Los Angeles Soccer: Aldo de Nigris
Herculez Gomez started the day Sunday with a call-up to the U.S. national team, his first under Jurgen Klinsmann. The finish was even better.
Gomez became the first American player to win top-flight titles in the U.S. and Mexico as Santos Laguna claimed the Mexican Primera Division title with a 2-1 victory over Monterrey in the second leg of the title series in the spring Clausura, the season's second-half championship.
Santos, from Torreon, won on 3-2 aggregate, the first top seed to win the title since Pachuca's triumph in the 2007 Clausura, 10 tournaments ago. The first leg, Thursday in Monterrey, finished 1-1.
Gomez, who was born in Los Angeles, raised in Las Vegas and made his name during a breakout 2005 season with the Galaxy, did not appear in either game.
Houston Dynamo manager Dominic Kinnear also has won titles in both countries, as a midfielder for Necaxa in 1994, as head coach of the Dynamo in 2006 and 2007 and as assistant coach with the San Jose Earthquakes in 2001 and 2003.
Daniel Ludueña in the sixth minute and Oribe Peralta in the 65th scored fine goals to give Santos a 2-0 lead. Aldo de Nigris pulled Monterrey back one in the 79th. Peralta scored the Guerreros' first-leg goal and two late goals to overcome UANL Tigres in the semifinals.
The championship was the fourth for Santos, which previously won the 1996 Invierno, 2001 Verano and 2008 Clausura and had lost in three of the previous four finals. The Guerreros had qualified for the upcoming CONCACAF Champions League as runner-up during the fall Apertura, but Sunday's victory means they will be top seed in one eight three-team groups in the first stage, which begins in late July.
Santos Laguna needed a late miracle to reach the Mexican Primera Division's title series. Monterrey required only a little home cooking.
They'll face off this week in the home-and-home Clausura final, the first time the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds have reached the championship matches since 2000.
Top-seeded Santos got two late goals from Oribe Peralta to overcome UANL Tigres, winner of the fall Apertura title. Sunday's 2-2 draw in Torreon left aggregate at 3-3, and the Guerreros advanced with the better regular-season's finish.
Monterrey, seeking its third Mexican title in seven seasons, beat visiting America, 2-0, Saturday on goals by Jose Maria Basanta and Aldo de Nigris. The first leg, Wednesday at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, was scoreless.
The title series is a rematch of last month's CONCACAF Champions League final, which Monterrey captured on 3-2 aggregate for its second straight confederation title.
Santos is making its fourth appearance in a final in five seasons but is seeking its first title since the 2008 Clausura, eight campaigns ago. Monterrey beat Santos in the 2010 Apertura final.
Peralta's goals answered two in the first half by Hector Mancilla for Tigres, which was looking to set up a first title-series showdown with Clasio Regiomontano archrival Monterrey.
The Chilean striker scored in the 60th and 86th minutes to give the Rayados the advantage heading into next week's second leg in Torreon. He finished from Aldo de Nigris' feed for the first goal, then added a splendid finale by beating four defenders on a tight, weaving run into the box.
The goals were his sixth and seventh of the competition. He netted just once during the group phase, then tallied four times -- twice in each leg -- in a quarterfinal victory over Morelia.
Suazo will miss the second leg after picking up a yellow card in the fourth minute, and Santos defenders Felipe Baloy and Omar Mares also will be suspended after they were cautioned.
This is the third all-Mexican final in four tournaments since CONCACAF switched its club championship to the current “league” format in 2008. Atlante beat Cruz Azul in the 2009 final and Pachuca beat Cruz Azul in 2010. Monterrey toppled Real Salt Lake in last year's final.
This will be the seventh straight year, ninth time in 11 editions and 12th in 16 that a Mexican club will win the championship.
It wasn't simple, but the U.S. and Mexico came through in Wednesday's CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals in Houston to confirm their heavily anticipated showdown Saturday evening at the Rose Bowl.
The U.S. pulled out a 1-0 triumph over Panama as Clint Dempsey knocked home a brilliant feed from Landon Donovan in the 77th minute to send the Yanks to a record fourth successive title-game appearance in the region's nations championship.
