September 16, 2008

Our Champions League begins again tonight

The qualifying rounds sure were fun (oops, sorry New England and Goats USA fans). The group stages begin tonight for the first CONCACAF Champions League. Here's a quick preview of the groups, along with some predictions...

1- Cruz Azul (MEX)
2- Saprissa (CRC)
3- DC United (USA)
4- Marathon (HON)

This is definitely the group of death. All four clubs are among the historical powerhouses of their respective countries. Cruz Azul has started off strong in the Mexican Apertura, only losing one of their first seven games. Honestly, 2-4 could go to any of the three teams. Saprissa is traditionally quite strong, however they've dropped some games early in their current Apertura season. DC United is not 100% healthy and must start out strong to get some positive momentum going in this tournament. They also have to fight to qualify for the MLS playoffs. Marathon is rolling in Honduras right now, and could surprise. No easy games here...

1- Pumas (MEX)
2- Houston Dynamo (USA)
3- L.A. Firpo (ES)
4- San Francisco (PAN)

I think this one could be the most cut and dried group of the bunch. Pumas is the top team in Mexico right now, with 16 points out of 7 matches. Houston is on a roll right now as well and the top team in MLS' Western Conference. Firpo is actually struggling in El Salvador right now, but should be good enough to top San Francisco of Panama.

1- Atlante (MEX)
2- Joe Public (TRI)
3- Olimpia (HON)
4- Montreal Impact (CAN)

Another battle for the second spot in this group, with Atlante seemingly having a fairly easy time of it. Los Potros are not scoring lots of goals in Mexico in the Apertura, but are riding a strong defense. I think Joe Pubic will be the surprise here, they should be riding high off their thumping of New England. Besides, would you really be shocked to see some dodgy refereeing in Jack Warner's home stadium if it came down to it? Just kidding, maybe. Olimpia is struggling to find goals this season in Honduras, and that could be the difference against Joe Public. Montreal might be getting some injured players back, but I don't know if they have the roster to really compete for the USL-D1 title and in the Champions League.

1- Santos Laguna (MEX)
2- Municipal (GUA)
3- Puerto Rico Islanders (PR)
4- Tauro (PAN)

I don't think the bottom two can challenge the top two here. Santos is second in Mexico in scoring. Municipal has been in international competition before, and that should be enough for them to secure a spot in the quarterfinals. Puerto Rico was the shock of the qualifying round, but I don't know if they can hold up over six more games. They should be good enough to finish ahead of Tauro though.

I hope to see some surprises, but I don't think it's all that likely. The Mexican teams are at another level compared to most of the other 12 teams in the group stage. Realistically, I think only Houston and Saprissa can compete with them right now.

1 comment:

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