So far, so good. That’s the general theme for Major League Soccer squads competing in this incarnation of the CONCACAF Champions League.
It’s going to have to remain that way if they want to advance to the knockout rounds, given the new Group Stage format. There is little room for error for the teams who have earned their spot, with a single team emerging from each of the eight three-team Groups. In years past, with four Groups of four teams each, the top two would clear the bar, thus making for less tension in every match. In order to cut down on fixture congestion, as well as add eight more clubs to the fold, CONCACAF decided to reshuffle their Group Stages, thus placing more of a premium on every match played. It now comes down to four matches, and the team that rises above the other two in their Group gets a coveted spot in the Knockout Rounds.
So here’s a brief overview of what’s happened in the last few days.
Real Salt Lake 2 : 0 Tauro
After a disappointing 1-0 loss away to Herediano, the Utahns needed to harness the three points awaiting them at Rio Tinto Stadium. It may have taken until after the half, but Salt Lake finally strode ahead and defeated Tauro of Panama. Goals by Alvaro Saborio and Kyle Beckerman took care of business, though the dreadlocked midfielder will miss the next Group Stage match at Tauro because he picked up a red card in the 72nd minute. That match could be huge, and Jason Kreis’ crew should know by this time next week whether a full three points at Tauro is a necessity, since Herediano makes a Panamanian trip on Thursday.
FAS 1 : 3 Houston Dynamo
The MLS Cup Runners-Up began their Group C play in El Salvador, against an FAS side who lost 3-0 to Olympia (Honduras) two weeks ago. The Dynamo did a number on Los Tigres, dropping them 3-1 to send a note to the group leader that it’s not going to be easy. Brian Ching opened the scoring in the 12th minute with a trademark header, and the men in their away whites were on their way. Cam Weaver and Je-Vaughn Watson also tallied for Houston, who rested a number of key starters from their normal squad. Jonathan Aguila got a goal back for FAS, who dominated the latter portions of this match.
Los Angeles Galaxy 5:2 Isidro Metapan
The surging Galaxy, playing without captain Landon Donovan after picking up a knock in the US/Mexico friendly, destroyed Group B leaders Isidro Metapan. It looked a bit bleak for Los Angeles early on, as Nicolas Munoz gave Los Caleros a lead in the 17th minute. Three minutes later, the reigning MLS Cup Champions would equalize off Metapan defender Jose Alvarado. The Galaxy would also score the next three goals, with Beckham first setting up Keane, then getting a goal himself. Juninho also scored two goals to carry Los Angeles to the lead in the Group, with still two matches against the Puerto Rico Islanders and the tricky return fixture in El Salvador on the last match day of the Group Stages.
The other two teams, Seattle Sounders and Toronto F.C., were off this week, but both earned wins in their first matches two weeks ago. They will resume next week. On Tuesday, Toronto hosts a huge showdown with Santos Laguna in a rematch of the Champions League Semifinal from this spring. Then on Wednesday the Galaxy will host Puerto Rico. Lastly, Seattle heads down to Trinidad and Tobago to face Caledonia AIA. All matches will be broadcast on FOX Soccer.