Mexico needed overtime goals from Aldo de Nigris and Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez to conquer Honduras, 2-0, in the nightcap in front of 70,267 spectators at Reliant Stadium. Will the extra 30 minutes provide a boost for the Americans, who spent less time on the field and were finished 3½ hours earlier than their archrivals?
CONCACAF officials announced Wednesday that the game at the Rose Bowl, slated for a 6 p.m. kickoff, is a sellout. It will be the first meeting between the U.S. and Mexico in Southern California since October 2000.
The teams have met in four previous finals, with Mexico winning in 1993 (4-0), 1998 (1-0) and 2009 (5-0) and the U.S. prevailing four years ago, a 2-1 thriller sending the Yanks to the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, where they stunned Spain and nearly toppled Brazil in the final.
Saturday's winner will claim a berth in the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil, a precursor to the World Cup the following summer.
A quick look at the 18th day in the Gold Cup:
LANDON AND FREDDY SHOW: Donovan came off the bench again and Freddy Adu made his first appearance in the tournament, and they teamed with Dempsey to propel the U.S. to avenge its group-stage loss to Panama and advance to its eighth final since CONCACAF went to the Gold Cup format in 1991.
Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez's tournament-best sixth goal, a nifty little backheel in the 66th minute, sent El Tri to a 2-1 triumph over surprising Guatemala. The Chapines scored early and bunkered in, but they couldn't keep Mexico's high-power attack dormant beyond halftime in front of 78,807 in East Rutherford, N.J.
Honduras prevailed in the best game so far in the Gold Cup, clipping fellow Central American giant Costa Rica on penalties after a 1-1 draw. Real Salt Lake's Alvaro Saborio takes the brunt of blame for the Ticos after missing a second-half spot kick and again in the tiebreaker.
A quick look at the 14th day in the region's championship:
CHICHARITO, OF COURSE: Hernandez, the Manchester United star who just turned 23, is CONCACAF's biggest star and best player, and his cheeky winner was his 20th goal in just 27 international matches.
Former Galaxy striker Carlos Ruiz, now with the Philadelphia Union, gave Guatemala a fifth-minute lead, but the Chapines' defensive tactics couldn't close off the Mexicans, who dominated most of the action to advance to Wednesday's semifinals in Houston against Honduras.
Ruiz volleyed over goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera as he fell at the top of the box, a superb use of his body to place the ball inside the right post after beating Rafa Marquez to a long ball into the box.
Aldo de Nigris, a halftime substitute, scored the equalizer less than three minutes into the second half, slipping home a rebound after goalkeeper Ricardo Jerez rejected Hector Moreno's header and defender Carlos Gallardo swept Moreno's follow-up off the goal line.
COSTA RICA SPOT OFF: Honduras reached the final four primarily because its exactness at the penalty spot couldn't be matched by Costa Rica. The Catrachos weathered one penalty kick in regulation and prevailed on the PK shootout at the end when their Central American rival twice struck the crossbar.
Five players, including starting goalkeeper Guillermo "Memo" Ochoa and defender Francisco Javier Rodriguez, were dropped from Mexico's squad after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance, but Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez and Giovani Dos Santos scored two goals apiece to lead its second successive five-goal romp.
Costa Rica needed a last-second goal from Randall Brenes to draw, 1-1, with El Salvador in the first game of a doubleheader that drew 46,000-plus to Bank of America Stadium.
DRUG CHEATS?: A Mexican federation official said it was likely Ochoa, Rodriguez and three other players -- defender Edgar Dueñas and midfielders Christian "Hobbit" Bermudez and Antonio "Zinha" Naelson -- ingested tainted chicken or beef before testing positive for the banned anabolic agent clenbuterol.
All five were dropped from the team, pending an investigation, with Alfredo Talavera stepping into the nets for Ochoa and captain Rafa Marquez returning to the starting XI in place of Rodriguez.
Group A favorites Mexico and Costa Rica were big winners in Texas tournament openers as day one of the CONCACAF Gold Cup failed to provide much in the way of competition.
