CONCACAF Champions League Week 6 in Review


As the CONCACAF Champions League group stage entered its last week, all three MLS representatives were still with a chance of qualification to the knockout round of the competition. Results through Wednesday night have cleared up the fates of the Columbus Crew and the Houston Dynamo, while DC United must sweat out the last Group B game taking place tonight.

Let’s start with what we do know – Columbus will enter the quarterfinals after their 1-1 draw away to the Puerto Rico Islanders while Houston is eliminated after their 3-2 loss away to Metapán of El Salvador. Because DC United drew 1-1 with Toluca on Tuesday, they must await the result of tonight’s match between CD Marathón and San Juan Jabloteh in Trinidad. A loss or a draw from Marathón puts DC into the quarterfinals.

The Columbus Crew entered Week #6 of the CCL knowing they controlled their own destiny. Needing at least a draw to secure second place in Group C, the Crew played the first half with little intensity, and gave up a relatively soft goal to the home side Islanders to trail 1-0 at halftime. Not wanting to rely on other results within the Group, Columbus came out strong in the second half, nearly tying the score in the first couple minutes off efforts from Brian Carroll and halftime substitute Adam Moffat. Eventually it was Emilio Renteria who leveled the score in the 74th minute. Playing out the remainder of the game with the score in their favor, the Crew can now look forward to the knockout stages of the competition in early 2010.

The Houston Dynamo received good news ahead of their match with Group A bottom dwellers Isidro Metapán when, earlier in the evening, group winners Pachuca dispatched Arabe Unido of Panama 2-0. Trailing the Panamanians by three points in the race for the second qualification slot, but holding the head-to-head tiebreaker, Houston needed a win in their match to advance in the competition. While the Dynamo have not had much success historically on the road in the CCL, playing against a team that had yet to score in the competition seemed to present an easy task. Instead, Dom Kinnear’s squad came out with little energy, and poor communication among the defensive line lead to two quick goals from the El Salvadorans. The Dynamo recovered to level the score before halftime, with the second goal being worthy of another luck, as goalkeeper Tally Hall punted a ball into the opponent’s penalty area that bounced beyond a hapless Metapán ‘keeper into the net. The home side claimed interference on the play through a tough challenge from Brian Ching on the ‘keeper, but the referee let the goal stand. With their early mistakes now atoned for, the Dynamo needed only a winning second half performance to secure their passage to the CCL knockout round for the second straight year. Instead, a bevy of missed opportunities, and a long range free kick goal from the home side, saw Houston crash out with a 3-2 loss and an end to their Champions League run.

DC United was also in control of their CCL fate as they flew to Mexico to take on the group leaders Toluca. Never has a team from MLS beaten a Mexican squad south of the border, but DC would come very close. Taking a 1-0 lead in the first half off a spectacular goal from Chris Pontius, the Black-and-Red looked poised to knock off a Toluca team that couldn’t break through against goalkeeper Steve Cronin. DC held on until the 62nd minute, when a penalty kick was awarded after a soft challenge from Lawson Vaughn in the area, and second half substitute Israel Lopez converted the equalizer. Only a victory would guarantee DC second place in Group B, but they squandered what few chances they could create over the final third of the match and had to settle for the 1-1 draw. Now, they await the match result from tonight to see whether they’ll continue to play in the CCL.

Congratulations to the Columbus Crew for successfully advancing in the competition. There is only frustration for the Houston Dynamo for dropping a game to a team that couldn’t buy a goal in their first five group stage matches. Supporters of DC United, justifiably proud of their teams result in Mexico, will be cheering on Jabloteh tonight, willing the Trinidad and Tobago squad on to at least a draw. Otherwise, MLS will send only one team through to the quarterfinals of the CCL – truly a disappointment for the league and its fans.

UPDATE: In Thursday night’s game in Trinidad, Marathon defeated San Juan Jabloteh 4-2 to secure passage to the quarterfinals ahead of DC United. Behind a second half hat-trick from Jerry Palacios, the Honduran squad easily handled the winless hosts. The result leaves the Columbus Crew as the only MLS representative left in the competition. The elimination of both Houston and DC from the CCL reflects poorly on the league in our region. However, until participating clubs are pressed by their supporters to succeed outside of MLS, don’t expect results like this year and last year (only the Houston Dynamo advanced) to change.

26 thoughts on “CONCACAF Champions League Week 6 in Review”

  1. HAHAHAHA!!! Your league sucks!!! The Dynamo is supposedly the “class” of your league and they lost miserably!!! HAHAHA!!!!!

    Your league will always be nothing. Always. Mexico is #1

    1. whats this need to tell everyone that your country is better. is it a self esteem issue. is it a lack of being able to satisfy a woman. is it a lack of confidence. are you just that desperate for attention. its ok we all know that your just trying to make your small …… ego feel better.

  2. I wouldn’t call 3-2 “losing miserably.” but yea, it wasn’t a pretty match.

    Columbus in February.. that’s going to be a fun one.

  3. 1. If I read it right, Houston would have to have won by like 4 goals to advance, so, it more or less a lost proposition to start.

