23 August, 2010

CONCACAF Champions League Group Play Begins

The Professor is back from a short vacation, because today, Monday, August 23, is the first day of college. The Professor has to go back to work. But that means more time for studying soccer results during office hours and writing them up for you.

Fortunately, I was able to catch some CONCACAF Champions League group play matches on Galavision while I was away on vacation this past week. It was a very strong start for the MLS, with the four MLS squads winning three games and losing one. Props especially go to Toronto FC, Canada's lone representative in the CONCACAF CL, for their win over Mexican powerhouse Cruz Azul. Furthermore, the Puerto Rico Islanders represented the USL well with a draw against group favorite Olimpia of Honduras.

Group A is the only group with two MLS squads, since no two teams from the same country can be in the same group, that does not preclude defending MLS champion Real Salt Lake from sharing a group with Canada's Toronto FC. Both were winners in their Group A openers, both by coincidental 2-1 scores.

Real Salt Lake won on the road against Panama's Arabe Unido. Arabe Unido struck first in the 13th minute on a goal by Armando Cooper that deflected off RSL defender Nat Borchers, but their luck turned for the worst in the 28th minute when defender Nahil Carroll was given a straight red for a violent tackle on Kyle Beckerman. After several Beckerman attempts from long distance, RSL's Costa Rican forward Alvaro Saborio headed a cross from defender Chris Wingert into the net just before halftime to tie the game 1-1. Shorthanded Arabe Unido were desperate to cling to the tie at home. Two different Arabe Unido players received yellow cards for time wasting, and the referee added on eight minutes to make up for the time wasting tactics. That would make a huge difference in the outcome. During stoppage time, RSL's Nelson Gonzalez of Argentina was fouled by Fidel Caesar in the box, which resulted in a disputed penalty kick, scored by Alvaro Saborio to give RSL the road win, 2-1.

Toronto FC opened their group play at home against Cruz Azul, and struck almost immediately. Dwayne DeRosario put the ball in the air, Spanish forward Mista headed it to Croatian midfielder Martin Saric, who scored the opening goal in the 3rd minute. Mista would add a goal of his own just before halftime to put Toronto up 2-0. Cruz Azul made some halftime subs but could not score until the game's final minute, when Cruz Azul forward Christian Gimenez of Argentina scored a direct free kick to make the final score 2-1. Toronto hosts Arabe Unido tomorrow night, while Real Salt Lake plays Cruz Azul on Wednesday.

Next, in Group B, the big winners were Santos Laguna of Torreon, Mexico, who trounced Joe Public 5-2 in Trinidad, and Columbus Crew, who won 1-0 over Municipal of Guatemala on the road. Jose Cardenas of Santos was the hero of the day with four goals. First Cardenas put a rebound of a blocked shot in the goal in the 9th minute, but Joe Public's defender Makan Hislop equalized two minutes later with a long low shot. The celebration in Trinidad lasted about 12 minutes, until Cardenas dribbled through the whole team to score his second. Joe Public's Japanese forward Yu Hoshide scored another for the home team just before halftime and the crowd got to party throughout the halftime break. The celebration ended 20 minutes later when Jose Cardenas scored his third goal by cutting inside from the right and blasting a left-footed shot to give Santos a 3-2 lead. Cardenas scored his fourth goal on a header from a Rodrigo Ruiz cross in the 84th minute, and Ruiz crossed again for defender Juan Enriquez to score in the final minute.

Columbus Crew did well to win on the road against Municipal of Guatemala. Nigerian midfielder Emmanuel Ekpo scored early by dribbling around three defenders in the 14th minute. Municipal attacked, and midfielder Guillermo Ramirez was especially dangerous, but couldn't score past Crew GK Andy Gruenebaum and the final was 1-0. The Crew host Santos Laguna on Wednesday, while Municipal travels to Trinidad to face Joe Public on Thursday.

I enjoyed an interesting Group C encounter between Seattle Sounders and Marathon of Honduras, from Estadio Olimpico in Honduras. Interestingly, the home team wore dark green while the Sounders wore their light green. Forward Roger Levesque was quite good for Seattle throughout the whole game, and he opened the scoring by converting a header from Swiss forward Blaise Nkufo from a cross by Colombian Fredy Montero, who stole the ball from an opponent to make the goal happen. Marathon are known as La Furia Verde, and they got fired up after giving up the goal. Ten minutes later, forward Randy Diamond drew the defense and then passed back to midfielder Orvin Paz, who blasted a long shot past Kasey Keller to equalize. The game probably should have been tied 1-1, but in first half stoppage time, Tyrone Marshall (who wasn't good enough for the LA Galaxy) kicked Marathon's Hector Amarilla of Argentina, and the referee awarded a penalty. Uruguay forward Nicolas Cardozo scored the penalty to give Marathon a 2-1 lead. Throughout the second half, Seattle were the better team, especially Fredy Montero, who was the best player on the field, but could not score, and were unable to earn a point on the road despite playing well enough for a draw.

The other match in Group C paired Monterrey of Mexico against Saprissa of Costa Rica. Monterrey opened the scoring in the 25th minute when Paraguayan Osvaldo Martinez found a wide open Jesus DeNigris with a cross, and the unmarked DeNigris tapped it in the net. Monterrey dominated the second half action but did not add any more goals and the final score was 1-0. Seattle Sounders will travel to Monterrey on Wednesday, while Saprissa plays in Honduras against Marathon on Thursday.

Lastly, in Group D, both games ended in draws. Puerto Rico Islanders and Olimpia of Honduras are on top of the group with a 1-1 draw in Puerto Rico. The Islanders scored first, with Jamaican Nicholas Addlery scoring off a cross from England's David Foley in the 39th minute. In the second half, Mauricio Copete came on as a substitute for an injured Olimpia forward, and five minutes later, Copete scored the equalizer on a through ball from Oscar Boniek Garcia. Olimpia appears to be in control of the group with the road point.

In the other Group D match, Toluca of Mexico tied FAS of El Salvador 0-0 on a rainy night in San Salvador. Puerto Rico Islanders will play in San Salvador on Wednesday against FAS, while Toluca goes to Honduras to take on Olimpia on Thursday.

Enjoy! On Thursday night or Friday morning I will post the results of the second games.

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