The truth about Boca

April 30, 2010, 12:44 AM

By: Scott French

The Galaxy is making a big deal about its May 23 friendly against Argentina's Boca Juniors at the Home Depot Center, and well is should. The Buenos Aires club is among the giants of the global game, with 23 domestic titles and 18 "official" international championships, although only half of those -- six in the Copa Libertadores, South America's club championship, and three in the InterContinental Cup, the precursor to FIFA's Club World Cup -- really mean anything.

A lot of big names have worn the blue and gold, none bigger than Diego Maradona, who played for Boca early in his career, just before going to Europe, and at the finish, in the mid-1990s.

Los Xeneizes (the most prominent of the club's nicknames; our favorite: Los Bosteros, "the Manure Handlers") have one legitimate superstar, central midfielder Juan Roman Riquelme, whom Maradona has controversially left out of Argentina's national team the past year or so. (His presence could have been pivotal for the Argentines at the World Cup in South Africa; Maradona's presence, as manager, just might mean doom.)

What the Galaxy doesn't want you to know is that Boca Juniors is not very good. Not right now, at least.

Go back a few years, and the story's something else. Boca has won seven league titles since 1998, and four of its Copa Libertadores triumphs are since 2000, the most recent in 2007. It prevailed in perhaps the most thrilling championship race in Argentine history, beating Tigre and San Lorenzo in a three-way playoff after the clubs tied for first in the 2008 Apertura (fall) championship.

Since then, nothing. Boca finished 14th (with a 6-9-4 record) in the 2009 Clausura and 11th (7-6-6) in the 2009 Apertura, and right now it's 15th (of 20) in the 2010 Clausura, with a 4-7-5 record and three games to play. (At least it's ahead of hated rival River Plate, another big-name Buenos Aires club, which sits 17th with a 4-8-4 mark.)

Boca Juniors' name and jersey are cherished in the soccer world. What's filling those jerseys and wearing that name is nothing special these days.

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Arena has Champions League date

April 30, 2010, 12:16 AM

By: Scott French

Galaxy coach Bruce Arena will be an in-studio analyst for Fox Sports' coverage of the May 22 UEFA Champions League final in Madrid. Bayern Munich will take on Inter Milan in the European club final, the most significant club tournament on the planet, bigger, yes, than the Club World Cup the winner will qualify for.

Bruce Arena

Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

Galaxy coach Bruce Arena will offer his insights on the European Champions League final.

Arena, who has done a bit of studio work before, and who served as a color commentator on Kansas City Wizards broadcasts before he took charge of the Galaxy in August 2008, is certainly knowledgeable about the game -- he has won championships with the U.S. national team, which he guided at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, in MLS with D.C. United and collegiately at the University of Virginia -- but isn't the most fluid analyst on the TV screen.

We think his knowledge outweighs any deficiencies, and the pairing with former U.S. national team forward Eric Wynalda, who prepped at Westlake High School and lives in Ventura County, could provide some fireworks. Wynalda, one of the more gregarious guys in American soccer, came across as arrogant when he worked on MLS broadcasts for ESPN, but he has been a solid studio host since joining Fox Soccer Channel's team.

They'll join Curt Menefee, co-host of Fox's "NFL Sunday" show, for the pregame show. The broadcast is slated for 11:30 a.m.

Another local soccer figure -- German legend Juergen Klinsmann, who calls Huntington Beach home -- has joined ESPN's team for the World Cup.

Klinsmann, a star striker for clubs in Germany (VfB Stuttgart and Bayern Munich), Italy (Inter Milan and Sampdoria), England (Tottenham) and France (AS Monaco), played in the 1990 World Cup for winner West Germany and in the 1994 and 1998 World Cups for the reunited Germany. He coached the Germans to a third-place finish four years ago in Germany, then was at Bayern Munich, with Chivas USA coach Martin Vasquez and Chivas USA assistant coach Nick Theslof among his assistants.

Klinsmann, who is married to an American, has served as an adviser to the Galaxy and played a few games in 2003 with Premier Development League side Orange County Blue Star, under the pseudonym Jay Goppingen. Theslof, a former UCLA standout, was Blue Star's coach.

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Galaxy's Buddle is MLS Player of the Month

April 29, 2010, 5:14 PM

By: Scott French

Galaxy striker Edson Buddle's phenomental start to the Major League Soccer season has been recognized with the league's Player of the Month award.

