América victory ensures all-Liga MX final in CCL

Henry Martín (#21) watches as a 79th-minute shot by Nicolás Benedetti (#14) bounces past Union keeper Andre Blake to give América a 1-0 lead. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Henry Martín (#21) watches as a 79th-minute shot by Nicolás Benedetti (#14) bounces past Union keeper Andre Blake to give América a 1-0 lead. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /
Henry Martín pokes home América’s second goal in Philadelphia as the Aguilas beat the Union 2-0 in a CCL semifinal. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Liga MX leaders América celebrated Mexican Independence Day in Philadelphia with a 2-0 victory (4-0 aggregate) over the Union, advancing to the Concacaf Champions League final for the first time since 2016.

Despite a lackluster offensive performance, the Aguilas – the top defense in Liga MX, allowing only 3 goals in eight matches – kept the feisty Philly side at bay with Team Mexico goalie Guillermo Ochoa stepping up big time. After facing only one shot in the first half, “Memo” blocked a 50th-minute penalty kick and a follow-up shot while the match was still scoreless.

Halftime sub Nicolás Benedetti found the net in minute 79 and Henry Martín added the coup de grâce in minute 90+3.

Liga MX rivals Cruz Azul and Monterrey face off in Estadio Azteca in Thursday’s other CCL semifinal with the winner advancing to the Oct. 28 final. The Rayados travel to Mexico City with a 1-0 advantage from the first leg played in Monterrey on Aug. 11.

Liga MX maintains bragging rights

América was not sharp during the first half, but the host Union came out over-anxious, rushing decisions and forcing passes, producing a ragged opening 45 minutes. And Philly’s Broad Street Bullies routine on defense did not impress Honduran ref Saíd Martínez; he whistled 16 fouls on the MLS club before the halftime break.

Just 5 minutes after the restart, Mauro Lainez coughed up the ball near midfield, leading directly to a Union fast break. Defender Bruno Valdéz unwisely went for the steal allowing Philly’s top scorer Kacper Przybylko to get behind him. When Bruno pulled Przybylko down in the box, ref Martínez immediately pointed to the penalty spot (and he could have pulled out a red card, as well).

Moments later, Jamiro Monteiro took aim, but “Memo” guessed right, diving to his left and knocking the shot off the underside of the crossbar. The ball bounded out to the onrushing Cory Burke, but “Memo” scrambled to his feet and got in front of Burke’s bouncer.

Despite the missed opportunity to close the gap, Philly kept its composure, buzzing around the América box for several possessions. The sustained pressure forced Aguilas coach Santiago Solari to send in fresh legs, while also switching to a 5-man back line.

Only 13 minutes after coming on, Henry Martín tracked back and stole the ball from José Martínez, knocking it to Pedro Aquino who quickly forwarded it to Benedetti just across the midfield stripe. “El Poeta” dribbled about 20 meters before sending a lead pass to Jorge Sánchez streaking down right wing. Sánchez chased the ball down and cut back a pass to Benedetti at the top of the box and the Colombian’s one-timer deflected off defender Jakob Glesnes and past goalie Andre Blake. Against the run of play, América led 1-0 in minute 79.

Martín added an exclamation point just before the final whistle, punching home a nifty shallow cross from Lainez at the back post.

As América’s win ensures an all-Liga MX final, that means a Liga MX club will win the Concacaf Champions League title for the 13th consecutive time since the current format was adopted in 2008. Eight of the previous 12 CCL finals were all-Liga MX affairs.

León advances to Leagues Cup final

In Houston, León benefited from the early expulsion of Sebastian Saucedo (minute 6) to ease past UNAM 2-0 in a Leagues Cup semifinal. Santiago Colombatto (16’) and Santiago Ormeño (68’) supplied the goals for “La Fiera.”

The Esmeraldas will be defending Liga MX pride in the final, taking on MLS Western Conference leaders Seattle Sounders who brushed aside two Liga MX teams to get to the championship match. Seattle dispatched the Tigres 3-0 in the quarterfinals and scored late to get past Santos Laguna in the semifinals.

The final will be played at the home stadium of the Las Vegas Raiders on Sept. 22.

Next. Liga MX Matchday 8 offers a bit of everything. dark

This is the second-ever Leagues Cup tournament, an unofficial championship featuring MLS and Liga MX teams. Cruz Azul defeated the Tigres 2-1 to win the inaugural tournament in 2019. The 2020 competition was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.