The US Open Cup is in full swing at the midway point of the month-long, four-round blitz that will take the field of 64 down to eight. Meanwhile, on Wednesday the Amway Canadian Championship crowned a winner and this weekend the Caribbean Football Union will reduce the field down to the final group for the championship round.
Both tournaments will send representatives on to this summer's CONCACAF Champions League while the Open Cup winner will join the fray for next year's CCL. And if Puerto Rico Islanders get at least a draw Friday evening in the Cayman Islands, at least one club from the North American lower divisions will advance yet again, possibly two, from the CFU.
Amway Canadian Championship
Vancouver Whitecaps 5:1 FC Edmonton
Second division FC Edmonton had a chance to use home field to sneak their way into the final, but fell behind by two goals by Eric Hassli and Atiba Harris in the first half of the 2-0 defeat to Vancouver. They fought back in the second leg, playing the Whitecaps to a scoreless first half and getting the first goal from Yashir Pinto in the 54th. Vancouver, however, ran off three unanswered with two from Sebastien Le Toux and a stoppage time capper from Darren Mattocks.
Toronto FC 2:0 Montreal Impact
The other series was a lot closer with the two previous tournament winners squaring off. The Montreal Impact, who won in 2008 as a second division club and went on to reach the CCL Quarterfinals, were unable to use home field to take a lead a lead with them on the road against Toronto FC, the reigning three-time winners who reached the CCL Semifinals last spring. A goal from Reggie Lambe two minutes into the second leg gave Toronto the advantage, and despite a red card to Richard Eckersley in the 17th, they held on for the win, picking up a second goal from Ryan Johnson in the 38th.
Final - Toronto FC 2:1 Vancouver Whitecaps
Seems the only place Toronto can find any success is outside of Major League Soccer. The club surprised the Los Angeles Galaxy in the CCL Quarterfinals despite all projections. Since then, the team has gone pointless in MLS play (0-9-0), but has somehow managed to return to the CCL with the most minimal of results, it seems, possible.
Again, the home club was unable to take an advantage out of the first leg as Toronto FC took the lead in Vancouver with a goal from Johnson in the 66th minute. It took a Hassli goal a minute into stoppage time to put the Whitecaps on level terms for the road. The second leg was a stalemate until Lambe tallied his second of the tournament seven minutes from time to give Toronto a fourth consecutive title.
Caribbean Football Union Club Championship
Fourteen clubs representing nine of the 30 CFU federations were in the CFU Club Championship at the start with four clubs - Caledonia AIA (T&T), Puerto Rico Islanders (NASL), Antigua Barracuda (USL Pro) and W Connection (T&T) - seeded into the Second Round of three group phases.
The First Round was set into two groups of three and a group of four with three first-place clubs and a wild card moving on.
In Group 1, George Town (Cayman Islands) and the North Village Rams (Bermuda) played to a scoreless draw to kick things off. The Rams then fell, 2-1, to Elite Sports Club (Cayman Islands) placing George Town into a must-win scenario in the final match. After falling behind on a goal five minutes in, Fabian Malcom and Limburg Cuevas-Ebanks led them to the comeback win to advance.
In Group 2, Inter Moengotapoe (Suriname) dominated from the outset and finished with three wins and an aggregate score of 11-3. It was not that easy though as they only picked up a 1-0 win over Alpha United (Guyana), who finished second, in the first game. They took command of the group with a 7-1 win over Milerock (Guyana) in the second game, getting two goals from Stefano Rijssel, who tallied the game one winner. Rijssel was pivotal in game three as well, scoring the winner after Hubentut (Curacao) equalized and took a 2-1 lead. Alpha United defeated Hubentut Fortuna, 3-1, and Milerock, 2-0, but it was not enough to get the wild card.
Fourth-place finishers in 2010 Bayamon FC (Puerto Rico) were unable to find glory again, falling in both matches to open Group 3. They lost, 2-0, to Baltimore (Haiti) in the first contest and, 5-1, to Victory (Haiti) in the second with four goals from Bony Pierre, setting up a showdown between the the two Haitian clubs for the next round's berth. With a two-goal advantage in differential, Victory took the top spot following a 1-1 draw in which Pierre scored a 90th minute equalizer four minutes after giving up the go-ahead goal in a stalemate. Baltimore, however, would move on as the wild card.
Group 5 kicked off and wrapped things up first in the second group phase. USL Pro's Antigua Barracuda took the group with an unbeaten record with Trindad & Tobago power W Connection finishing a close second to send both seeded clubs through.
Antigua opened with a 3-0 win against Inter Moengotapoe on a pair of goals from Tamorley Thomas and a third from Quinton Griffith. Hachim Arcia scored two for W Connection's 2-0 win against Victory. Antigua then played Victory to a scoreless draw in the second game, opening the door for W Connection, who posted a 6-0 victory with two more goals from Arcia and a pair from Shahdon Winchester. Kern Cupid and Rennie Brito tallied the other two. Hoping for an Antigua loss, Victory blasted Inter Moengotapoe 8-2 with Pierre netting two and Ricardo Charles scoring four. It would go for naught as Antigua rallied against the hosts in the second match of the doubleheader. After George Dublin gave up an own goal in the 21st, Matthew Aldred evened terms back up in the 37th and Peter Byers provided the winner three minutes before the break in the 2-1 decision.
Before the second group phase got under way in Group 4, Baltimore withdrew allegedly due to issues obtaining visas for the Cayman Islands.
The defending champion and CCL darling Puerto Rico Islanders got off to a slow start with a scoreless draw against Caledonia AIA in the opening match Monday evening. On Wednesday, the T&T side dominated the hosts to the tune of a 5-0 victory to take firm control of the group.
With Caledonia clinching a berth in the Final Group with Antigua and fellow T&T side W Connection, Puerto Rico merely needs a draw from the final match Friday evening against the hosts to advance to the final four-team group. That would guantee at least one club from a North American lower division will return to the CCL along with at least one side from Trinidad & Tobago as the top three teams from the group qualify for the confederation's championship tournament.