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Haitian minnows rout Austin FC in CONCACAF Champions League

Austin FC’s hopes of a deep run in the CONCACAF Champions League were left in tatters on Tuesday after the Major League Soccer club crashed to a 3-0 defeat against Haitian minnows Violette AC in the last 16.

Two headers from Miche-Naider Chery and an own goal from Amro Tarek left Austin with a mountain to climb if they are to reach the quarter-finals of the top club competition for Central America, North America and the Caribbean.

Austin, who is co-owned by Hollywood movie star Matthew McConaughey, has flourished since joining MLS as an expansion side in the 2021 season, and qualified for the CONCACAF Champions League after finishing second in the Western Conference last season.

Violette, by contrast, has barely played in recent seasons due to civil unrest in Haiti and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Violette hosted Tuesday’s “home” first leg in the neighboring Dominican Republic due to ongoing security concerns.

Yet it was the Haitian underdogs who dominated throughout, with winger Roberto Baggio Louima — named after the Italian soccer legend — causing havoc down the left flank and heavily involved in all three goals.

Louima’s pinpoint cross from the left wing set up the opening goal for Chery, who timed his run to perfection before heading into the top corner.

Violette doubled their lead on 39 minutes, this time Louima released the overlapping fullback Denilson Pierre, who crossed for Chery to nod in his second for 2-0.

Any hopes Austin had of mounting a second-half fightback were extinguished after the break.

Louima crossed for Chery, whose header was brilliantly saved by Austin goalkeeper Brad Stuver, only for defender Tarek to volley his attempted clearance back into the net.

Austin will host Violette in Texas in the second leg on March 14.

While Austin’s chances of advancing look bleak, the Philadelphia Union appears better placed after grinding out a 0-0 draw with El Salvador’s Alianza in San Salvador.

Philadelphia manager Jim Curtin rotated his starting line-up following last Saturday’s MLS defeat to Inter Miami and the gamble mostly paid off to leave the Union in a strong position ahead of the return leg.

An attritional contest was halted briefly in the 68th minute when a dog sprinted onto the field to chase the match ball.

Major League Soccer’s Orlando City meanwhile also fared well in Tuesday’s other fixture, producing a disciplined defensive performance to hold Mexico’s 2020 Champions League winners Tigres to a 0-0 draw in Monterrey.