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CONCACAF Champions League

CONCACAF Champions League Previews


The CONCACAF Champions League resumes Tuesday with three quarterfinals matchups involving sides from American based leagues.

Houston vs Atlante

The Dynamo have done well to get this far and boast a 4-0 win over Atlante in the opening group match of last season’s Superliga. But without Dwayne DeRosario, arguably the best player in the 13 year history of MLS, the Dynamo are rebuilding and regrouping. Brian Ching remains one of the deadliest strikers in the American game almost simply because nobody is going to outwork him. Stuart Holden should slide into the playmakers role vacated by DeRo, with Brad Davis on the left and Brian Mullen or Cory Ashe on the right side.

Forty one year old Pat Onstad continues to be solid for Houston between the pipes but my concern is the Dynamo’s back line. Bobby Boswell was stellar last season, but the rest of the unit was not. This ultimately will be Houston’s undoing in this quarterfinal tie.

Houston is a bit unlucky. I think the Dynamo gets by either Santos or Marathon the sides facing USL teams at this stage. But Atlante has been playing too well this season in Mexico and despite a draw with San Luis this weekend, the Yucatan based side looks ready to make a strong run at winning this competition.

One advantage though for Houston is that the away leg in Cancun is not at altitude, something MLS sides have struggled with in trips to Mexico. But the Dynamo overcame that by getting the first ever result for an MLS side in a non friendly match on Mexican soil in the group stage against Cruz Azul.

Luis Gabriel Rey is in his second Atlante stint and is doing a fantastic job helping the clubs attack. Argentine Gabriel Pereyra is an outstanding play maker and goal scorer. Giancarlo Gregorio Maldonado, the Venezuelan superstar has been so good for Atlante that he attracted interest in the January window from English Premier League clubs.

Federico Vilar is one of the best goalkeepers in the FMF and beating him, even at home will be tough for the Dynamo. But if you want a clear understanding of why Mexico’s National Team under Sven Goran Eriksson is struggling look no further than the mere fact that I have just named four superstar players on one of Mexico’s top clubs and they are all foreigners. Beyond Guadalajara and Cruz Azul this seems to be a growing trend in the league. Eriksson dealt with his same situation as England Manager and his results there were not up to the standards expected, but he has already lost more World Cup qualifiers as Mexico manager than he did in two qualifying cycles with England.

Atlante wins this tie and perhaps the entire competition if they remain healthy.

The Pick: Atlante

Montreal vs Santos Laguna

The Impact have sold in excess of 50,000 tickets for the home leg of this quarterfinal tie which is played Wednesday. This will likely be the largest crowd to see a football match in Montreal since the 1981 NASL playoffs when the Montreal Manic were defeated by the eventual Soccer Bowl champion Chicago Sting.

The Impact build from the back and feature Matt Jordan onetime Dallas Burn goalkeeper whose MLS success saw him play a few seasons in Europe. Montreal only conceded five goals in six group matches. Offensively Joey Gjertsen is an under appreciated play maker. He doesn’t score the number of goals he did with Vancouver a few years back but fills space often behind the strikers and helps stimulate Montreal’s counter attack.

Peter Byers returns to the Impact after a short training camp stint with the San Jose Earthquakes and that is good news because he was a integral part of getting the Impact this far in the competition. Panamanian forward Roberto Brown makes Fernando Clavijo’s personnel decisions look poor almost every time he steps on the pitch for Montreal where he has been stellar after being waived by the Rapids in 2007.

Santos Laguna’s Clausura campaign has begun in rocky fashion. The defending Clausura champions dropped three of their first five matches with two draws to fall to the foot of the Group A table. But now Santos is steadying the ship, most recently with a 2-0 win over Monterrey.

Fernando Arce and Mathias Vuoso are the key players to watch for Santos up front. Oswaldo Sanchez is always tough as a net minder, but the question is will Santos lose their temper and cool much as they did in the group stage against Puerto Rico when things began to go wrong on the road?

The Pick: Montreal

Puerto Rico vs Marathon

The Islanders are the story of the Champions League thus far. Qualifying the hard way through the Caribbean club championship and then having to defeat a strong Costa Rican side in the qualifying round, then scraping through the group stage despite fixture congestion which saw the Islanders play 17 games in 49 days, over five different time zones.

We’ve learned never to count the Islanders out but this is where it probably all ends. Showing poorly over the weekend in a friendly against DC United, Colin Clarke’s side is starting slow.