The 28-year-old forward from New Rochelle, N.Y., scored seven goals -- all seven Galaxy goals -- in the first four games, all victories. L.A. was held goalless in a draw last weekend at Kansas City.

Buddle, who was MLS's Player of the Week two weeks ago, after scoring both goals in a 2-1 victory over Real Salt Lake, previously won the monthly honor in August 2002, when he played for the Columbus Crew.

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Chivas home for two SuperLiga matches

April 29, 2010, 12:38 AM

By: Scott French

Chivas USA knows where and when it will play in the fourth edition of the SuperLiga -- and one opponent seems clear, too.

Major League Soccer's annual get-together with Mexican clubs is slated for mid-July, and Chivas USA will stage home games Thursday, July 15, and Wednesday, July 21.

The groups and official schedule will be announced once the four Mexican entrants are known, following the upcoming Clausura playoffs, but the dates and sites announced Wednesday make it clear Chivas USA and the Houston Dynamo will be in one four-team group and the Chicago Fire and New England Revolution will be in the other.

Chivas' home games would be against the Mexican clubs in its group. The Goats would play at Houston in a doubleheader, the other game between the Mexican teams, on Sunday, July 18.

Semifinals and the final will be played in August, with dates and sites determined after group play.

MLS's entrants are the four clubs with the best 2009 regular-season records that are not playing in the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League. The Galaxy, Real Salt Lake, Columbus Crew and Seattle Sounders qualified for the next CONCACAF club championship.

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D.C. finally wins -- in U.S. Open Cup

April 29, 2010, 12:29 AM

By: Scott French

D.C. United, Major League Soccer's worst team, got its first win Wednesday night, beating FC Dallas, 4-2, in a U.S. Open Cup qualifier at RFK Stadium.

D.C. is off to an 0-4-0 start after drastically reducing its payroll in reaction to its difficulties in reaching a deal to build a stadium in the district or suburban Maryland. The club has released several top attacking players, including 2007 MLS MVP Luciano Emilio, and lost leadership when midfielder Ben Olsen was forced to retire.

Adam Cristman scored twice for D.C., which will face Real Salt Lake for a berth in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup, America's oldest soccer competition, dating to 1914. The Galaxy and Chivas USA qualified for the tournament with their regular-season finishes last year.

New York also advanced in qualifying, beating Philadelphia, 2-1, Tuesday as Conor Chinn scored two goals at Red Bull Arena. The Red Bulls will meet New England in a qualifying semifinal May 12 at Red Bull Arena, with the victor facing Colorado for a third-round berth.

French forward Sebastian Le Toux scored for Philadelphia, then had to exit because of a knee injury, preliminarily diagnosed as an MCL strain.

Toronto FC doesn't compete in the U.S. Open Cup, naturally, so it takes part annually in the Canadian Championship against the USSF Division 2's Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact. The Reds opened the double-round-robin event with a 2-0 win Wednesday over Montreal as Dwayne De Rosario scored one goal and set up another.

The Whitecaps are set to join MLS next season, and Montreal is the frontrunner to become MLS's 19th club.

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Pachuca wins CONCACAF crown

April 29, 2010, 12:19 AM

By: Scott French

Edgar Benitez's goal two minutes into stoppage carried Pachuca to its third CONCACAF club title in four years while extending Mexican Primera Division rival Cruz Azul's agony.

Benitez took a backheel flick from Ulises Mendivil off Damian Alvarez's pass, took a step into the Cruz Azul box and fired past Jose Corona to give Pachuca a 1-0 victory in the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final.



Pachuca captain Miguel Calero lifts the trophy after his team won the CONCACAF Champions League crown.

The final aggregate was 2-2 -- Cruz Azul won its home leg, 2-1, a week ago -- and Pachuca prevailed on away goals, 1-0.

"When we saw the ball hit the net, it was madness," Pachuca coach Guillermo Rivarola told CONCACAF's website. "There was tons of emotion. We all wanted to hug each other as the goal gave us the championship and the ticket to the Club World Cup. I really can't describe it."

Pachuca, which opens the Mexican Clausura playoffs Saturday at Monterrey, is the first team to qualify for the FIFA Club World Cup, which will be played in December in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Cruz Azul, a Mexico City club that has won five club titles in CONCACAF, the region covering North and Central America and the Caribbean, last won a trophy in December 1997. It has played in five finals since, losing all of them.