Both romped to 5-0 victories Sunday in front of 80,000-plus at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, to take command of the group, setting up already a June 12 showdown in the group finale in Chicago.
A quick look at the first day of group play in the region's nations championship:
CHICHA-GOL-GOL-GOL: Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez capped Mexico's 5-0 drilling of El Salvador with a hat trick -- his 15th, 16th and 17th international goals, in just 24 appearances -- but things were far tighter than that suggests.
El Tri didn't score until a fortunate bounce off Efrain Juarez provided a 55th-minute lead, and they netted three more in the next 12 minutes.
Worth noting: Aldo de Nigris tallied less than a minute after coming on as a second-half substitute, and Hernandez wrapped his trio with a penalty kick deep in stoppage after El Salvador's Marvin Gonzalez was red-carded for bowling him over.
TICOS TOO FAST: Costa Rica's 5-0 rout of Cuba was even more emphatic, with the Ticos repeatedly sprinting past the islanders' backline and making the runs count.
All five goals came on quick counterattacks, the last four from through balls or passes over the top that left, in order, Real Salt Lake's Alvaro Saborio, Marcos Ureña (with his second of the evening), Heiner Mora and Mora again one-on-one with Cuban goalkeeper Odelin Molina.
The finale was the goal of the night, with Joel Campbell smashing Mora's cross first-time from an abrupt angle into the top corner at the far post.
DAY 2 HIGHLIGHT: Jamaica and Honduras both have designs on semifinal berths or better. Expect them to impress like Mexico and Costa Rica, be disappointed if they don't.
- THE GAMES
Group A (at Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas)
Costa Rica 5 (Ureña 9, 46, Saborio 41, Mora 47, Campbell 71), Cuba 0
Mexico 5 (Juarez 55, de Nigris 58, J. Hernandez 60, 67, pen. 93+)
Group B (at Home Depot Center, Carson)
Jamaica vs. Grenada, 6 p.m. TV: Galavision
Honduras vs. Guatemala, 8 p.m. TV: TeleFutura (KFTR/Channel 46)
Group C (at Ford Field, Detroit)
Panama vs. Guadeloupe, 3 p.m. TV: Galavision
United States vs. Canada, 5 p.m. TV: Fox Soccer Channel and TeleFutura (KFTR/Channel 46)
Jose Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre has whittled his roster to 23 players for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, and England-based forward Carlos Vela and Pachuca defender/midfielder Paul Aguilar are not among them.
They're the biggest omissions for El Tri heading into the June 5-25 regional nations championship, which will wrap with a Rose Bowl final -- with U.S.-Mexico the anticipated matchup.
The big names are here -- from goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa to backline leader Rafa Marquez to attacking stars Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez and Giovani Dos Santos -- as the Mexicans seek their second straight crown and sixth in 11 tournaments since the Gold Cup was established in 1991.
De la Torre had included Vela, who started two games at last year's World Cup in South Africa, and Aguilar, starter in one, on his 30-man preliminary roster. Also among the 30 but not on the final roster was Guadalajara defender Jonny Magallon, who was on the World Cup roster but did not play, and Jonathan Dos Santos, Giovani's younger brother, who famously declared he'd never play again for Mexico after he was among the last cuts from the World Cup list.
Vela, who plays for West Bromwich Albion on loan from Arsenal, has seen little playing time during the English Premier League season.
De la Torre has returned Brazilian-born playmaker Zinha and Monterrey midfielder Luis Perez, who were on the 2006 World Cup team, to the team and promoted several players, including goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera, defender Edgar Dueñas, midfielder Jesus Zavala, and forwards Aldo de Nigris, Elias Hernandez and Angel Reyna, all on whom are on the roster. Zinha, Talavera and Dueñas played for de la Torre at Toluca.
Three of the eight playoff berths have been taken, and the fight for the final five is heating up as the Mexican Primera Division heads into its penultimate weekend of the regular season, with a dozen teams still in contention, but only eight of them really in the race.