Bill Gaudette continues to be a solid keeper. Te acquisition of former DC United and Vancouver forward Nicholas Adderly should help the attack which at times struggled to find goals late in the Champions League group stage and in the USL playoffs. Jonny Steele of Northern Ireland the 2008 USL MVP and Peter Villegas, one time curiosity with the Metrostars and DC United anchor the midfield, while either Fabrice Noel or former Miami FC attacker Sean Fraser should compliment Adderly up front.

CD Marathon features an entirely Honduran team with one exception: the Honduran killer of last week’s qualifiers, Andy Furtado scorer of two Costa Rican goals at Saprissa. Astor Henriquez anchors a sold back line and the side features many goal scoring threats.

For sentimental reasons, this is the tie I am most concerned about. A bandwagon affect has taken place within American soccer circles regarding the Islanders. I’ve spoken to a number of people whose teams are not participating in this tournament who want to see MLS’ Dynamo do well but are openly cheering for the Islanders. Many of these fans have ignored the Impact entirely.

America loves Cinderellas and underdogs and the Islanders are the ultimate underdog. But this is likely where the ride ends.

The Pick: Marathon

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  1. Tim

    February 24, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    Are you kidding? Atlante wins this and perhaps the whole competition. You must smoke crack or be a die hard Atlante supporter. Dwayne DeRosario the best player ever in MLS? Hardly. Jesus get a clue.

  2. Brian Zygo

    February 23, 2009 at 11:15 pm

    Rey, our resident 1560 The Game Mexican, and the press he was translating for us out of Mexico, seems Atlante is not having that good of a season, at least in their opinions.

  3. eplnfl

    February 23, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    btw, forgot to mention nice job on the preview!

  4. zapatoloco

    February 23, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    “Real Estelí in front of 1,000 people in the away leg is a bit different than Santos in Mexico”

    They showed much composure in getting a 2-1 win away at Olimpia before a large and intense home-crowd.

    Nice to hear such pro-Impact sentiment from all corners. I was at that famous Manic game in 1981and the atmosphere was wild, hope we get the same on Wednesday.

    Our strip clubs certainly give us a special kind of home-field advantage: Santos have been here since sunday, i just hope they get alittle bored and hit the clubs a bit too much !!!!

  5. Cidolfas

    February 23, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    There’s a few things I don’t agree with in your predictions:


    Atlante is last in their group with 1 win in 7 games (“But Atlante has been playing too well this season in Mexico”)

    The Dynamo back line was the best in MLS last season, though they did have trouble with speedsters 3 times in all competitions (50+ games; @NE, @NYRB, NYRB in the playoffs) it hardly qualifies the unit as a poor defense. (“but my concern is the Dynamo’s back line”)

    Vilar is suspended for the match in Houston, Maldonado has been benched due to poor form, and Cruz (the coach, also suspended for the leg in Houston) is on the chopping block

    The story here is: can the Dynamo score without DeRosario, or can Atlante use this game to turn around their domestic form much as Houston did against Atlante last year in superliga?


    Pretty much spot on, except no mention of just how bad the Santos attack is struggling in domestic competition.

    Also, you never ask questions about the Impact’s lack of international experience in these kinds of games will effect them. If they do well at home, do they have the tact and composure (which usually comes from experience) to handle the return leg? They’ve shown they can win in this format in the pre-group stage knockout round, but Real Estelí in front of 1,000 people in the away leg is a bit different than Santos in Mexico.


    Can’t say I know enough about this match to disagree with anything.

  6. Lars

    February 23, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    I really hope Montreal wins the whole damn thing. This, coming from a TFC fan, but I always cheer for Canada first, club second…

    Montreal has been solid in their pre-season, going 7-0-2, including some good ones against Serie B teams in Italy.

  7. Ian

    February 23, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    Honestly while my heart is pulling for Puerto Rico my head is pulling for Montreal.

    The Impact can win this whole tournament. They have the right mix of players, and the only home field advantage in North America or the Caribbean comparable to a Mexican or Central American atmosphere.

    The Dynamo have a good team and a good atmosphere for MLS but not good enough for this type of tournament. We’ve learned that a few times in the last few seasons.

    I wish Houston could have kept DeRo through this series and then shipped him to TFC. I don’t think the Dynamo have a shot. Atlante as you said is just to good and too cosmopolitan a side.

  8. MLS en

    February 23, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    MLS teams should do everything they can to get a spot in Copa Libertadores de America. Let’s be honest, Concachampions is not the kind of tournament soccer fans get excited about!

  9. eplnfl

    February 23, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    Answered my own question in part. FSC has the contract.

  10. eplnfl

    February 23, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    Does anyone have the 411 on TV and online coverage of the matches. I heard that their was to be some free online streaming?

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