The Concachampions is made headlines a couple of days ago for all the wrong reasons, as Bill pointed out. The level of refereeing (which includes American refs, BTW) in the region is deplorable. No one denies that. Sometimes, games make headlines for all the right reasons. There were two such games last night.
Real Salt Lake played in their first ever official match on foreign soil, and came within minutes of making history. They were leading Cruz Azul at the waterlogged Estadio Azul 3-1 with fifteen minutes left to play. Waterlogged is being nice. The field looked like a Bay City rice patty.
The twitter and the message boards were on fire. Was this finally going to be the game that an MLS squad gets that elusive first victory in Mexico? Would this be another black mark on Enrique Meza’s otherwise stellar coaching career?
Cue the Pork Chop.
Javier “el Chuletita” Orozco finally cracked the starting line-up for Cruz Azul this year and has responded by scoring 4 goals so far in the league. He matched that total last night with one goal early in the first half, and then a second half hat trick in 15 minutes to give Cruz Azul an improbable 4-3 lead. His tally last night makes him the leading goal scorer in Concachampions history, with 20 goals.
But even Orozco’s goals weren’t enough. Cruz Azul’s Horacio Cervantes, who earlier had been called for a penalty and left a back pass in no man’s land, had an ignominious hat trick of his own as he failed to clear a seemingly innocuous pass. Will Johnson scooped up the goodies and fired what should have been a very late equalizer. 4-4.
But there was still one more salvo, and it was Chaco Gimenez who latched on to a rebound of his own to give Cruz Azul the improbable 5-4 victory. The most goals scored in a match in the most recent incarnation of the tournament.
Orozco found out at halftime that he had been called up to the National team for the upcoming slate of friendlies vs. Ecuador and Colombia. What a great way to trumpet your arrival. Mexico can have the little pea and the little pork chop front line.
Up in Seattle, there was a strange, yet refreshing sight at a Concachampions game.
Sounders fans put in their best effort to help their neon-clad warriors to a victory in their first ever official International match. The festive atmosphere was not enough, though. Monterrey got two good goals and an excellent performance from their goalkeeper, Jonathan Orozco (who just might be Mexico’s best keeper) for the 2-0 win.
Aldo de Nigris, who had off-season ankle surgery, has made remarkable progress since said ankle put a premature end to his season (and his world cup dream) in the spring. Monterrey’s Victor Manuel Vucetich underestimated his Libertoadores opponents and paid the price with a group stage exit earlier this year. In that tournament, he fielded mainly reserves. He appears to be making amends as Monterrey has fielded strong line-ups in both of their Concachampions games – and got wins in both.
There are some fans that think that the Concachampions is radioactive, and MLS and MFL teams should stay as far away from it as possible. That might be a bit of a harsh reaction. The only way the region gets better is through competitions like this. The teams, the players, and the refs will all benefit eventually. This is only the third year of the tournament. Let’s give it some time before we throw it off the cliff.