Atlanta United dealt a major blow to the ego of Liga MX. Last Wednesday, Atlanta United added another piece of silverware to its trophy case after knocking off Mexican champions Club America to win the Campeones Cup. In front of 40,128 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the Five Stripes used a big second half to stun the Apertura and Clausura champions. Emerson Hyndman got the party started early, scoring a beautiful goal just five minutes into the match. Club America had a few chances after conceding but tied it up just eight minutes later. It took just 12 minutes for Club America to take the lead, through Roger Martinez, in the second half. Two minutes later, 36 year-old Jeff Larentowicz leveled the match through a brilliant strike that took a deflection past Oscar Jimenez. Jimenez was victimized again, via a Josef Martinez penalty in the 65th minute. Jimenez denied Martinez in the first half but was unable to deny the MLS record goalscorer the second time.
The Campeones Cup exceeded expectations and was a truly fantastic display of soccer, as nobody was expecting either club to take this game seriously. A championship celebration did not hamper Atlanta United in its mission to climb to the top of the Eastern Conference. The Five Stripes headed to the Pacific Northwest to face a tough Portland Timbers side looking to move up in the West. Atlanta United wasted little time in getting on the scoresheet. Just 14 minutes in, Leandro Gonzalez Perez got the defending MLS Cup Champions rolling. Josef Martinez doubled the lead with a beautiful curling strike a mere 45 seconds into the second half. The goal was the 21st on the season for Martinez, who is just three goals shy of league leader Carlos Vela.
Speaking of Vela, the leading MLS MVP candidate scored once again to lead Los Angeles FC to a big road victory over Real Salt Lake. The victory gave LAFC 58 points and the distinction of the first MLS club to clinch a playoff birth this season. LAFC has run away with the league and most likely the Supporter’s Shield. Vela also added another MLS record to his resume, the most combined goals and assists in a single MLS season, surpassing the previous mark set by Sebastian Giovinco. Vela, who has a combined total of 39, is one ahead of Giovinco’s previous record and will certainly add to that total.
The other club across town, LA Galaxy, had a pretty successful week 24, thanks to Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Ibrahimovic scored a brace in each of the Galaxy’s two matches this week, helping them secure four out of a possible six points. Ibrahimovic’s performance earned him MLS Player of the Week honors. Cristian Pavon made a mark on his team assisting on Ibrahimovic’s opening goal against FC Dallas. Ibrahimovic later put the match away from the penalty spot in the 82nd minute.
The Canadian Championship semifinals wrapped up this week, and both MLS sides advanced through to the final. Toronto FC had very little issue in dispatching the Ottawa Fury in the battle of Ontario. The Canadian Cup Final is a familiar spot for Toronto FC, and Nick DeLeon made sure that would be the case this season. DeLeon scored a brace and added an assist in Toronto’s 3-0 victory in the second leg. The Montreal Impact knocked off Calvary FC 1-0 in the second leg to advance to the final, with a 3-1 aggregate.
Below is the schedule for MLS clubs in action for this years edition of Heineken Rivalry Week.
Club America vs. Tigres UANL – 8:30 p.m. (Leagues Cup)(ESPN2)
Cruz Azul vs. LA Galaxy – 10:30 p.m. (Leagues Cup)(ESPN2)
New York City FC vs. Columbus Crew – 7 p.m.
D.C. United vs. New York Red Bulls – 8 p.m.
Los Angeles FC vs. San Jose Quakes – 10:30 p.m.
Sporting Kansas City vs. Minnesota United – 9:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Orlando City SC vs. Atlanta United – 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders – 10 p.m. (ESPN)
New York City FC vs. New York Red Bulls – 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
New England Revolution vs. Chicago Fire – 7:30 p.m.
Philadelphia Union vs. D.C. United – 7:30 p.m.
Toronto FC vs. Montreal Impact – 7:30 p.m.
Real Salt Lake vs. Colorado Rapids – 10 p.m.
San Jose Quakes vs. Vancouver Whitecaps – 10 p.m.
FC Cincinnati vs. Columbus Crew – 6 p.m. (FS1)
FC Dallas vs. Houston Dynamo – 8 p.m. (FS1)
Los Angeles FC vs. LA Galaxy – 10:30 p.m. (FS1)
As always, stay tuned to Cincinnati Soccer Talk for all things FC Cincinnati when the Orange and Blue face Columbus Crew in the second MLS edition of the Hell is Real derby at Nippert Stadium on Sunday night.