- In: Pumas UNAM (9-1-5), UANL Tigres (8-2-5) and Morelia (8-3-4)
- On the verge: Guadalajara (6-3-6), Cruz Azul (7-5-3) and Atlante (7-6-2)
- Above the wire: Monterrey (6-5-4) and America (7-7-1)
- Just outside looking in: Toluca (5-5-5), Atlas (5-5-5) and Santos Laguna (6-7-2), all two points out of the final spot
- Alive, but not for long: Puebla (5-8-2), Pachuca (4-7-4) and Estudiantes Tecos (4-7-4)
- Out: Gallos Blancos (4-8-3), Necaxa (3-7-5) and Jaguares (3-10-2)
Pumas, Tigres and Morelia claimed their spots during last week's “doble jornada.” Pumas, on top of the overall table most of the Clausura campaign, can clinch the No. 1 seed -- rarely a winner in Mexico's playoffs -- with a win Friday night at Necaxa and Tigres' failure to win Sunday at Morelia in one of the two major showdowns this weekend.
The other big matchup pits Guadalajara, looking like a real contender the past month, against Cruz Azul in Mexico City. Chivas is fourth and Cruz Azul fifth, both with 24 points, and neither is likely to miss the postseason.
But the Cementeros are skidding. They've lost three of four, with losses to Santos, Morelia and Puebla, after challenging for the top spot most of the season. The 3-0 rout of Monterrey, which is falling at a quicker pace, might prove to be Cruz Azul's savior.
Monterrey is winless in its last four league games, its focus blurred by its CONCACAF Champions League title-series run and its game slowed by injuries to key players. A longtime shoulder ailment has prevented star Chilean forward Humberto Suazo from contributing the way he needs to, and forward Aldo de Nigris and midfielder Luis Perez, both Mexican national-teamers, will be out for three to four weeks with thigh injuries.
SAN DIEGO -- Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez isn't going to score every time he takes the field, and when he failed to finish Pablo Barrera's feed at the start of Tuesday night's Mexico-Venezuela friendly at Qualcomm Stadium, it signaled he wasn't at his sharpest.
Hernandez, who would have put the ball away on Saturday, when he scored twice in El Tri's victory over Paraguay in Oakland, has become so automatic that it's almost more perplexing when he misses, no matter how difficult the chance.
Hernandez's inability to finish, therefore, had plenty to do with the result: a 1-1 draw that might have flattered Venezuela a little, but not too much. The South Americans' organization and ability to pressure Mexico's backs was impressive; their ability to do so in front of 60,808 green-shirted fanatics is something they can build on when Copa America begins in July in Argentina.
“We have a big wish, to keep moving forward …,” Venezuela coach Cesar Farias said after the match. “We played against Mexico, which has [so many quality players] like 'Chicharito' and Giovani Dos Santos. It's a team that went to the World Cup -- they even have starters on their bench. It's great for us to come here in this stadium, with so many of their fans. It helps us to come to Mexico and get a draw.”
Well, we're about 20 miles north of the border, but Qualcomm certainly was part of Mexico on Tuesday, and the place erupted when Dos Santos, from a short corner, chipped for an Aldo de Nigris header to give El Tri a 59th-minute lead. There could have been more: Dos Santos hit the right post with a shot that deflected off Venezuela goalkeeper Leonardo Morales in the 68th minute, when it was still 1-0, and Nestor Calderon hit the left post in the 84th, when it was 1-1.
Oswaldo Vizcarrondo scored the Venezuelan goal, a header from Yohandy Orozco's corner kick to the near post after defender Edgar Duenas was screened away from the play and goalkeeper Guillermo "Memo" Ochoa left his line way too late to get to the ball.
Venezuela might have won had Orozco's 35-yard blast two minutes before Vizcarrondo's goal been a couple of inches lower. It slammed off the crossbar.
La Vinotinto for generations was the weakest South American nation in soccer, but they've made big strides the past decade, had a worthy 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign and believe they can do some damage at Copa America, the continent's nations championship.
Jonathan Bornstein has brought UANL Tigres some needed luck. Give Danilinho and Hector Mancilla some credit, too.
The club from suburban Monterrey, known more for its disappointments than its triumphs, are atop the Primera Division's Clausura standings after Danilinho set up one goal and scored another in a 2-0 victory Saturday over visiting Cruz Azul.