The Cementeros lost to fellow Mexicans Atlante in last year's CONCACAF Champions League final and to Monterrey in the Mexican Apertura final last fall. They were eliminated from Clausura playoff contention with a draw last week with Guadalajara.

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Weekend's best offerings

April 29, 2010, 12:12 AM

By: Scott French

A look at the weekend's best offerings:

Copa Libertadores: South America's club competition is in the knockout phase, and the last three quarterfinal first legs will be played Thursday.


Nacional (Uruguay) at Cruzeiro (Brazil). TV: Fox Sports en Espaņol, 3 p.m.

Universidad de Chile (Chile) at Alianza Lima (Peru). TV: Fox Sports en Espaņol, 5 p.m.

Libertad (Paraguay) at Once Caldas (Colombia). TV: Fox Sports en Espaņol, delayed, 7:30 p.m.

The other European Cup: Who last fall thought we'd see Bayern Munich and Inter Milan in the UEFA Champions League final? The other big European club competition, the Europa League, could have an all-England final in the works. Liverpool needs to overcome a 1-0 deficit in a second-leg match at Anfield. Fulham, featuring American Clint Dempsey, is home against Hamburg, which just dumped its coach.

Clint Dempsey

Phil Cole/Getty Images

American Clint Dempsey and Fulham will play in the Europa League semifinals Thursday against Hamburg SV.


Atletico Madrid at Liverpool. TV: GOLTV, noon

Hamburger SV at Fulham. TV: GOLTV, delayed, 5 p.m.

Weekend in Europe: Chelsea looks to hold off Manchester United in the English Premier League, but that's not the only big race across the Atlantic. It's just the easiest to find on available TV. The tightest race is in Germany's Bundesliga, where Bayern Munich and Schalke 04 are even on points with two games to go. The Spanish La Liga leaders, like those in England, are separated by just a point, with Barcelona on top, and Inter Milan is trying to hold off AS Roma in Italy's Serie A. France's Ligue 1 top two face off Friday, and how can you not root for Auxerre, from a tiny town surrounded by farmland that, at least in 1996, you needed two trains to reach from Paris. Good luck watching that one anywhere but online.


Olympique Marseille at Auxerre. TV: TBA, noon


Werder Bremen at Schalke 04. TV: TBA, 6:30 a.m.

Aston Villa at Manchester City. TV: Fox Soccer Channel, 7 a.m. (replay, 9 p.m.); Fox Sports en Espaņol, 7 a.m.

Fiorentina at AC Milan. TV: Fox Soccer Channel, 11:30 a.m. (replay, midnight); Fox Sports en Espaņol, delayed, 3 p.m.

Barcelona at Villarreal. TV: TBA, 1 p.m.


Chelsea at Liverpool. TV: Fox Soccer Plus, 5:30 a.m.

Manchester United at Sunderland. TV: Fox Soccer Channel, 8 a.m. (replay, 8 p.m.); Fox Sports en Espaņol, 8 a.m.

Inter Milan at Lazio. TV: Fox Soccer Channel/Fox Sports en Espaņol, 11:30 a.m.

Lyon at Montpellier. TV: TBA, noon.

Mexican playoffs: The Clausura (or "Bicentenario") quarterfinals in Mexico's Primera Division begin this weekend with first-leg action. Apertura champ Monterrey looks like the team to beat, but don't count out stingy Pumas UNAM. And much of L.A.'s attention, of course, will be on Guadalajara -- "Chivas" -- and Club America.


Monterrey at Pachuca. TV: TeleFutura (KFTR/Channel 46), 3 p.m.

Guadalajara at Morelia. TV: Azteca America (KAZA/Channel 27), 5 p.m.


Toluca at Club America. TV: Univision (KMEX/Channel 34), 3 p.m.

Pumas UNAM at Santos. TV: TeleFutura (KFTR/Channel 46), 5 p.m.

Women's pro soccer: Another showdown between Women's Professional Soccer leaders, the second in as many weeks, with entirely different teams involved. The Bay Area's Gold Pride, with former L.A. Sol superstar Marta, visits the New Jersey-based reigning champs.


FC Gold Pride at Sky Blue FC. TV: Fox Soccer Channel, 3 p.m.

Premier Development League: All six SoCal sides in the USL's Premier Development League -- the fourth tier of American men's soccer -- are in action, all at local high schools.


Ventura County Fusion at Lancaster Rattlers, Antelope Valley High School (Lancaster), 5 p.m. TV: None.

