Atlanta United Shows Impressive Grit In Comeback; Sporting KC Dumps Toluca In Embarrassing Fashion

There was a time when Brek Shea a lanky winger from the great city of College Station, Texas — home of the Dixie Chicken and the greatest football stadium in the country — looked like the next big thing for U.S. soccer. The Cockatrice, as no one but myself calls him, had a combination of skill, panache, size and athleticism that earned him a move to Stoke City after five seasons with FC Dallas.

After just three Premier League appearances and 14 more in the Championship on loan with Barnsley and Birmingham City, Shea returned to MLS with Orlando City and then Vancouver for two seasons each. In the offseason, the 29-year-old signed with Atlanta United. 

Based on his first appearance with the Five Stripes, this might be where Shea thrives for the first time since his days in Dallas.

Shea had two assists as in Atlanta United’s 4-0 win over Herediano of Costa Rica, overturning a first-leg defeat to advance 5-3 on aggregate in the Concacaf Champions League on Thursday. Along with Sporting KC’s 2-0 road win over Toluca (completing a 5-0 throttling over the two legs), all four U.S. teams advanced to the CCL quarterfinals. Three of four Liga MX squads advanced while Toronto was smashed by Panama’s Independiente for the final quarterfinal spot.

Atlanta United suffered a 3-1 defeat in the away leg against Herediano, leaving a big hole to climb out of in the second leg. With Mercedes-Benz Stadium unavailable because of monster trucks or something, the match was played at Fifth Third Bank Stadium. And I'm going to double check the name of that stadium six more times because that doesn't make any sense. 

Despite the smaller confines, the Five Stripes exploded out of the gates with a dream start. Shea sent a cross into the box that deflected to Josef Martinez, and you know the record goal scorer wouldn’t miss from inside the six-yard box, making it 1-0 inside the first minute. 

The goal was the quickest in club history, and the night only got better from there. 

Julian Gressel, who scored the important away goal in the first leg, combined with Ezequiel Barco to make it 2-0 in the ninth minute.

That goal was enough to see Atlanta through, but the home side didn’t stop pressing for more. The insurance came in the form of second-half goals from Martinez and Leandro Gonzales Pirez.

Shea again assisted on Martinez’s second goal, laying off to the Venezuelan for an easy tap-in in the 63rd minute to clinch the win.

Gonzalez Pirez, a center back, then finished it off with this header. 

All in all, a good night for Atlanta — and Brek Shea, who was celebrating his 29th birthday. 

Of course, it wasn’t all great for the Cockatrice; the winger missed an open net to make it 3-0. 

But he celebrated afterword.

(I guess they don’t have Antonio’s Pizza or DoubleDave’s at Fifth Third Bank Stadium.)

Sporting KC Embarrasses Toluca

The only matchup between Liga MX and MLS sides was Sporting KC against Toluca. Sporting is one of the most consistent clubs in America under Peter Vermes and showed it with a 5-0 aggregate win over Toluca, which is falling apart right now. 

Gerso and Krisztián Németh both scored to pile on the pressure at Toluca, which hasn’t won in eight matches, seven being losses and the last four without scoring. 

Toluca is a hot mess right now, having recently fired its coach. 

It was so bad the Toluca fans were “Olé”-ing their own team. 

Sporting KC’s win was just the sixth time an MLS team knocked a Liga MX side out of the CCL, with three coming last year (two by Toronto). But this was the first time an American team did it with the second leg being played in Mexico. 

With most Liga MX and MLS sides taking care of business in the first round, we’re in for a treat of a second round.

Concacaf Champions League Quarterfinals

  • Monterrey (Mexico) vs. Atlanta United (USA)
  • Independiente (Panama) vs. Sporting KC (USA)
  • Houston Dynamo (USA) vs. UANL (Mexico)
  • New York Red Bulls (USA) vs. Santos Laguna (Mexico)

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