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CCL 2018

CCL Finals opens tonight plus a look back at MLS Week 7

All eyes are in Ontario where Toronto FC will open the final of the CONCACAF Champions League against Chivas de Guadalajara. Here is ASN's preview along with a look at some other topics across MLS
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
April 17, 2018
7:00 AM
THE SEVENTH WEEK of the MLS season is in the books with a terrific regular season game between NYCFC and Atlanta while the soccer in the Western Conference, as a whole, continues to lag. But tonight is the big game

Here are my takeaways from the weekend that was in MLS as well as a look ahead to tonight

Toronto vs. Chivas, Leg 1

Tonight, Toronto will host Chivas de Guadalajara in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final. Expect the conditions to make for a poorly played game. As expected in Canada, it is going to be cold and the field is going to be a rough shape.

Normally that would tend to favor an MLS team in a game against Liga MX. But unlike most times that happens, Toronto is probably the more skilled and better overall team. Bad conditions typically serve as an equalizer in mismatched teams so Toronto doesn’t really stand too much to benefit.

What is remarkable about Toronto’s run to the final is that the team has not been at full strength for most of it. That could change for tonight as most of the injured players should be ready. Defender Chris Mavinga and left back Justin Morrow missed the finale against Club America but will be ready. Forward Jozy Altidore left last week’s game in the opening minutes with an ankle injury but should also be ready to go. The same for defender Gregory van der Wiel.

The mystery right now is surrounding Spanish playmaker Victor Vazquez. As one of the better playmakers in the league, he was still not training with the first team yesterday but could be a game-time decision or an option off the bench.

NYCFC - Atlanta: great early-season entertainment

On Sunday, NYCFC and Atlanta played to a highly entertaining 2-2 draw in front of a huge crowd of 45,000 at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The only flaw in this game is that it was played on artificial grass. Despite that, there was some great individual quality and impressive moments. It marked the debut of Argentine playmaker Ezequiel Barco and featured an amazing goalzo from New York’s Finish midfielder Alexander Ring.

When watching the Champions League runs of the recently eliminated New York Red Bulls and the current Toronto FC and combine it with this game, you see the two faces of MLS.

New York City is heavily foreign and minutes for domestic field players is exceptionally hard to come by. Atlanta has more Americans but mostly in defensive positions. The spotlight on that team is on the high-priced South American attackers.

Toronto and New York Red Bulls represent a different approach. While there are noteworthy designated players in Sebastian Giovinco and now Kaku Gamarra, the backbone of both teams is far more American or Canadian.

It is interesting to see how the teams are evolving on different paths and it will be interesting to see which paths other teams follow.

NYCFC Stadium design?

NYCFC has been homeless since joining the league and the club has also been the butt of many jokes for having to play its games at Yankee Stadium – often at inconvenient times around the Yankees’ schedule. Last year it had to play in Hartford due to baseball conflicts.

There are always rumors about a new stadium but here is the latest. Regardless of how you feel about the team, having this stadium would be incredible for the league.

Jacori Hayes emerging as a breakout player

The American in MLS most enjoying a breakout season so far is FC Dallas midfielder Jacori Hayes who struggled for playing time in his rookie season in 2017 but has played very good soccer so far to start 2018.

Hayes, 22, has been a lynchpin in the Dallas midfield and scored his first goal on Saturday in a 1-0 road win over New England.

Born in Maryland and a graduate of Wake Forest, Hayes is certainly a player to watch this year.

Red Bulls rising

Despite its frustrating elimination from the CONCACAF Champions League despite outplaying Chivas de Guadalajara, the Red Bulls have every reason to be optimistic for the remainder of 2018. On Saturday, Jesse Marsch’s team easily dispatched Montreal 3-1 in a game where the scoreline flattered Montreal.

The story of the game was Kaku Gamarra who looked terrific. It was frustrating for Red Bulls fans to watch because the $6 million designated player hardly played in the Champions League loss to Chivas because Marsch alluded to the fact he was not fully integrated into the team. Four days later, he was one of the best players in the league for the weekend.

But the Red Bulls continued to shined with a nice blend of its USL promoted players, its homegrown players, and its designated players.

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