Southern California Seahorses at Hollywood United Hitmen, Palisades High School (Pacific Palisades), 7 p.m. TV: None.


Orange County Blue Star at L.A. Legends, Salesian High School (Los Angeles), 3 p.m. TV: None.

Major League Soccer: MLS's newest team, the Philadelphia Union, makes its Home Depot Center debut against the Galaxy, which remains on top in the West after a tough 0-0 draw in Kansas City. Chivas USA, coming off its best game this year, heads to Chicago. And the real game of the week pairs K.C. against Houston, reeling with the MLS Best XI selection Geoff Cameron's season-ending knee injury.


Chivas USA at Chicago. TV: KDOC/Channel 56, KWHY/Channel 22, 5:30 p.m.

Kansas City at Houston. TV: Fox Soccer Channel, 5:30 p.m.; Fox Sports en Espaņol, delayed, 9:30 p.m.

Philadelphia at L.A. Galaxy, Home Depot Center (Carson). TV: FSN West, 7:30 p.m.

All times Pacific

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MLS week 5: Red Bulls on the rise

April 26, 2010, 10:53 AM

By: Scott French

Only Chivas USA has been able to stop the rejuvenated New York Red Bulls, in an atrocious encounter two weeks ago. The New Jersey-based club, surprise MLS Cup finalists two years ago and Major League Soccer's worst side in 2009, is otherwise humming along under first-year Swedish coach Hans Backe.

A penalty kick was decisive again as the Red Bulls improved to 3-0-0 at their new Red Bull Arena, by all accounts the most spectacular soccer-specific venue in America, and four wins in five matches has given them the kind of lead in the Eastern Conference the Galaxy had in the West before Saturday's scoreless draw at Kansas City.

Juan Pablo Angel

Mike Stobe/Getty Images

For the second week in a row, Juan Pablo Angel converted a late penalty kick to lift New York to a victory.

The West is much tougher division than the East, with at least four quality sides and maybe more, if Colorado is for real and FC Dallas can live up to expectations. The East looks like Columbus and everybody else, although New York is shaking those assumptions.

Colombian striker Juan Pablo Angel again netted the winner with a second-half penalty kick, delivering a 2-1 victory Saturday over expansion Philadelphia. His last-minute spot kick beat FC Dallas, 2-1, last week at Red Bull Arena.

Columbus has played just three matches and hasn't lost -- they beat Real Salt Lake in the battle of the past two MLS Cup champs on Guillermo Barros Schelotto's penalty -- and the smart money is with the Crew.

But the Red Bulls have a real chance to do something in the next month or so. After a U.S. Open Cup qualifier Tuesday against Philly, they play at woeful D.C. United, then visit a San Jose side that's good one week, not so good the next, then they're home for four of five before the World Cup break.

It all could go wrong: Three of those home games are against Seattle, Columbus and Houston, and the other against Chivas USA, which sure impressed in Saturday's win over San Jose at Home Depot Center.

Elsewhere in MLS:

First strikes: Four players scored their first career goals Saturday. Bosnian-born, Chicago-raised, UIC-educated Baggio Husidic, as hometown as any Fire player can be, scored in first-half stoppage of a 2-0 triumph over visiting Houston, Chicago's first win over the Dynamo at Toyota Park. The game featured 10 yellow cards and two reds, one to the Fire's Krzysztof Krol for head-butting Luis Angel Landin.

Baggio Husidic

David Banks/Getty Images

Baggio Husidic of the Chicago Fire scored his first career MLS goal Saturday.

Why is Husidic called Baggio? As a child, he was entranced with the Italian striker, endlessly repeating his name. It stuck.

Other first strikes were scored by Salou Ibrahim in New York's win, by Marko Perovic in New England's 2-1 loss to visiting Colorado, and by Steven Beitashour to pull San Jose within a goal of Chivas USA deep in stoppage.

Play it again, Sam: Moroccan-born Mehdi Ballouchy, who played in Raja Casablanca's youth system before moving to the Bay Area when he was 16, has long been admired for his skill but less so for what he accomplishes with it. The former Santa Clara University All-American rarely approached his potential in his first four MLS campaigns, but he seems to be maturing, and that's one of the reasons the Colorado Rapids are off to a 3-1-1 start.

Ballouchy scored one sizzling goal in Saturday's victory at New England, a 30-yard blast on the run that skipped past Revolution goalkeeper Preston Burpo en route to the net's lower-left corner, and he almost had another, better one.

