Cade Cowell scored twice to lead Guadalajara to a 3-1 victory at a frigid Tim Hortons Field in a Concacaf Champions League first-leg match against Forge FC.
Also Wednesday, Toluca held off Herediano 2-1 down in Costa Rica, pushing Liga MX teams to 3-0-1 in this year’s CCL tournament with the Vancouver Whitecaps-Tigres game pending. The lone blemish is América's stunning loss to Nicaragua's Real Estelí.
Cowell – a target of fan dissension for being a Team USA player even before getting off to a slow start – had been unimpressive in four Liga MX matches prior to Wednesday.
His brace will go a long way in winning the favor of Chivas Nation and will be a big confidence boost as he continues to adapt to life south of the border.
Early butterflies for Guadalajara
The Chivas looked out of sorts during the opening minutes – not unexpected since four key starters were back home in Guadalajara – and struggled to adapt to the speed of the articificial turf.
Veteran midfielder Fernando González helped settle the team down with a cheeky no-look assist in minute 26. “El Oso” was dribbling left-to-right just above the box looking to left winger Mateo Chávez when he threaded a pass inside to Cade Cowell who had space to blast a left-footer past Christopher Kalongo.
The goal was the first for Cowell since the dual national moved to Guadalajara from MLS side San Jose Earthquakes.
The hosts wasted no time in spoiling Cowell’s celebration, responding with a lightning strike just 2 minutes later.
Ricardo Marín’s header in first-half stoppage time allowed the Chivas to head to the locker room with confidence.
Cowell added his second when captain Jesús Sánchez rewarded his diagonal run into the box and the U.S. international fended off a defender on the right side before calmly skipped a shot inside the far post from a sharp angle. Kalongo got a piece of the shot but barely changed its trajectory.
With a 2-goal lead and three away goals, coach Fernando Gago sent out his Kiddie Corps. Yael Padilla, 18, Mateo Chávez, 19, Armando González, 20, Leonardo Sepúlveda, 22, and José Castillo, 22 closed out the final half hour of the match, but not without some expressions of exuberance.
Forge FC will travel to Guadalajara for the second leg on Feb. 13.
Diablos Rojos let Herediano off the hook
Toluca will return from Costa Rica with a 2-1 win but coach Renato Paiva will be disappointed the Diablos Rojos are not heading back home for the second leg with a bigger cushion.
“Los Choriceros” played 80 minutes with a man advantage then had to scramble a bit in the final minutes to avoid embarrassment.
Defender Federico Pereira put the Liga MX team on top in minute 16 and Robert Morales doubled Toluca’s lead just before the hour mark.
A late defensive lapse allowed the hosts to snap one back, Deyver Vega finding the back of the net in minute 88.
Herediano must find a way to outscore Toluca at “La Bombonera” on Thursday, Feb. 15.