CONCACAF Champions League Week 4 in Review


Another busy week for the three MLS entrants in the CONCACAF Champions League concluded last night, with DC United earning a convincing 3-0 victory over Marathón of Honduras at RFK Stadium. Following on the heels of the Houston Dynamo’s 5-1 thrashing of Arabe Unido of Panama, and the Columbus Crew’s disappointing 2-0 loss to Cruz Azul of Mexico, the MLS teams performed as expected. Going into the last two rounds of group play, all three MLS clubs have an excellent chance of advancing to the knock-out round.

The Houston Dynamo started Week 4 of the CCL well, with a dominating performance against their chief rival in the group, Arabe Unido. Playing at Robertson Stadium, the Dynamo were expected to win this game, especially in light of their result in Panama earlier in the competition. In that match, five red cards, three against Houston, and a late equalizer by Arabe Unido, resulted in a sloppy 1-1 draw. In a disgraceful scene at the end of the match, the Dynamo players had to wait at midfield while the stands were cleared before they could exit the stadium.

In this week’s rematch, there would be little of the drama seen in Panama, as the Dynamo asserted themselves early and often. Already up 2-0 on goals by Eddie Robinson and Cam Weaver either side of halftime, Arabe Unido’s Omar Camargo was sent off with a red card in the 56th minute. And despite, the Panamanians pulling one back, Houston attacked at will over the final 30 minutes and finished with a 5-1 victory. Both teams are now level in Group A with seven points each going into the final two weeks of play.

On Wednesday night, the Columbus Crew would have the difficult task of facing Cruz Azul. Coach Robert Warzycha fielded a relatively strong squad for the home match, with a starting XI missing notable defenders Frankie Hejduk and Chad Marshall. Columbus started well in the game, putting up-field pressure on the ball and stretching the attack through winger Robbie Rogers. Unfortunately all their effort was for not, as shaky defense led to a Cruz Azul goal from a well taken opportunity. The Crew continued to pressure the Mexican defense, but found only the crossbar and the goalkeeper, Yosgart Gutierrez, as targets. Cruz Azul doubled their lead later in the first half, and never really looked threatened after that.

While the Crew would have fancied a win at home, the Mexican side made it clear that they are the best team in Group C. After losing 5-0 earlier in the competition at Cruz Azul, Columbus comported themselves well in their home return, despite suffering their first loss at Crew Stadium since June of 2008. And with two winnable games left in Group C, the Crew must fancy their chances to advance in the tournament.

Last night saw the most important match of Week 4 for the MLS clubs in the CCL played by DC United and Marathón at RFK Stadium. The home side dominated possession throughout the first half, intent on achieving the resounding victory they all but required in their quest to advance in the tournament. Strikers Luciano Emilio and Chris Pontius both missed chances to put their side ahead; however, the Hondurans provided adequate resistance to DC United, and the teams went into the half scoreless.

DC United started the second half with intent under the leadership of substitute Jamie Moreno. Emilio was first to break through, after converting a sublime Avery John cross past the helpless goalkeeper for the 1-0 lead. Moreno then doubled the advantage with a clever toe poke from the top of the area that just snuck inside the post. Marathón couldn’t answer the attacking pressure of DC, as perhaps the political uncertainty back home that led to a lengthy and exhausting journey just to get to RFK left the players feeling lethargic. And when Emilio found the net for the second time in the half to make the score 3-0, the Hondurans were done. The victory leaves DC United and Marathón level on six points in Group B, but courtesy of the big win, DC United owns the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Overall, the three MLS teams are in good position to qualify for the second quarterfinal slot from each of their respective groups. With the first three tie-breakers in the competition being head-to-head record, followed by goal differential, and then away goals, the Houston Dynamo and DC United would advance if they finished even on points for second place with Arabe Unido and Marathón respectively. The Columbus Crew has a home date with Saprissa coming up next Tuesday. Having already beaten them on the road, the Crew will have their hands full with a Costa Rican side looking for revenge. With a win or tie, Columbus will join their MLS compatriots in position to advance.