    2. Add on to that CCL basically comes right at the tail end of the MLS season, in which the most important matches are held, and every squad is eyeing their playoff berth. CCL (with its mid-week games) becomes much less important to MLS, whose season is almost over, versus, say, FMF, which has 5 more rounds of play in Apertura 2009.

    3. Houston came with a B-team. It’s missing three strikers for this tourney. Kei Kamara was let go. Ade Akinbiyi was let go. And Luis Angel Landin is cup-tied. Houston started a lot of less experienced players this match (John Michael Hayden hasn’t played a match for Dynamo and is actually loaned out to a USL side, Erik Ustruck has played 2 matches and is loaned out to a USL side, Mike Chabala hasn’t played any matches this year, and is loaned out to a USL side. Abe Thompson hasn’t played a match for Dynamo this season). Kinnear didn’t care about winning this match.

    4. There’s a Metapan homefield advantage thing, too.

    5. Then there’s that pesky salary cap and the developmental roster.

    All in all, I’m disappointed in the result, but not really surprised.

      1. the tiebreaker was head to head just like in the eufa cl, so a win would have got houston through. And metapan was like -17 on goal differential and 0-0-5 in the group, also someone said they are semi-pro, but i’m not sure on that. Kartik, you’re right on the coaching in MLS. Coming out with 3 in the back against a team playing at home with nothing to lose. Yuck.

        1. Maybe you can explain better.

          Árabe Unido was in 2nd place, with all 6 games played.
          3 wins, 1 draw, 2 losses. 10 points.
          13 goals scored.

          Houston was in 3rd place, with 5 games played.
          2 wins, 1 draw, 2 losses. 7 points.
          7 goals scored.

          If Houston would have won it, they’d be tied with AU in number of points, and as per section 2.3 of the CONCACAF CL Regulations say it’s:
          First: Greater number of points earned in matches between the teams
          Second: Greater goal difference in matches between the teams concerned.

          Hrm. Strangely, AU had more goals than Dynamo, but, tied them once and lose 5-1 once.

          How about that, I had assumed it’d be done on total GD, not GD between the tied teams.

          If Houston would have

          1. Er, yeah. I botched that.

            Anyway. It’d be Houston and Arabe Unido fighting for the #2 spot, and strangely, despite the fact that AU had scored more goals than Houston overall, they lose in the head-to-head point comparison.

            Still, Houston played the wrong men and didn’t play to win.

  4. How does qualification for next year’s tournament work in the US? I know Seattle goes because they won the US OPEN cup, and I know the MLS Cup winners go; but how are the other two entries determined?

  5. Qualification has been:

    US Open Cup winner

    MLS Cup Champion

    Supporters Shield Champion

    MLS Cup runner-up

    Since Columbus won both MLS Cup and the SS last season, the last spot defaulted to the team who finished second in the SS – Houston

  6. Tom- Supporters Shield winner and MLS cup runner-up, I believe but like this past season when Columbus was the MLS Cup Champ and Supporters Shield winners then Houston got the spot for having the 2nd most points in the league, I believe.

    That game sucked last night. How could they come out so uninspired like that. I hope Marathon comes out that way tonight! Go San Juan!!

  7. Can someone please tell me why MLS doesn’t think its important to win this competition? Is there not enough prestige in winning your regional champions league? Going to the Club World Championship? Proving your league is the best in its region? I was sorry to see Puerto Rico have such a sorry campaign after last years awesome run. At least they acted like they wanted to win!

    I’m from South Texas and was cheering Houston on. But their defense was beyond terrible. The defender that let the first goal go by – should be let go – do not pass go and go directly to the sunday mens league for over 40 fat men. Disgraceful & pathetic. Ching looked like he should be on the bench of the national team and Holden came on but looked very mediocre. Is going to a different country that tough? Especially knowing a win will put you through to the next round, and against the worst team in the group? Look at all the European teams that go to Eastern Europe and get the win. Surely it can’t be that hard to go outside our borders to win a game?

    1. It’s not that MLS teams do not think it is important. It is the fixture congestion and the flat out stone cold truth that Mexican sides playing their reserves can beat anyone else in this region. Not just MLS, but everyone. Puerto Rico’s run last year was remarkable but a once in a lifetime event quite honestly for MLS or USL teams unless some serious upgrades are made to the league’s quality.

      IMHO, it’s not important to upgrade the quality. MLS right now is the most financially solvent and successful league on the planet. They don’t overspend on the majority of players, and with SUM filling up the league cofers, things have never been better. What incentive does MLS have to improve? It’s fans continue to make excuses for the league, regardless of performance and the obvious deficiency in quality- attendance is good except in a few markets, TV ratings are slowly improving and tons of investors want in.

      I don’t think MLS has to improve. We may want it to improve, but that is a different issue than saying it must improve- the league from a survival and financial standpoint is fine as it is, keeping payroll down, bombing out of international competitions and holding cash cow friendlies which make everyone happy.

