Greg_vanney_-_asn_top_-_isi_-_toronto_2017_-_michael_janosz Michael Janosz/ISI
MLS notebook

CCL semifinal preview and DC United's big sale

Will two MLS teams seize an opportunity to end the league's Champions League futility? It is going to be very difficult but both teams have a chance, and that is more that could be said in recent years. Also, DC United could be welcomig a new ownership group who sees big potential
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
April 10, 2018
8:00 AM
THE CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE resumes tonight and two MLS teams have a fighting chance to go through to the final.

What’s at stake? A lot. MLS teams have proven this year that the top teams can compete with Liga MX. But with MLS never having won the tournament, it is a huge black-eye on the league. So it is now up to the Red Bulls and Toronto to help reverse the trends.

An all-MLS final is possible, though unlikely. Should it happen, tonight would be the greatest night in the history of the league. If both Toronto and Red Bulls fail tonight, the disappointment for the league will continue.

Red Bulls needing goals

The MLS team with the harder path towards the final tonight is the Red Bulls. After losing the first leg 1-0 in Guadalajara, Jesse Marsch’s team has suspensions to Alex Muyl and Aurélien Collin.

The problem for the Red Bulls is that they will need to score goals and keep a clean sheet. The fact that the team did not manage an away goal in Mexico means that a Chivas goal in New Jersey could be catastrophic. One Chivas goal will mean the Red Bulls will need at least three to advance.

Marsch has been opting with three central defenders but without Collin, can he do the same? Aaron Long and Tim Parker a two good above average central defenders but will Marsch feel compelled to continue with a third. The benefit towards with three central defenders is that it allows the fullbacks in Michael Murillo and Kemar Lawrence to push forward with more freedom.

On the other hand, a traditional four-man backline could yield its benefits. If Marsch wants to press Chivas, a five-man midfield will give him more players up the field.

The other remaining question is Kaku. The Red Bull’s designated player has only been with the team for a month. Is he fully integrated enough and fit enough to start. He would give the Red Bulls a significant offensive boost if he is ready to go.

The most important player tonight for the Red Bulls, however, will be Bradley Wright-Phillips. As one of the greatest target forward to have ever played in MLS, he will need to be clinical. He had a chance in Mexico but did not convert. Even when the Red Bulls play poorly, Wright-Phillips tends to get his chances. If he does, he must capitalize.

The road ahead is tough for the Red Bulls, but it is possible. It could have been a better result in Mexico but the team did leave with a fighting chance. That is better than a lot of other teams have had after an opening leg South of the Border.

Toronto heading into Azteca

In the second game, Toronto FC heads into Mexico City trying to protect at 3-1 advantage against a very talented Club America. Club America has been pulling out all stops to ensure a big crowd will be at Azteca Stadium tonight to make life difficult for Toronto.

The good news for Toronto is that the club has been training all week at high altitude to prepare for the conditions at Azteca. The open question will be the status of regular starters Justin Morrow, Chris Mavinga, and Victor Vazquez who all missed the first leg. As of now, it appears Morrow will be ready and the other two will be game-day decisions.

The key for Toronto is to not concede an early goal and allow momentum to build. Toronto cannot bunker either as Club America will eventually break it down. We saw how Tigres was able to make a late push with two late goals in the second leg of the quarterfinal. All Club America needs is a 2-0 win and that is certainly within reach. Maintaining possession will be critical and if it can muster a chance for the opening goal, capitalizing can put the game out of reach early.

For Toronto, it will come down to their designated players. Can Michael Bradley, Sebastian Giovinco, and Jozy Altidore drag Toronto across the finish line of this series? All three players should have a huge chip on their shoulders to make a statement for the league. Toronto wants to be the best team in the history of the league and this game tonight will go a long way towards proving that.

DC United for sale

The Washington Post reported on Monday night the terms of the deal.

According to the report, part-owner Erick Thohir has agreed to sell his majority stake in D.C. United to partner Jason Levien.

But the most important aspect of this is the valuation for DC United’s stake to the incoming ownership group lead by Patrick Soon-Shiong. Valued at $500 million, the new group sees a huge opportunity with DC United – which will move into its new stadium this year.

This is all good news for DC United. As one of MLS’s founding teams, the club has struggled to keep pace with the new generation of teams that have come into the league with a big-spending aggressive approach. A group willing to spend that type of money into DC United is not going to tolerate the mediocre results in recent years.

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