Crucial CONCACAF Champions League qualifiers on tap

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By: KURTIS LARSON

Three MLS teams are in action mid-week as preliminary home and home CONCACAF qualifiers get underway across the continent. Since the preliminary round began in 2008, MLS clubs are 1-4 all time in CONCACAF play-in games.

Major League Soccer has made it known that the league must compete at a high level in this tournament if the league is to be taken seriously. A reflection of that was seen earlier this week when it was announced that MLS was ranked 88th in the world by the IFFHS as far as strength goes.

Now, we all know there's no way MLS is the 88th best league in the world, but if MLS truly believes it's a top 20 league, it's time to take this competition seriously and make a run at the trophy.

Let's look at tonight's crucial CONCACAF Champions League matches. 

Toronto FC vs. C.D. Motagua (HON) Tuesday at BMO FIELD, 8ET

Sporting five players from the 2010 Honduran World Cup squad, Motagua looks to be the most formidable test of the three MLS sides in action. With former TFC midfielder Amado Guevara pulling strings in the midfield, rest assured he'll have his team ready to compete in the opening leg at his former home.

Following last year's disastrous defeat to the USL's Puerto Rico Islanders, Toronto won't be satisfied with anything less than a multiple goal win at home. Knowing MLS' horrific road record in this tournament, TFC's outstanding home form must hold up if they hope to get through to the group stage.

"Champions League is something that can change the culture of soccer in this country," Julian de Guzman said in the days leading up to the game. "Champions League is a huge thing that TFC has been fighting for."

On paper, the game would appear somewhat even. That said, the Honduran league doesn't kick-off for another two weeks so Motagua may not be fully match fit. Toronto FC must take advantage of this and push the tempo at home. A repeat opening-leg loss all but seals their fate. Prediction: TFC 2 – Motagua 2

LA Galaxy vs. Puerto Rico Islanders (USSF-2) Tuesday at The Home Depot Center, 10ET

Following a magical run deep into the tournament two years ago, 2008-2009 semifinalist Puerto Rico travel to Los Angeles for the opening leg of their series with the Galaxy.

The Galaxy hope to enter the group stages for the first time since 2006 when they fell to Saprissa (Costa Rica) in the quarterfinals. Puerto Rico's league form may be struggling but the Islanders have a history of playing big in big time games, most notably with wins in the 2008-2009 tournament over Santos Laguna (MEX) and Cruz Azul (MEX).

"We do know a little about them," Bruce Arena said in a pre-game press conference."We know they've been successful in this competition and they understand how to play in this tournament."

Puerto Rico have been woeful on the road this season registering a 1-4-4 mark and it shouldn't get any easier facing the best team in MLS. The question remains, what kind of lineup with Bruce Arena come up with?

"The All-Star Game is secondary to this," he said. "Our objective is to get through this game comfortably." Prediction: Galaxy 3 – Puerto Rico 0

Seattle Sounders FC vs. Metapan (El Salvador) Wednesday at Quest Field, 10ET

El Salvador's Metapan finished last in their group at last year's tournament, but with four league titles in seven seasons, Seattle must take advantage of the home crowd as well as the synthetic field they're accustomed to.

The issue here is that Seattle is coming off a hard-fought league match Sunday night against the Rapids. With just a few days to recover, what kind of shape will the Sounders be in?

Is it time for guys like Miguel Montano and Roger Levesque to get runs up front and out wide, or will Sigi Schmid throw out a similar lineup to the one that registered a 2-1 win over Colorado?

"There's some close competition on the team for starting spots," Schmid said during practice on Monday. "We have to see who's healthy. The important thing is we want to win them all. We want to beat Metapan on Wednesday."

Seattle should be bigger, stronger and faster than their counterparts and should control this one from the get go. If styles hold true, look for the Salvadorans to sit back and push the counter. If Seattle's defense doesn't get caught flat, they should win comfortably at home. That said, the longer Metapan stays in this one, the more likely a difficult task awaits in the return leg next week. Prediction: Sounders 2 – Metapan 0

This entry was posted in CONCACAF, CONCACAF Champions League, MLS- LA Galaxy, MLS- Seattle Sounders, MLS- Toronto FC. Bookmark the permalink.

54 Responses to Crucial CONCACAF Champions League qualifiers on tap

  1. grubbsbl says:

    I for one love this competition. Let’s hope all three do well.

  2. afsfasf says:

    Motagua should be tough for TFC, LA should be able to throw out their academy team against PR. Seattle, who knows what you’re going to get out of them?

  3. Jose S. says:

    About the IFFHS ranking.

    The ranking is based on the first half of 2010, and since the Columbus Crew was the only team in an international competition, were it was eliminated after 2 games, there were little points for MLS to obtain.

    MLS finished 46th in 2009

  4. afsaf says:

    Which is why the ranking is ridiculous. Come on, they need to find a better formula. Which leagues are better in the Western Hemisphere….Mexico, Brazil and Argentina…that’s it RIGHT NOW. Honestly, I’d say MLS is a top 20 league top to bottom. In another 10 years it will be top 15.

  5. babieca says:

    TV for these?