Up next: Clasico Regiomontano rival Monterrey, which won the Apertura crown in December and has prevailed in three of its last four games.
Bornstein, who joined Tigres after five seasons with Chivas USA, made his fourth start (going 45 minutes) for UANL (4-1-1), which is 4-0-0 with the UCLA/Los Alamitos High School product in the lineup and winless when he's left on the bench.
Danilinho, a Brazilian midfielder who arrived from Jaguares, and Mancilla, a Chilean forward acquired from Toluca, have been huge additions, and their partnership proved too much for Cruz Azul (3-2-1), which fell from third to fifth overall with the loss.
Mancilla scored the first goal, a one-touch finish in the 69th minute after Danilinho burst past two defenders to the right byline and sent in a cross. The Brazilian added the second deep into stoppage, setting up his shot with a superb first touch.
Monterrey (3-3-0, in ninth overall) also won, routing Jaguares, 4-1, as Chilean World Cup star Humberto Suazo had a hat trick -- giving him 19 goals for the fall/spring campaign -- and Dario Carreño set up two goals, one my Aldo de Nigris.
FALL FROM FIRST: Pumas UNAM's time atop the overall standings was short. The Mexico City club dropped to third overall after an error by goalkeeper Alejandro Palacios and missed penalty kick by former Chivas USA forward Francisco Palencia allowed Guadalajara to escape with a 1-1 draw.
Jose Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre's debut Wednesday night as Mexico's national team coach -- with a 2-0 victory over Bosnia and Herzegovina in Atlanta -- offered a few clues on how El Tri will move forward under his direction and who will lead the way.
The former national team midfielder, hired in October from Mexican league power Toluca, fielded a veteran lineup, for the most part, while providing opportunities to a few more inexperienced players. Atlas' Edgar Pacheco took advantage, scoring from Cruz Azul goalkeeper Jose de Jesus Corona's punt to double Mexico's advantage in the 55th minute.
Pacheco, 21, was the lone starter without double-digit caps. De la Torre's lineup was as close to first-choice as any missing New York Red Bulls midfielder/defender Rafa Marquez and West Brom forward Carlos Vela.
De la Torre gave Monterrey midfielder Jesus Zavala, 23, his first cap, Toluca forward Nestor Calderon his second, and Santos Laguna forward Jose Maria Cardenas and Monterrey forward Aldo de Nigris their third off the bench. He also used Monterrey midfielder Luis Perez, who last played for Mexico nearly two years ago.
Manchester United's Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez also scored for Mexico, his 12th goal in 21 international appearances, knocking home the rebound after Bosnia and Herzegovina goalkeeper Kenan Hasagic saved his penalty kick.
De la Torre's verdict: "I think it's a good start. It's always good to start a new project. You have to keep in mind that we had little time together."
Jose de Jesus Corona/Cruz Azul; Paul Aguilar/Pachuca, Francisco Javier Rodriguez/PSV Eindhoven/Netherlands, Hector Moreno/AZ Alkmaar/Netherlands, Carlos Salcido/Fulham/England; Pablo Barrera/West Ham United/England (Jose Maria Cardenas/Santos Laguna, 68), Gerardo Torrado/Cruz Azul; Israel Castro/Pumas UNAM (Jesus Zavala/Monterrey, 88), Edgar Pacheco/Atlas (Nestor Calderon/Toluca, 73); Giovani Dos Santos/Racing Santander/Spain (Aldo de Nigris/Monterrey, 58), Javier Hernandez/Manchester United/England (Luis Perez/Monterrey, 80).
America has righted things in a hurry, reeling off two more wins in the past week to leap into the overall top five and all but push the horrid-by-club-standards 0-2-1 start out of mind.Matias Vuoso scored three goals as the Aguilas (3-2-1) routed San Luis, 3-0, and dominated Gallos Blancos de Queretaro, 3-1, to push Chilean coach Carlos Reinoso's mark to 3-0 in his third stint in charge of the Mexico City giant.
