Concacaf Champions Cup: Union held by Pachuca at home, Orlando-Tigres also ends scoreless

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The business end of the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup kicked off Tuesday with three round of 16 first leg games, two of them scoreless but still wildly entertaining ties between MLS and Liga MX teams.

Here are three quick thoughts on Tuesday’s matches.

Orlando City can’t find the winner against Tigres 

Looking only at the box score, it’s easy to surmise that Tuesday’s nightcap between the Lions and 2023 Clausura champions in Central Florida was a snoozer. Nobody who watched the match would agree. Despite ending 0-0, the first leg of this total goals home-and home series was a physical, hotly contested affair from beginning to end.

Orlando’s Luis Muriel had perhaps the best chance of the night for either side, but Tigres keeper Nahuel Guzmán tipped Muriel’s shot around the post just before halftime:

The stalemate sets up a delicious rematch between these teams next Tuesday at Estadio Universitario in Monterrey.

It was a close to a nightmare scenario for Jim Curtin and his team. After a cagey, superbly played first 45 minutes against their Mexican guests, Salvadoran referee Ismael Cornejo awarded a penalty kick to Pachuca on the stroke of halftime. There was little debate. Union defender Nathan Harriel had clearly, if accidentally, blocked a goal-bound shot with his arm.

But Philly got a reprieve courtesy of the video assistant, who spotted a Pachuca handball moments earlier. Cornejo went to the monitor and reversed his decision, letting Curtin’s team off the hook. It wasn’t the only time the hosts got lucky on Tuesday.

The truth is the Union are fortunate to still be in this series. While the home side had a slight possession advantage — not exactly their strong suit anyway — the visitors dominated the eye test. Sure enough, the stat sheet proves that squandered opportunities were the difference in this one: Pachuca sent a whopping 18 shots toward Andre Blake’s net, but put only three of them on target.

Dániel Gazdag nearly made them pay for it, only to loft his own effort over the crossbar with less than 15 minutes to go:

Everything to play for next week

Herediano made quick work of wonderfully named Surinamese side Robinhood in Tuesday’s opener; even on enemy territory, it would take a monumental collapse for the Costa Rican power to blow its two-goal aggregate advantage next week.

The other two series are wide open after Tuesday’s results, although Tigres and Pachuca have the clear advantage. In 32 Concacaf matches in Mexico since 2016, MLS teams have managed just three wins and six ties. The other 23 were losses. 

That doesn’t bode well for the Lions or the Union. One silver lining: both MLS sides prevented a dreaded away goal on Tuesday. Unlike the UEFA Champions League, which got rid of the controversial tiebreaker two years ago, the away goals rule is alive and well in Concacaf. That means that neither MLS team has to win south of the border next week – provided they can score and escape with another draw. 

Sounds simple enough, but it’s easier said than done.

Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports and he has covered United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.

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