Omar Cummings, hemmed in by three defenders high in the Revs' box, dished a beauty of a chip to Ballouchy, whose looping bicycle kick struck the top of the left post and caromed off Burpo, who made a fine save on Conor Casey's rebound.

From the spot: Jeff Cunningham, who won MLS's Golden Boot with 17 goals last season, has scored three this season for FC Dallas, all on penalty kicks. He netted two Thursday as the Hoops rallied to tie visiting Seattle, 2-2.

The Sounders, who had a chance to pull within a point of the Galaxy last week, got fine goals by Steve Zakuani and on a free kick by Fredy Montero, and Terry Vaughn's penalty call deep into stoppage, enabling Cunningham to tie the score, was a most perplexing call.

There sure have been a lot of PKs this season. The eight players trailing Galaxy forward Edson Buddle in the Golden Boot chase, all with at least three goals, have found the net from the spot a combined 12 times. They've scored 27 goals in all.

All three of Casey's goals for Colorado have come on penalties, two of Angel's three for New York are PKs, as are three of Toronto FC midfielder Dwayne De Rosario's five goals.

Houston wing-playmaker Brad Davis has scored twice this season. Both on PKs. Three minutes apart in a 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake.

Player of the week: You can make an argument for Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, who made several big saves to keep K.C. scoreless, and for Chivas USA wing-defender Mariano Trujillo, the Goats' best player in an important and impressive victory.

But the vote here goes to De Rosario, who took advantage of two Seattle miscues to score one goal and set up the other in a 2-0 victory Sunday. De Ro, who grew up near Toronto and joined his hometown club after leading Houston to two MLS Cup titles, took command in the second half to secure a needed victory for former Chivas coach Preki.

Past week's scores (home teams listed first):

FC Dallas 2 (Cunningham pen. 27, pen. 94+), Seattle 2 (Zakuani 39, Montero 55)

Kansas City 0, Galaxy 0
Chivas USA 3 (Kljestan 25, Braun 54, Chijindu 87), San Jose 2 (Wondolowski pen. 41, Beitashour 93+)
New York 2 (Ibrahim 50, Angel pen. 67), Philadelphia 1 (Le Toux 59)
New England 1 (Perovic 18), Colorado 2 (Ballouchy 14, Mastroeni 73)
Columbus 1 (Schelotto pen. 38), Real Salt Lake 0
Chicago 2 (Husidic 48+, Lowry 67), Houston 0

Toronto FC 2 (De Rosario 58, White 76), Seattle 0


Western Conference: Galaxy 13 points, Colorado 10, Seattle 8, Houston 7, San Jose 6, Chivas USA 6, Real Salt Lake 4, FC Dallas 3

Eastern Conference: New York 12, Kansas City 7, Columbus 7, Chicago 7, New England 6, Toronto FC 6, Philadelphia 3, D.C. United 0

This week's games

Philadelphia at Galaxy, 7:30 p.m.
Chivas USA at Chicago, 5:30 p.m.
New York at D.C. United, 1 p.m.
FC Dallas at New England, 4:30 p.m.
Kansas City at Houston, 5:30 p.m.
Toronto FC at Real Salt Lake, 6 p.m.
Colorado at San Jose, 7 p.m.
Columbus at Seattle, 7:30 p.m.

Leading goal scorers

1. Edson Buddle (Los Angeles), 7
2. Dwayne De Rosario (Toronto FC), 5 (3 PKs)
3. Sebastian Le Toux (Philadelphia), 4
4. Juan Pablo Angel (New York), 3 (2 PKs)
5. Conor Casey (Colorado), 3 (3 PKs)
6. Jeff Cunningham (FC Dallas), 3 (3 PKs)
7. Javier Morales (Real Salt Lake), 3
7. Guillermo Barros Schelotto (Columbus), 3 (1 PK)
7. Zach Schilawski (New England), 3
10. Omar Cummings (Colorado), 2
Brad Davis (Houston), 2 (2 PK)
Kei Kamara (Kansas City), 2
Kenny Mansally (New England), 2
Brian McBride (Chicago), 2 (1 PK)
Fredy Montero (Seattle), 2
Ike Opara (San Jose), 2
Marco Pappa (Chicago), 2
Chris Wondolowski (San Jose), 2 (1 PK)
Steve Zakuani (Seattle), 2

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WPS week 3: A-Rod scores as Philly gets first win

April 25, 2010, 11:22 PM

By: Scott French

Former USC All-American Amy Rodriguez netted her first goal of the Women's Professional Soccer season as the expansion Philadelphia Independence topped visiting Washington, 3-1, for their first victory.

