CONCACAF Champions League recap: Orlando levels, Whitecaps triumph

Tigres UANL hosted Orlando City in the Concacaf Champions League 2023.
Tigres UANL hosted Orlando City in the Concacaf Champions League 2023. / Jam Media/GettyImages

The 2023 CONCACAF Champions League is back in full swing.

The international tournament kicked off this week, seeing certain Major League Soccer make their debut. Austin FC saw an embarssing introduction to the competition, losing 0-3 to Violette, while the Philadelphia Union drew 0-0 with a mediocre performance. But other teams did manage to score.

Here's everything you missed...

1. Austin fall 0-3

Austin head coach Josh Wolff blamed himself for the defeat.
Austin head coach Josh Wolff blamed himself for the defeat. / Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Austin FC marked their Concacaf Champions League debut on Tuesday with an embarrassing 3-0 defeat to Haiti’s Violette, as an own goal by Amro Tarek and strikes from Miche-Naider Chéry set up a nearly impossible comeback for the Verde and Black in the second leg of the series. 

Head coach Josh Wolff took full responsibility for the defeat, admitting he failed to prepare players mentally for the international competition. 

“I take responsibility for not having these guys mentally in the right space. Concacaf is a different animal. We talked about it, we tried to emphasize it. We have some of that experience inside the group, but I have to create more tension in their minds in understanding what this game's gonna look like,” said Wolff.

“It's going to be dramatic, it's going to be difficult, it's going to have ebbs and flows. And we talked about that at length, but I didn't do a good enough job getting them ready. That's on me.”

2. Philadelphia Union debut with a draw

Jim Curtin
Jim Curtin led the Philadelphia Union to a 0-0 vs. Alianza. / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

The Philadelphia Union kicked off the 2023 Concacaf Champions League campaign with a mediocre 0-0 draw against Salvadorian first division team Alianza.

Head coach Jim Curtin used several substitutes in the starting 11, benching Julian Carranza and Daniel Gazdag. It wasn't until the 60th minute that the Union's best players made an appearance, after lackluster efforts that surmounted in a mere two shots.

But even Carranza and Gazdag couldn't salvage the game at that point. Ultimately the stray dog that interrupted the game provided the only entretainment of the 90 minute match.

Now, the Union now head into the second leg of the series with the need to win at Subaru Park.

3. Vancouver Whitecaps triumph

The Vancouver Whitecaps kicked off their third-ever CCL campaign with a 5-0 win against Honduras team Real España. 

After a shaky opening 10 minutes that forced goalkeeper Yohei Takaoka into several saves, Vancouver regained control. In the 21st minute, center back Tristan Blackmon broke the deadlock for the hosts, heading home a looped cross from Julian Gressel before Ryan Raposo doubled the lead in the second half. Just five minutes later, the team got their third, with Dájome centering a ball from inside the box that was turned home for an own goal by Real España’s Devron Garcia.

Pedro Vité managed the fourth, and substitute striker Brian White sealed the victory with the fifth goal in the 77th minute. Real España now face an uphill battle in the second leg.

4. Orlando City level

Mario Escobar, Robin Jansson
Tigres UANL manage draw against Orlando City. / Jam Media/GettyImages

Orlando City held Tigres UANL to an impressive 0-0 draw at the Estadio Universitario. Goalkeeper Pedro Gallese proved to be the real hero, saving eight shots on target to maintain the clean sheet.

Tigres controled the majority of the match, often leaving Orlando players to chase after the ball. But even with 22 overall shots, Andre Pierre-Gignac, Sebastian Cordova and Nicolas Ibañez simply could not find the back of the net.

The draw leaves the series wide open, as the two teams head into the second leg on March 15. But Orlando holds the edge, hosting Tigres without their star Gignac. The French player will not make the trip to the United States as he is not vaccinated, and therefore cannot enter the country.