Chivas defeat Forge FC, join Pachuca in Champions League Round of 16

Up next: América must overcome plucky Real Estelí; Tigres host Vancouver Whitecaps

Guadalajara's Erick Gutiérrez celebrates after scoring as Ronaldo Cisneros (left) races in to join him.
Guadalajara's Erick Gutiérrez celebrates after scoring as Ronaldo Cisneros (left) races in to join him. / Jam Media/GettyImages

'Guti' gets Guadalajara off to great start

Erick Gutiérrez scored early and defender José Castillo added a second as the Chivas eased past Forge FC 5-2 on aggregate to advance to the Concacaf Champions League Round of 16.

With a 3-1 lead from the first leg up in Canada, Guadalajara coach Fernando Gago opted for a conservative 4-4-2 line-up (three holding midfielders).

To be sure, the Argentine manager used a second-choice line-up and “El Rebaño Sagrado" adopted a cautious – some might say nonchalant – approach, especially after taking a quick lead.

Off a minute 8 corner kick, Chivas defender Antonio Briseño directed a near-post header at Christopher Kalongo’s feet, but the ball skittered out of the goalie’s hands and “Guti” reacted first, scissoring a shot that pinballed into the net.

For the rest of the first half, Guadalajara patiently wasted chances that were served up by Forge as the Canadian side desperately sought the four goals it now needed to avoid elimination.

Cade Cowell – the Man of the Match in the first leg up in Canada – was the lone dangerous Chiva, both making runs down the right flank and sending crosses into the box – but strike partner Ronaldo Cisneros delighted in demonstrating a variety of ways to squander scoring opportunities.

In minute 37, back-up goalie Oscar Whalley came up with a big save off a blast that was deflected just above the box by Briseño. The keeper got his mitt on the low shot as it skipped toward his right post to preserve the lead.

The goalie made another fine save just before the half, palming a Kyle Becker volley around his left post.

Gago sent on three offensive-minded players to start the second half and the field tilted decidedly toward Kalongo who was asked to make three tough saves in the first 20 minutes after the break.

The embattled netminder made a nice save off a José Castillo shot but the Guadalajara fullback ran onto the rebound and headed it into the net past the prone goalie. Castillo had been released into the box by a nifty Ricardo Marín touch-pass.

That made the score 2-0 on the night and 5-1 on aggregate.

The one bit of bad news the Chivas suffered was a nasty-looking knee injury to defender Raúl Martínez. The 20-year-old had just come on 5 minutes earlier. And Guadalajara had already made all its allotted substitutions so were forced to play the final 16 minutes a man down.

No matter. The Chivas were largely able to play keep away from there on out. In fact, Yael Padilla should have made it 3-0. The Guadalajara youngster fired into Kalongo’s chest from close range in minute 82. That was Kalongo's 7th save of the night.

Forge avoided the shut-out on the final play of the game. Kevaughn Tavernier thumped home a right-footer from the top of the box when the Chivas failed to clear a corner kick.

“Los rojiblancos” join Pachuca in the Round of 16, moving on to an expected Super Clásico match-up against América.

Pachuca qualified directly into the Round of 16 as the Liga MX team with the best record during the 2022-2023 football year. The Tuzos will play the survivor of the Saprissa (Costa Rica) vs Philadelphia Union (MLS) series.

The rest of the Liga MX contingent

On Wednesday, Tigres host the Vancouver Whitecaps with their series all tied at 1-1 thanks to an André-Pierre Gignac free kick that came in minute 88.

This will be the third visit to “El Volcán” for the MLS club. 

The Whitecaps lost to Tigers 2-0 on March 14, 2017, in the first leg of a CCL semifinal that the Liga MX giants would go on to win on a 4-1 aggregate scoreline.

Vancouver then traveled to Nuevo León for a Leagues Cup match last year, a contest that went to penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw with Tigres advancing 5-3 in the shootout. Gignac scored a spectacular bicycle kick to equalize in minute 53.

Tigres should have the advantage here. Not only are they playing at home, but “los felinos” are six games into the Liga MX season, while the Whitecaps will not kick off their MLS season until Saturday.

Later Wednesday, reigning Liga MX champs América welcome Nicaragua’s Real Estelí to Estadio Ciudad de los Deportes with the Central Americans holding a surprising 2-1 advantage.

The stunning first-leg result could have been worse if Julián Quiñones had not found the net in minute 90, after the Nicaraguan side had withstood tons of pressure during the previous 30 minutes.

The Real Estelí players – which includes Mexican midfielder Iván Ochoa – have expressed disappointment that the match won’t be held in Estadio Azteca – the iconic stadium where Pelé and Maradona hoisted World Cup trophies. “El Coloso de Santa Úrsula” hosted a Karol G concert this past weekend and will not be ready for futbol until next week

Still, Ochoa declared to the press that “El Tren del Norte” is confident of their chances against the mighty "AzulCremas.”

As for the Aguilas, captain Henry Martín is back in full training after missing the past three weeks with an ankle injury. Although the Team Mexico striker might not start for América, he looks certain to be in uniform again.

The Liga MX champs will have to win 1-0 or by a 2-goal margin to advance to the Round of 16. A 2-1 victory for América will result in a penalty shootout.

On Thursday, Toluca hosts Costa Rica’s Herediano with a 2-1 lead from the first leg, while Monterrey receives a visit from Guatemala’s Comunicaciones. The Rayados defeated “Los Cremas” 4-1 in Guatemala City last week.

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We’ll have more on Thursday's two contests tomorrow night.