Rodriguez, a Santa Margarita Catholic High School alum from Lake Forest, tallied in the 55th minute, the first of three Philly goals in 14 minutes. A-Rod scored just once last season for Boston after she was taken with the No. 1 selection in the inaugural college draft.

Former Capistrano Valley High School standout Kasey Moore scored her first WPS goal in Boston's 1-1 draw at Saint Louis, and Harvard-Westlake grad Ali Riley assisted Carrie Dew's 89th-minute winner in Bay Area-based FC Gold Pride's 2-1 victory over visiting Atlanta.

Bad news for U.S.: Boston midfielder Carli Lloyd, the top attacking midfielder for the U.S. Women's national team, suffered a broken fibula in the first half of defending champion Sky Blue FC's 1-0 triumph at Chicago, the New Jersey-based club's second win three weeks over the Red Stars.

U.S. midfielder Tobin Heath, the top pick in this year's college draft, departed 20 minutes into Atlanta's loss with an ankle injury. It was initially feared she'd broken the ankle, but a deep sprain is suspected, and the extent will be known after an MRI on Monday.

Sol report: Allison Falk, who was traded to Philadelphia from the Sol before the L.A. Team's demise, scored for the second successive week. French midfielder Camille Abily, also dealt while the Sol was still a club, assisted Tiffeny Milbrett's opener in FC Gold Pride's win. Former UCLA star Val Henderson got the start for Philly with Karina LeBlanc away on Canadian national team duty. Henderson was LeBlanc's backup with the Sol last year. Marta was ineffective for Gold Pride, limping on an injured ankle sustained a week earlier.

A few numbers: Abby Wambach picked up her league-best fourth assist in Washington's defeat. Her eight career assists also lead WPS. & Chicago has been shut out in 13 of its past 21 matches. The Red Stars are 0-5-1 against Sky Blue with no goals in the six games.

This week's scores (home teams listed first):
FC Gold Pride 2 (Milbrett 11, Dew 89), Atlanta 1 (Ocampo 25)

Saint Louis 1 (Blank 28), Boston 1 (Moore 22) Chicago 0, Sky Blue FC 1 (Kai 52) Philadelphia 3 (Rodriguez 55, Falk 58, Sanderson 68), Washington 1 (De Vanna 52)

Standings: FC Gold Pride 6 points, Sky Blue FC 6, Philadelphia 5, Saint Louis 5, Boston 5, Washington 3, Chicago 1, Atlanta 1.

Next week
Chicago at Boston
Atlanta at Philadelphia
FC Gold Pride at Sky Blue FC
Saint Louis at Washington

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Mexico: America advances, Herculez shares scoring title

April 25, 2010, 11:17 PM

By: Scott French

Club America struck early and held on at the end to beat Santos on Sunday and claim the final available berth in the Mexican Primera Division's "Bicentenario" playoffs.

Morelia and Pachuca also clinched playoff berths on the final weekend of the spring Clausura season, and American forward Herculez Gomez shared the scoring title.

Angel Eduardo Reyna's team-best sixth goal of the spring Clausura season, an eighth-minute strike, and a huge save by goalkeeper Armando Navarrete in the 86th minute sent America to a 1-0 triumph Sunday over Santos at Estadio Azteca, knocking their Mexico City rival Cruz Azul out of contention.

The quarterfinals will begin with first-leg matches next weekend.

The playoff qualifiers:

1. Monterrey (10-1-6, 36 points)
2. Guadalajara (10-5-2, 32)
3. Toluca (8-3-6, 30)
4. Pumas UNAM (7-3-7, 28)
5. Santos (8-4-5, 28)
6. America (7-6-4, 25)
7. Morelia (7-6-4, 25)
8. Pachuca (7-6-4, 25)

A quick look at the past weekend in Mexico:

America qualifies: The Aguilas needed some help to be in position to qualify, and they got it Saturday when hated rival Guadalajara rallied to tie Cruz Azul, 1-1, Atlas was held to a 1-1 draw by Jaguares, and Morelia managed only a 1-1 draw at home against Monterrey.

