

Atlanta United made it two victories from two in MLS play despite starting life without star striker Josef Martinez. Emerson Hyndman and Ezequiel Barco have scored in both league wins while Pity Martinez will look to set up his teammates.

Club America tied Pumas 3-3 in Liga MX play on Friday and will look to exact revenge on the Five Stripes after losing to the MLS club in the 2019 Campeones Cup Final. Longtime El Tri goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa headlines the notable names on Club America’s roster while Andres Ibarguen and Federico Vines lead the attack with four combined goals.

LAFC vs. Cruz Azul

(Thursday, 10:30 p.m. ET, FS2)

Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi propelled LAFC to a first-ever appearance in the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals and will look to help the club defy the odds once again.

Bob Bradley’s side are coming in off a draining 3-3 home draw with the Philadelphia Union on Sunday night. Vela and Rossi both got on the scoresheets, but LAFC was tested to then fullest by the Union.

Mark-Anthony Kaye will seek a bounce back performance after being poor in possession against the Union.

The Liga MX side comes in on a seven-match winning run in all competitions, including a 4-2 home win over Club Tijuana on Saturday. Jonathan Rodriguez, Orbelin Pineda, and Elias Hernandez have all scored during this winning run and all pose different traits for the Cruz Azul attack.


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