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MLS teams face tricky home legs
by Ridge Mahoney, September 2nd, 2008 7AM
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For New England and Chivas USA, their tasks in the second legs of the CONCACAF Champions' League preliminary round on Tuesday couldn't be more clear: win, or be embarrassed. New England hosts Joe Public FC at Gillette Stadium (8 pm ET, Fox Soccer Channel) and Chivas USA plays Tauro FC at Home Depot Center (10 p.m. ET, Galavision, FSC). Both teams face opposition from leagues rated well below MLS and neither was able to pull out a tie in the away legs last week.

The Revs did manage an away goal in losing, 2-1, to Joe Public FC of Trinidad & Tobago, and can advance by winning, 1-0.

Chivas USA trails Tauro FC of Panama, 2-0, and faces the double jeopardy of needing to score at least twice while wary of conceding a precious goal. The away-goals rule is the first tiebreaker in case the teams tie on aggregate after the regulation 90 minutes.

Despite reaching MLS Cup 2007, the Revs weren't allotted one of the two MLS slots in the 16-team Champions' League group phase. Those places went to Houston (league champion) and D.C. United (best regular-season record), which will enter the competition when group play begins later this month.

New England and Chivas USA are shorthanded in the attack; striker Taylor Twellman took an inadvertent punch to the jaw from Galaxy goalkeeper Steve Cronin in a 2-2 tie Saturday night and won't play against Joe Public. Chivas USA may be without striker Maykel Galindo, who is recovering from sports hernia surgery.

The Revs are the more banged-up of the two MLS teams. Adam Cristman (sprained right toe) and rookie Kheli Dube (strained adductor) missed the first leg as well as the Galaxy game; catalyst and captain Steve Ralston suffered back spasms against Joe Public that kept him out of the Galaxy match as well.

"One-nil puts us through," says Revs coach Steve Nicol. "We have to make sure we don't lose a goal. The first thing we have to do is make sure we are tight at the back. We have to figure out how we'll get the ball in the back of the net."

Putting the ball in the net has been problematic for Chivas USA much of the season. Scoring by committee has produced 28 goals in 22 games; midfielder Sacha Kljestan leads the team with five, with midfielder Jesse Marsch and forward Ante Razov next in line with four apiece.

Chivas USA players called up for their national teams on Saturday will play against Tauro FC. Summoned were midfielder Sacha Kljestan (USA) and defender Shavar Thomas (Jamaica).

Razov set up Alecko Eskandarian for the first Chivas USA goal in a 2-1 win over Toronto Saturday night. Eskandarian hadn't scored since the home opener against Real Salt Lake in early April, after which complications from sports hernia surgery and a follow-up operation kept him out of action for four months.

"I thought Alecko was very, very lively; his movement was good, he scored a good goal, he had a few other opportunities," said Coach Preki. "I'm just happy to see him on the field, and to give us significant minutes tonight was a great boost."

In both first legs, the opposition proved to be far from overmatched playing at home.

How well the MLS teams deal with their opponents' attackers may determine if the Revs and Chivas USA join their MLS counterparts in the group phase.

Kerry Baptiste set up Kerry Richardson and Jamal Gay for the Joe Public goals; Edwin Aguilar scored early for Tauro and tacked on another goal midway through the second half.

"I don't think we underestimated them, but I think they were better than we anticipated," said Revs defender Chris Albright. "They have some guys up front who can do some damage."



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