Fernando Lopez

Francisco Estrada/LatinContent/Getty Images

Fernando Lopez of Club America jumps in the air in a battle for the ball with Fernando Arce of Santos Laguna on Sunday. Club America got the help it needed to reach the Mexican league playoffs.

America, which claimed the No. 6 seed and will meet third-seeded Toluca in the quarterfinals, would have been eliminated had Cruz Azul, Atlas and Morelia won.

Morelia nonetheless qualified, and Pachuca got through as Edgar Benitez converted two penalty kicks in a 2-1 triumph at UANL Tigres.

Cruz Azul's downfall was an Edcarlos Conceicao own goal in the 78th minute, the first tally for Chivas in four games and only its second since March 27. Guadalajara took the biggest hit, losing five top players, when Mexico's national team opened its pre-World Cup camp earlier this month.

'Liguilla' openers: Apertura champion Monterrey secured the top seed for the Clausura playoffs a week ago, and the Rayados, who meet Pachuca in the quarterfinals, head into the postseason with a 15-game unbeaten streak. Three of their last four, four of last six and five of their last eight outings have been 1-1 draws; their only loss this season was a 3-0 decision to Atlas on Jan. 23.

No. 2 seed Guadalajara, which will face Morelia, is reeling as the playoffs begin. Chivas is 2-5-2 since an 8-0-0 start, and it's winless in its past four games.

Fourth-seeded Pumas UNAM, which has the Primera Division's stingiest defense, allowing just 10 goals in 17 games, will meet Santos. First legs will be played next weekend, with second legs scheduled for May 8 and 9.

Top scorer: Puebla's Herculez Gomez, who was born in L.A. and raised in Las Vegas, shared the Bicentenario scoring title with Guadalajara's Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez and Atlante's Johan Fano.

Gomez, who left the Kansas City Wizards to sign with Puebla just after New Year's, was missed Los Camoteros' 2-1 loss to Toluca on Sunday, suspended for yellow-card accumulation. Hernandez, who scored his 10 goals in 11 games, hasn't played for Chivas since Mexico's pre-World Cup camp opened.

Gomez scored 24 goals in 129 Major League Soccer games with the Galaxy, Colorado and Kansas City. He scored 12 goals (18 in all competitions) and was team MVP when L.A. won the MLS Cup title in 2005.

This week's results (home teams listed first)

Estudiantes Tecos 3 (Medina 43, og Fano 54, R. Ruiz 67), Atlante 2 (Medina 43, Amione 90)

Cruz Azul 1 (Villa 5), Guadalajara 1 (og Edcarlos Conceicao 78)
Morelia 1 (Borgetti pen. 45), Monterrey 1 (Cardozo 23)
UANL Tigres 1 (Molina 83), Pachuca 2 (Benitez pen. 9, pen. 79)
San Luis 3 (B. Perez 15, og Beltran 42, A. Moreno 58), Gallos Blancos 0
Atlas 1 (Ibanez 92), Jaguares 1 (J. Martinez 24)

Toluca 2 (A. Gonzalez 9, Mancilla 17), Puebla 1 (Zinha 6) Indios de Ciudad Juarez 2 (Gimenez 17, 27), Pumas UNAM 0 America 1 (Reyna 8), Santos 0

Final Standings
Group 1: Guadalajara 32 points, Toluca 30, Atlas 25, Gallos Blancos 21, Indios 15, San Luis 14.
Group 2: Monterrey 36, Morelia 25, Pachuca 25, America 22, Puebla 19, Jaguares 18.
Group 3: Pumas UNAM 28, Santos 28, Cruz Azul 25, Estudiantes Tecos 19, UANL Tigres 19, Atlante 16.

This week's games
Quarterfinals, First Legs
Monterrey at Pachuca, 3 p.m.
Guadalajara at Morelia, 5 p.m.

Toluca at America, 3 p.m.
Pumas UNAM at Santos, 5 p.m.

Second Legs: May 8 and 9

Leading scorers
1. Herculez Gomez (Puebla) 10

Johan Fano (Atlante) 10
Javier Hernandez (Guadalajara) 10
4. Jackson Martinez (Jaguares) 9
5. Raul Mancilla (Toluca) 8
6. Fredy Bareiro (Estudiantes Tecos) 7

Dario Carreņo (Monterrey) 7
Miguel Sabah (Morelia) 7
Miguel Zepeda (Atlas) 7
Alvaro Gonzalez (Puebla) 6
Angel Eduardo Reyna (America) 6

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