Anything less than all three MLS teams advancing out of the group stage will be a disappointment. And with all four Mexican representatives poised to finish at the top of their respective groups, MLS could look forward to some excellent and challenging knock out stage pairings with our rival teams to the south. I, for one, cannot wait.

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11 Responses to CONCACAF Champions League Week 4 in Review

  1. While the Puerto Rico Islanders of USL-1 have been hands down the worst team in this tournament, being embarrassed at home by Cruz Azul and Saprissa and being smashed on the road by the Crew and Saprissa.

    My pick of Rochester to beat the Islanders in the USL-1 playoffs is looking pretty good also right now……..

  2. Saprissista says:

    The Islanders dominated both Cruz Azul (1st half only) and Saprissa and almost got 3 points against both…

  3. Rex says:

    The match-up of the tournament (to this point) comes next wed. Pachuca at Houston. The Dynamo are coming off a huge win vs Arabe Unido and 8 days rest. It will be the 6th game between the two in since 2007. I can’t wait.

  4. Gods own Country says:

    Why do we need to call this CONCACAF Champions League, can we just call it the North American Carling Cup.
    Othe than Mexican Clubs there is no other clubs that is going to win this championship.

  5. Joe in Indianapolis says:

    It would definitely be nice to see 3 MLS teams in the knockout stage against Mexican teams.

    • todd says:

      only because MLS teams will be in preseason form for the knockout rounds… 🙁

      ( also “chief rival” ?! that would be Pachuca against DYnamo.. not ARabe…. wtf? )

      • Robert Jonas says:

        In context to the Dynamo advancing to the knock-out stages, I referred to Arabe Unido as their “chief rival.” Pachuca is going to advance without difficulty from this group, as will all the Mexican teams in the tournament. However, for the Dynamo (and the Crew and DCU) the task remains to at least out play the other two teams in their group, in order to secure the second spot in the group. As such, Arabe Undio remains the more important opponent.

        Don’t get me wrong, I want to see MLS teams topple the Mexican clubs. But they remain underdogs in those matches, even at home. If any team seems capable of getting a result against a Mexican club, it would be Houston.

        Perhaps having the knockout stages played during the preseason will benefit MLS clubs. At least there will be no fixture congestion to worry about.

  6. silente says:

    Ummm, why would you want to call it the North American Carling Cup? I hadn’t realized Carling had agreed to sponsor it.

    It’s called the CONCACAF Champions League because it is modeled on the UEFA Champions League, with a play-in, group stage, and knockout rounds. The old tournament was the Champions Cup because there was no group stage, just two legged ties. Thus a cup, and now a league. Champions because these teams are the best of their respective countries, and CONCACAF because that’s the federation running the tournament. What’s confusing about this?

    Truly I don’t understand why you would have a problem with the name.

  7. DCLee says:

    Tournaments change every year minus the big headed monsters that dominate Europe in the UEFA Champions League and I like that different teams get to show how they can fare against regional clubs for a chance at international tests. Last year it was the disappointment of the MLS and the great play of USL-1 and teams like CD Marathon who won the group of death in my opinion with DCU, Saprissa and Atlante in one group. This year the MLS teams are playing much better and fielding stronger sides so it is hopefully their turn to shine(fingers crossed!) as they try to take on the Mexican clubs.

    For the record D.C. United beat Pachuca 2-1 at home in early April last season but lost on aggregate to the Mexican side 3-2.

  8. ?Wherever valour true is found, true modesty will there abound.

  9. This is the most interesting interface between our closed, franchised, cocooned and cost controlled first division and free and open system of global soccer.

    I used to be eager to see these matches as well. Jaded by a decade and a half of the bogus single entity system, I see our clubs limited from the top by salary caps, teeny squad sizes, player allocations, fleabag hotels and even flying coach going up against unlimited clubs from the rest of the world.

    I can’t be the only one not getting off on seeing a hamstrung MLS clubs under the draconian cost cutting measures of billionaire owners who don’t even know their players going up against free clubs with owners whose hearts are generally larger than their pocketbooks.

    Gotta be cruel to be kind.

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