For soccer fans in America, the time has finally arrived. MLS is set to kick off the 2021 season this weekend with a full slate of games. While 27 MLS clubs have wrapped up their preseason in preparation for the start of the season, five MLS sides have been taking part in the Concacaf Champions League. Atlanta United, Columbus Crew, Philadelphia Union, Portland Timbers and Toronto FC are all representing MLS in the regional tournament.
Both Atlanta United and Portland Timbers have advanced into the quarterfinal stage, where they are awaiting their opponents. The Five Stripes advanced past Costa Rican side Alajuelense via a 2-0 aggregate over two games. The first leg saw Atlanta’s designated player Ezequiel Barco convert from the spot to give Atlanta a crucial 1-0 road victory. The return leg saw Jürgen Damm score in extra time to seal the quarterfinal spot for Atlanta United. Honduran club Marathón gave the Portland Timbers all they could handle in the first leg at Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano in San Pedro Sula. Twice the Timbers had the lead with goals from Felipe Mora and Denovan Torres before Marathón evened the game just minutes after conceding. The second leg at Providence Park saw Portland dominate Marathón, easily booking its spot in the quarterfinals. Yimmi Chará netted a hat-trick, and that along with goals from Diego Valeri and Marvin Loría sealed the victory for Portland. Powerful Mexican side Cruz Azul is the only other club to move on to the quarterfinals.
Last year’s Supporter’s Shield winners, the Philadelphia Union, carry a 1-0 first-leg aggregate lead over Costa Rican powerhouse Saprissa. The away victory for the Union puts them in a great spot to advance as they play host in the second leg. Defending MLS Cup Champions Columbus Crew are in the best position to advance as they dominated Real Esteli of Nicaragua with a 4-0 victory on the road. The Crew return to Historic Crew Stadium for the second leg matchup. The other MLS side, Toronto FC, is in the premier matchup of this round, as it is tied 1-1 with Mexican side Club Leon. With border crossing into Canada still difficult due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Toronto will be hosting the second leg at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, Florida.
The Concacaf Champions League could prove vital for these clubs as they will enter the 2021 MLS season playing very competitive matches.
Below is the schedule for MLS clubs in action this week.
Upcoming schedule (Subject to Change)
Toronto FC vs. Club Leon (MEX) – 6 p.m. (FS1)
Philadelphia Union vs. Saprissa (CRC) – 8 p.m. (FS1)
Columbus Crew vs. Real Esteli (NIC) – 8 p.m. (FS1)
Houston Dynamo vs. San Jose Quakes – 8 p.m.
Seattle Sounders vs. Minnesota United – 9:30 p.m. (FS1)
Montreal vs. Toronto – 2 p.m.
Orlando City vs. Atlanta United – 3 p.m.
Los Angeles FC vs. Austin FC – 6 p.m. (FOX)
DC United vs. New York City FC – 8 p.m.
FC Dallas vs. Colorado Rapids – 8 p.m.
New York Red Bulls vs. Sporting Kansas City – 8 p.m.
Chicago Fire vs. New England Revolution – 8:30 p.m.
Nashville SC vs. FC Cincinnati – 8:30 p.m.
Inter Miami vs. LA Galaxy – 3 p.m. (ABC)
Columbus Crew vs. Philadelphia Union – 5:30 p.m. (FS1)
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Portland Timbers – 10 p.m.
As always, stay tuned to Cincinnati Soccer Talk as we take a look at the upcoming matches for FC Cincinnati as it heads into the 2021 season.