Trophy time across the Americas
Although the excitement of the finishing strait is still to come in Argentina and the USA's championship races, tussles for silverware have already been settled in many other corners of the Americas. This Sunday we learned the destiny of the Bolivian title and a sizeable handful of Brazilian state championships, while in Mexico two familiar faces have secured their places in the Clausura decider. Join FIFA.com as we take a look back at the best of the weekend’s action in the Americas’ top leagues.
Brazil: Trophies abound
Santos, Fluminense and Avai all clinched titles this weekend, while this Sunday’s action also saw a host of other teams crowned on a decisive day in the leading state championships.
At the Morumbi stadium, 50,000 Santos fans were treated to what has become something of a habit: a win and a veritable show from starlet Neymar, who struck twice in O Peixe’s 4-2 second-leg final win over Guarani. “I couldn’t have imagined we’d come so far in such a short space of time,” said the youngster, on Santos’ third consecutive Paulista championship success. “We’re making history.”
Turning to Rio de Janeiro and Fluminense beat Botafogo 1-0 in their second-leg clash, following on from a 4-1 first-leg triumph, to claim their 31st state title. Atletico-MG, for their part, were comfortable 3-0 winners over America-MG to win the Mineiro state championship unbeaten for the first time since 1976. On a matchday that featured clássicos across the country, supporters of Bahia, Coritiba and Santa Cruz also had titles to celebrate.
Major League Soccer: Red cards prove decisive
New York Red Bulls moved into first place in the Eastern Conference thanks to a 3-2 win at Philadelphia Union, for whom Freddy Adu was both hero and villain. He led his side’s attacking forays and supplied the assist for Union’s equaliser when 1-0 down, only to receive his marching orders prior to the interval. Despite Lionard Pajoy striking his second of the game to put the home team in front, the visiting Red Bulls took full advantage of the extra man to battle back to win through goals from Markus Holgersson and Kenny Cooper.
Another red card, this time for FC Dallas’ Zach Loyd, was key to his club’s 2-1 defeat against a Columbus Crew side that had been on a five-game winless run. Though Fabian Castillo had put FCD in front, within four minutes of Loyd’s dismissal Justin Meran grabbed his first MLS goal to level for Crew, laying the foundations for Sebastian Miranda’s subsequent winner.
Western Conference leaders Real Salt Lake, for their part, beat Seattle Sounders thanks to a solitary goal from Fabian Espindola. The strike was Espindola’s 30th for the Utah outfit, this making him their all-time leading scorer.
Argentina: El Tata making his mark
Though he was handed the Newell’s Old Boys head coach’s position with the emphasis on avoiding relegation, Gerardo El Tata Martino has since taken the team to the top of the Clausura table after a 3-1 win over Union Santa Fe and the goalless draw at the Bombonera between fellow title-chasers Boca Juniors (2nd) and Velez Sarsfield (6th). The former Paraguay man has thus revolutionised a once struggling side, with Newell’s now unbeaten in ten games and chasing a first championship since the Apertura 2004.
Tigre, meanwhile, are in third spot after they drew away to Colon Santa Fe, though they continue to occupy a relegation berth in the Promedio standings - which are decided by points average over the past three years. In El Clásico del Sur, Lanus beat a Banfield side that are struggling to shake the losing habit and are in danger of sliding into the drop zone, where San Lorenzo find themselves already.
Mexico: Familiar foes in final
Having gone head-to-head in the final of the CONCACAF Champions League just weeks ago, Santos Laguna and Monterrey are now set to clash in the title decider of this year’s Mexican Clausura. The latter outfit comfortably sank CF America 2-0 on aggregate to reach the final, in the process underlining how strong a prospect they could be at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2012.
Santos, in contrast, were really made to sweat to take their place in the final, having required two goals in the dying minutes of their semi-final return leg against reigning champions Tigres. Up popped the on-form Oribe Peralta, however, to notch in the 87th and 89th to send his club into the final and earn the opportunity to avenge continental defeat by Los Rayados.
The final round of the Clausura in Bolivia put three title candidates to the test. Once the dust had settled, it was La Paz outfit The Strongest who emerged top of the pile after an away win over San Jose who, along with Oriente Petrolero, had also been in the championship running. In fact, results meant that all three teams finished on 38 points but The Strongest’s superior goal difference enabled them to repeat a success they also enjoyed in 2011.
In Chile’s Clásico Universitario, it was Universidad Catolica that won the day 2-1 against Universidad de Chile, though it is the latter who remain top of the Apertura standings. Colo Colo put themselves in the frame for a place in the quarter-finals of the championship play-offs after a second consecutive victory, this time 1-0 against Antofagasta, moved them into eighth spot – with only the top eight teams progressing.
CD Lara, who clinched the title in Venezuela last Sunday, rounded off their triumphant Clausura campaign with a 2-0 win over Carabobo FC. Caracas FC and Deportivo Anzoategui defeated Atletico El Vigia and Aragua FC respectively to seal their places in the 2013 edition of the Copa Libertadores de America. Dropping into the second tier were Carabobo and Tucanes de Amazonas.
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