"We've gotten good results, but we've been at this just 10 days," Reinoso told media as America began preparations for Friday's match at last-place Necaxa. "Suddenly, people are asking us to be more offensive ... but we're improving little by little, and what makes me happy is that the players have received [my] message."
The Aguilas dismissed Manuel Lapuente in a panic after sandwiching home losses to Pachuca and UANL Tigres around a draw with Jaguares, but the move worked as well as hoped. America responded to the firing with a 2-0 victory over previously perfect Atlas on Jan. 29, and it was more impressive in Wednesday's win over San Luis, a forward makeup -- the match was initially scheduled for April 13.
Vuoso converted two penalty kicks against San Luis and scored the second goal, just before halftime, against Gallos Blancos. Sunday's win wasn't assured until Aquivaldo Mosquera's 86th-minute goal.
"We went back to basics," Vuoso, who has five Clausura goals and 15 for the fall/spring season, explained to the Mexican media. "[Lapuente] had nothing to do with [the poor start] -- it was us, the players. We had forgotten the basics, forgotten to play as before, as we usually do. ... It was the fault of the players, not the fault of other people."
Tigres' crosstown rival Monterrey (2-3-0) also posted a 2-0 victory, over Pachuca on Aldo de Nigris and Neri Cardozo goals, to vault to 11th in the overall standings. The Rayados have shutouts in four of their past five home games. Pachuca turned to former Galaxy forward Herculez Gomez and fellow U.S. World Cup pick Jose Francisco Torres, giving each his first Clausura start, but the Tuzos (1-2-2) fell to the bottom of Group 2 after failing to score for the third time in four games.
Monterrey needed every bit of its home-field advantage to claim its fourth Mexican Primera Division championship Sunday. The big winners: Chilean forward Humberto Suazo and coach Victor Manuel Vucetich.
Suazo netted his 14th and 15th goals of the Apertura as the Rayados romped, 3-0, past Santos Laguna in the second leg of the final. Vucetich won his 10th trophy and his fifth title in the top-tier league.
Monterrey, which also won the fall Apertura last year, posted a 5-3 aggregate triumph, rallying after Santos pulled out a 3-2 victory at home in Thursday's first leg on a late Duilio Davino own goal.
“Monterrey is a great club” Vucetich, who sandwiched last January's InterLiga title at Home Depot Center and the best regular-season record in last spring's “Bicentenario” Clausura tournament between the Apertura titles, declared to the Mexican media afterward. “It is an institution that in the last 10 years has countless achievements.”
Club Tijuana also won a trophy Sunday, claiming the second-tier Liga de Ascenso title with a 3-0 aggregate victory over Veracruz.
An acrobatic own goal by Duilio Davino has put Monterrey in a hole midway through its Mexican Primera Division championship home-and-home with Santos Laguna.
Davino, who was part of Mexico's 1998 World Cup team, lunged at Jose Maria Cardenas' cross in the 86th minute Thursday night, knocking the ball off the right post and into his net, giving Santos a 3-2 triumph in an absorbing first leg in the Apertura final.
Second-seeded Monterrey, which will be home for Sunday's title-decider, twice rallied from deficits and appeared in solid shape heading into the final five minutes of a 2-2 draw in Torreon. Davino's miscue -- designed to keep Cardenas' cross from reaching Christian Benitez -- means the Rayados must win by a goal to force overtime or two goals to claim a second successive Apertura crown.
Ivan Estrada was pivotal for third-seeded Santos, providing a 23rd-minute lead, then crossing for a Carlos Darwin Quintero header to put the Guerreros ahead, 2-1, just before halftime. Quintero has scored in each of the past three games.
Chilean World Cup standout Humberto Suazo's 13th goal of the campaign, from Aldo de Nigris' touch, pulled Monterrey even in the 38th minute, and Neri Cardozo made it 2-2 in the 55th after de Nigris stripped a defender just outside Santos' box.
TIJUANA ON THE VERGE: Mauro Gerk and Javier Gandolfi scored goals three minutes apart, and Club Tijuana is 90 minutes from the Liga de Ascenso's Apertura title following a 2-0 win at Veracruz.