01 October, 2010

One Game Remaining in CONCACAF CL Group Stage

Earlier this week, the sixteen teams in the CONCACAF Champions League group stage each completed their fifth game out of six. The field is very competitive, with only three teams (Cruz Azul and Monterrey of Mexico, plus MLS champions Real Salt Lake) qualified for the quarterfinal round with a game still remaining. Five more quarterfinal spots are up for grabs.

Starting in Group A, Cruz Azul and Real Salt Lake have both qualified for the quarterfinals. Cruz Azul dominated Arabe Unido of Panama 2-0 in Mexico City. Emmanuel Villa of Argentina opened the scoring in the first minute, and then five minutes into the second half, Arabe Unido's Eric Davis committed a handball in the box, resulting in a penalty kick goal for the Cementeros. In Toronto, defending MLS champions Real Salt Lake only needed a tie to clinch advancement, and they got it against Toronto FC. Toronto goalkeeper Jon Conway assisted the first goal of the match with a long throw to midfielder Jacob Peterson, giving Toronto a 1-0 lead in the 20th minute. At halftime, Real Salt Lake replaced midfielder Collen Warner with Javier Morales of Argentina, and the move paid off. Morales ripped a direct free kick into the net despite a deflection by Julian DeGuzman in the 68th minute to tie the game 1-1. Cruz Azul and Real Salt Lake are tied atop the group with 10 points each, and meet in Salt Lake City in three weeks to decide the group winner. In the case of a tie, Cruz Azul wins the group on goal difference.

Next, in Group B, Columbus Crew could have clinched advancement to the quarterfinal for both themselves and also Santos Laguna by earning at least a tie against Municipal of Guatemala in Guatemala City. Columbus would have moved into first place in the group with a win, but instead, they lost on a wet rainy night. Free kick taker Guillermo Rodriguez scored two goals for Municipal, the first on a long distance shot in the 18th minute and the second exactly 20 minutes later. Just before halftime, Andy Iro of England got a goal back for Columbus off a corner kick, but it wasn't enough. Final score: Municipal 2-1. Meanwhile, the game I saw was Santos Laguna at home in Torreon, Mexico, against group weaklings Joe Public of Trinidad. The game consisted of a Santos midfielder putting a move on a hapless defender, and another Joe Public defender had to help get goal side of the ball carrier, abandoning the forward he was marking. The midfielder simply passed to the wide open forward, easy goal, starting in the 4th minute. The final score was 5-1 for Santos, with five different Mexican players scoring. Santos Laguna leads the group with 10 points, and Columbus sits in second place with 9, and then Municipal is just one win away from the quarterfinals with 8 points. Municipal's final game is at Santos Laguna in Torreon, and the winner makes the quarterfinals. Columbus is guaranteed to advance as long as they at least tie winless Joe Public in Trinidad, unless Municipal wins and Columbus ties, then Santos Laguna advances on goal difference.

Group C is the only group completely dominated by one team. Monterrey of Mexico is undefeated, the only blemish on their record is a tie against Saprissa in San Jose, Costa Rica. Luis Rodriguez scored the first goal for Monterrey in the 5th minute on a through ball from Abraham Carreno, giving Los Rayados a surprising lead on the road, but then Monterrey defender Severo Meza knocked a Saprissa cross into his own net to tie the score 1-1 in the 16th minute. Luis Rodriguez set up Abraham Carreno for a header goal in the 32nd minute to give Monterrey another one-goal lead. It would last until the 66th minute when Jose Mena of Saprissa headed in a free kick to tie the score 2-2. Entering the game, Marathon of Honduras were tied with Saprissa for second place in the group, but they lost in Seattle to drop one point behind Saprissa in the standings. Seattle Sounders earned their first win of the group stage on the strength of two goals by Michael Fucito. Fucito took advantage of a Marathon defender's misplay to score in the 21st minute, and then ripped a golazo in the 68th minute following a fake by Colombian Miguel Montano that left Fucito unmarked. Sadly, Seattle is still eliminated from competition, as Monterrey has won the group with 13 points. Saprissa leads Marathon by one point, 7 to 6, and so the results of the final match will determine the other quarterfinalist. Saprissa plays at Seattle, while Marathon hosts Monterrey. In the event of a Saprissa loss and Marathon tie, putting them even on points, Saprissa owns the goal difference tiebreaker. Marathon must win and have Seattle at least tie to advance.

Lastly, the best match of the round has to be Puerto Rico Islanders noble effort in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, against Toluca of Mexico. Toluca's Chilean forward Hector Mancilla scored two quick goals, the first on a through ball from Zinha in the 10th minute and then a tap-in of a shot off the post in the 22nd minute to give the Diablos Rojos a 2-0 lead early in the game. Puerto Rico did not give up, however, and fought back in front of their home fans. In the second half, Englishman David Foley scored Puerto Rico's first goal in the 53rd minute, and suddenly it looked like the Islanders could come back to earn a point, at least. They got that point when defender David Horst headed in a corner kick in the 69th minute to tie the game 2-2. But it wasn't over yet. David Horst headed in yet another corner kick in the 91st minute, and any Puerto Rico fans who stayed the full time saw the most awesome comeback of the competition. The last game of the round was played just last night, with Olimpia of Honduras putting the hurt on FAS of El Salvador 4-1 in San Salvador. Uruguayan forward Ramiro Bruschi scored two first half goals for Olimpia, and Olimpia scored two more in the second half (plus one for the home team) to seize first place in the group away from Puerto Rico Islanders. Currently Olimpia leads the group with 10 points, and clinches advancement with at least a tie in their final match at home against Puerto Rico Islanders. The Islanders currently sit in second place with 8 points, one point ahead of Toluca, but if Toluca at least tie at home against winless group weaklings FAS, Puerto Rico will be eliminated, unless the Islanders can win on the road. If Toluca ties and Puerto Rico loses, Toluca owns the goal difference tiebreaker.

Here are the standings:

Group A
Cruz Azul 3-1-1 10 +8
Real Salt Lake 3-1-1 10 +4
Toronto 1-2-2 5 -3
Arabe Unido 1-0-4 3 -9

Group B
Santos Laguna 3-1-1 10 +7
Columbus Crew 3-0-2 9 +3
Municipal 2-2-1 8 +1
Joe Public 0-1-4 1 -11

Group C
Monterrey 4-1-0 13 +6
Saprissa 2-1-2 7 +3
Marathon 2-0-3 6 -5
Seattle 1-0-4 3 -4

Group D
Olimpia 3-1-1 10 +2
Puerto Rico 2-2-1 8 +1
Toluca 2-1-2 7 +5
FAS 0-2-3 2 -8

1 comment:

  1. Awesome. Thanks for the update. Let us know if any of the elimination games will be televised


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