ALAJUELA, Costa Rica -- Alajuelense turned a mistake by Morelia goalkeeper Federico Vilar into the lone goal and won 1-0 Tuesday night to claim a share of the Group A lead in the CONCACAF Champions League.
Jonathan McDonald scored in the 77th minute to lift the Costa Rican side to the win in the first round of group stage matches at Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto Scotiabank.
The result moved Alajuelense atop with the LA Galaxy, which won 2-0 over Motagua on Tuesday, and set up a clash for the group lead in Los Angeles on Thursday, August 25. Morelia will host Motagua on the same night.
McDonald, who is Alajuelense's leading scorer in the Costa Rican Torneo Inviero with three of the team's nine goals, took advantage of Vilar's error.
Vilar jumped for a long free kick from the right side, but dropped the ball while falling near the penalty spot. McDonald corralled the loose ball, found some room around two defenders and slotted the ball into an empty net from 12 meters.
Morelia's Alonso Sandoval almost equalized in the 89th minute as his right-flank drive was cleared off the goal line by the Alajuelense defense.
After referee Roberto Moreno of Panama blew the final whistle, some of the players traded words, but officials separated them before the sparring could escalate.
Alajuelense dominated the opening half, but had nothing to show for its efforts.
The Costa Ricans' best opportunity came in the fourth minute when a Morelia defender tried to clear Jose Salvatierra's header with a right foot, but instead deflected it off his own crossbar.
The hosts continued to attack, sending shots just wide left in the fifth and eighth minutes, the last chance off a McDonald attempt.
Vilar was called for a foul at the penalty arc for a handball, but captain Pablo Antonio fired the ensuing free kick into the defensive wall.
Morelia's chances were few, including having a goal called back because of offside in the 22nd minute.
In an attempt to spur his team, Morelia coach Tomas Boy replaced Gerardo Lugo with Alonso Sandoval at halftime.
The change seemed to work in the opening eight minutes as the Mexicans controlled possession and were much more lively, forcing the issue.
Before Alajuelense scored, Morelia pulled more players behind the ball and resorted to physical tactics to frustrate and stymie the Costa Rican side.