  8. Ouch, Kartik! The cold hard facts of reality. Sad but true, brother. Most Americans probably don’t even know a CONCACAF Champions League even exists. Why should the league/Houston care when the playoffs are here and the money is coming in?
    I still don’t buy that fixture pile-up. All European teams play the same players during the weekday travels of Europe as they do in the domestic league. What Man U won’t play Rooney this weekend against Liverpool? Are our boys that unfit to play 2 games in a week or just that inexperienced to know when to play in a game and when not to? I’ve seen a lot of stupid decisions of MLS players while watching CC League games.
    So whats the answer to my, and maybe your Kartik, question of how do we get MLS to go after international club wins in legitimate games.
    Question two: how do we beat those Mexican teams??

  9. @riosoccer & @kartik:

    First, kartik is right about the fixture pile-up being a problem. Riosoccer, I’ll bet you’ll see that most teams in the champions league and europa league will play 3-4 different players in their midweek international matches in comparison to their weekend league matches.

    However, what is missed by all above are two very important economic factors that make this a real problem:

    1. The MLS salary cap makes it impossible for MLS teams to match the depth of most CHampions league teams, Europa League teams, or even most Mexican teams (as Kartik points out). The best teams can rest their best players and still beat a mid table team without breaking a sweat. The exception that proves the rule is Liverpool. It’s economic struggles have made it impossible for it to build the depth it needs to overcome its current injury bug. That is why Liverpudlians are freaking out right about now.

    2. The economics of the CCL are insignificant. As far as I can tell, there is no REAL financial incentive for MLS teams to go for the CCL. Whereas, European teams bet the farm on the millions of euros they get just for participating in the Champions League, let along advancing out of the group stage or to a final (which comes with a 45million euro pot).

    Until one and or both of those economic factors are changed, don’t expect MLS teams to change their approach to the CCL.

  10. Only Houston advanced last year, DC bombed before that. Fix your update. You were thinking of 2008.

    And Kartik, how is that league the most successful? There’s no way.

    Anyway, it is sad how fans continually make excuses for the league. Mexican teams have only 8 of 20 teams going to the playoffs, their playoff chase is even tougher. So don’t gimme that “playoff chase” excuse. Plus fixture congestion means nothing– Columbus won the SS AND made the CCL QF. They dealt with “fixture congestion” and still succeeded.

    But it is true that the league doesn’t have to succeed internationally, because its fans are clueless. Name one European fan who doesn’t know about the Champions League. Yet here, the fans have no idea. That’s sad beyond words.

    The league is an embarrassment to world football.

  11. The MLS is still a young league and the reason the Mls rests its starters during the CCL is simple they can’t afford the reserve team that other leagues can afford because of the salary cap. Plus right noe i could care less about the CCL, The MLS needs to build all there fanbases to ensure the leagues future. It is on the right track though.

    1. Those Central American teams can’t afford a reserve league either and have much lower salaries than your league. Yet, they still defeat your teams.

      Your league sucks. Plain and simple.

  12. Lets not forget Toronto FC who lost to Puerto Rico, and the New York Red Bulls who lost to W. Connection in the qualifying stages.

    Puerto Rico never won a match, while W. Connection couldn’t advance from what was arguably the weakest group.

  13. MLS has a degree of success as a business model for an entertainment industry product. From the SUM perspective, there are marketing campaigns, superstar development, ownership ‘profits’, and TV rights. From the Fan perspective, the on-field quality is in constant flux. Some players are improving, others are not, while a few remain constant. There are playoff hunts, derbies, and brand loyalty. Is the league giving the fans what they want? Are the fans giving the league what it wants? Do the corporate profits go toward growing the markets or deepening the rosters/quality? Is the measure of success contained within a league only or does it include legitimate confederation competition? MLS is not on par with FMF, but is that a necessary comparison? 15 years into existence and the amount of support, degree of interest (see discussion threads), and depth of passion for a team or league is in good shape. It continues to improve in some respects and has yet to saturate the psyche with community involvement, youth programs, and ‘success’ both as a valuable business and quality entertainment.

  14. Screw the CCL, the average person doesn’t know about it because of the anti-soccer media that has been in place for years. I have never seen a Champions League add here in the states so how are those other than the hardcore soccer fan supposed to know about it? Thank God ESPN is starting to come around on soccer and we can now see more and more matches every year, but until we overcome the current generation in power’s hate of soccer this stuff won’t be common knowledge (that time is fast arriving though). The CCL has nothing to offer MLS teams to perform well as it stands right now, and with the low salary cap and roster size (and lack of a reserve league, the single biggest mistake the league has made, and one I hope to see rectified soon) when it comes down to it, it makes more sense to worry much more about league matches at this time than CCL.

    At the ripe old age of 14 MLS is starting to worry our dirty neighbors to the south and their constant need to bash the league is evidence of that fact. In a few more years with a few more changes to the league structure, MLS will overtake FMF as the dominant league in the region just as the USA has overtaken Mexico as the dominant national team. It’s funny how you start to hear the hate coming from those that fear to be overtaken, but to me the noise is beautiful, it means we are doing something right…Long Live MLS!

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