Leagues Cup knockout round set: And then there were … 32?

Sporting Kansas City ran circles around Guadalajara in their Leagues Cup match, sending the Chivas home early. (Photo: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports)
Sporting Kansas City ran circles around Guadalajara in their Leagues Cup match, sending the Chivas home early. (Photo: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports) /
Leagues Cup knockout round
América goalie Luis Malagón (seated in foreground) and defender Kevin Álvarez (left) watch Columbus Crew players celebrate their first goal of the night in a Leagues Cup group-stage match. América lost 4-1.  (Photo: Syndication: –The Columbus Dispatch) /

Well, that was an embarrassing final group stage performance. The Chivas went down in flames while América is no longer the favorite to take home the Leagues Cup trophy.

Guadalajara sits atop the Liga MX table with a perfect 3 wins from 3 games, but now they have nothing to do for three weeks but lick their wounds after a dreadful Leagues Cup showing.

After the not-as-close-as-it-looks 1-0 loss to a short-handed Sporting KC, coach Veljko Paunovic said he was embarrassed. And he should be.

“El Rebaño Sagrado” looked completely lost, chasing shadows and kicking the ball away when they managed to touch it, which was rarely (KC enjoyed 63% possession). Coming on the heels of an insipid appearance against FC Cincinnati, the Chivas have little to bleat about.

Leagues Cup knockout stage kicks off Wednesday

Toluca was the lone Liga MX side who could be proud of their Monday performance. The Diablos Rojos burned the Colorado Rapids 4-1.

América was being touted as a sure-bet finalist after trouncing MLS Western Conference leaders 4-0 in their opener, but Columbus Crew wrecked that bandwagon.

Columbus – a mediocre 10-6-7 on the season – took advantage of a passive Aguilas side and ran off with a 4-1 triumph to claim first place in the group. América had already clinched a spot in the knockout round, but Andre Jardine’s men were simply not ready to play.

In Monday’s fourth contest, Puebla came away with a shootout win over the Chicago Fire (América’s opponent in the Round of 32) but the Camoteros needed a victory in regulation to remain in contention for the Leagues Cup trophy.

The results of the 45-game Leagues Cup group-stage fiesta have 12 Liga MX teams and 20 MLS teams competing for the hardware.

Of the 16 knockout round match-ups, 10 feature Liga MX-vs-MLS clashes. One match pits UNAM vs Querétaro while five others are all-MLS affairs.

Here’s a list of the 11 games involving Liga MX sides (game day in parentheses):

Mazatlán FC vs FC Dallas (Tuesday)

Pachuca vs Houston Dynamo FC (Tuesday)

FC Juárez vs LAFC (Tuesday)

Atlas vs New England Revolution (Wednesday)

UNAM vs Querétaro (Wednesday)

Cruz Azul vs Charlotte FC (Wednesday)

León vs Real Salt Lake (Wednesday)

América vs Chicago Fire (Thursday)

Toluca vs Sporting KC (Thursday)

Monterrey vs Portland Timbers (Thursday)

Tigres vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC (Thursday)

A few lines of trivia

Here’s a wee bit of minutiae that might make the Leagues Cup Round of 32 more interesting to watch.

Houston Dynamo midfielder Héctor Herrera will square off against his original team on Tuesday. Herrera, now 33, rose quickly through the ranks of the Pachuca academy and debuted in 2011, going on to earn Rookie of the Year honors.

Herrera left Pachuca in 2013 for Portuguese giants FC Porto (winning a Primeira League title and two Portuguese Super Cups) before a three-year stint with Atletico de Madrid. He then joined Houston a year ago.

On Wednesday, Atlas will face a New England Revolution franchise without a coach. The MLS team announced Tuesday that Bruce Arena had been placed on “administrative leave” due to “allegations of insensitive and inappropriate remarks.”

Some wags are calling Thursday’s América-Chicago Fire contest the Cuauhtémoc Blanco Cup. The legendary “Cuau” played 12 years with “Los Azulcremas” and is No. 2 on the Aguilas’ all-time scoring list.

Next. The remarkable rise of Union Berlin. dark

At the age of 34, Blanco left América for the MLS, playing three seasons with the Chicago Fire where he became a crowd favorite.