  6. Kurtis Larson says:

    FSC I believe

  7. Tim F. says:

    When you do such reports, list out the TV coverage, e.g., FSC for Toronoto FC, LA and Seattle games.

  8. Charles says:

    Kurt, thanks for the preview, some really believe the MLS is 88th, so don’t say we ALL know it is not.

    Just the ones with brains.

    I hope you are right about the Sounder’s D.

    Seattle will not have the massive fan advantage as only 13k seats have been sold for the game.

  9. Tyler Talk says:

    LA Galaxy should wreck Puerto Rico. Then again, just cause on paper LA is, by far, the best team in Major League Soccer and PR is one of the worst in USSF D2, doesn’t mean anything.

    But hopefully, LA, Columbus and RSL can all make it out of group stage. They’re more than capable.

  10. guwinster says:

    Puerto Rico got screwed by the draw. They won the Carribean and likely got the toughest possible match in the Qualifying round. Meanwhile Joe Public plays Brujas probably the easiest non Trinidad team in the tournament.

  11. Tyler Talk says:

    13,000 for a CONCACAF CL play-in leg is pretty impressive. More tix for that than a regular season match at Pizza Hut Park.

  12. Colin says:

    The last game the Galaxy played in the CCL (or it’s predecessor) was also the day their General Manager, Doug Hamilton, passed away. As a longtime Galaxy fan, it’s amazing to think of the successes that the man brought to the team, and the immense amount of turmoil and instability that plagued the team after his death. VIVA GALAXY!

  13. jo jo says:

    and even mexico being better is debatable

  14. Colin says:

    What’s the magic word, Tim?

  15. Daniel says:

    yea they’re on FSC at 8 and 10 pm I think

  16. Clayton says:

    Good luck MLS

  17. DC Josh says:

    IFFHS is funny. DC United is ranked as the 267th best club in the WORLD. In front of all the other MLS clubs, they are also ranked higher than Hoffenheim, St. Etienne, Eintracht Frankfurt and Almeria. Kudos.

    Come on you Blue and Greens (MLS)

  18. JohnC says:

    agree- 13000 is pretty awesome.

  19. Myles B says:

    We still get around 20K+ for our CCL games up here in Toronto, even when we play teams like PR!

    Looking foward to seeing it live tonight. 13 rows back from the corner flag, I’ll literally be able to spit on Motagua!!!

  20. yankiboy says:

    I’m a huge Puerto Rico Islanders’ fan but I am realistic.

    When this draw was announced, I figured that I liked PR’s chances to upset the Galaxy.

    That was before the Galaxy started playing like the hottest team in the history of MLS and started lighting everybody in the league up. That was before Arena was looking like an absolute genius again and Donovan and Buddle were back on top of their game. Before the even relatively unknown young Galaxy players were looking sick. Before all of the USMNT vets looked like they really discovered the fountain of youth.

    After the struggles with league play, I have had to realize that this year’s Puerto Rico Islanders are not as loaded as last year’s that participated in this tournament and that played Cinderella in the version the year before.

    Colin Clarke has been known to guide our club to levels where they clearly overachieved. But now that guys like Christian Arrieta, Johnny Steele, Fabrice Noel and James Marceline (who was very good when he was good in this tournament) are gone and Bill Gaudette hasn’t played like the superfreak that he was previously (which most fans attribute to injury). Minus Noah Delgado being able to go and a wiley veteran like the retired Petter Villegas–

    This is a murderous assignment. Almost any other club in MLS would be less formidable than the Galaxy at this particular moment.

    Galaxy backup keeper and former Islander Josh Saunders may not still know a lot of the guys who are still on the squad but he understands Clark’s approach to the game very well and I am sure that he is going to share what he can with Arena and the Galaxy (as he should of course do).

    Putting 11 guys behind the ball and looking for one successful counter attack strike by Nicholas Addlery or on moment of brilliance form Kendall Jandeosingh is probably just not going to cut it tonight. Another miracle strike by Sandy Gbandi and another out of his mind performance by Bill Gaudette (if he is physically capable of providing one)–all of the previously mentioned things and more. And some luck. Maybe a lot of luck–the Orange Troop are going to need it all tonight.

    LA wants to win comfortably alright–they don’t want to go down to the JRL even with Puerto Rico. Teams that are armed to the teeth, that should have dismantled Puerto Rico go down to the JRL (Estadio Juan Ramon Loubriel)and only manage draws or have been known to be taken down.

    I’m praying for another massive orange miracle because that is what it is going to take in order to get past the machine that is the LA Galaxy at this particular point in time. Anything less jsut isn’t going to get the job done…

  21. Dudeinho says:

    dont even start that debate Mexican league is still the cream of the crop in North america, Debate the argument when MLS teams start winning consistantly in Mexico

  22. bozodono says:

    In case anyone was wondering he’s the link for the IFFHS league rankings:

    link to iffhs.de

  23. tyob says:

    Don’t expect the worse from the MLS. Our younger talent (Najar, DCU) has come through when given the opportunity. With the influx of mid level DPs (Henry, RB, HAHAHA) we are ready to compete in all competitions. Still it will take time. Side note: Realize the PL now has to have rosters with restrictions aimed to develop national talent (and alot of of other c___). Maybe the MLS is ahead with salary incentives ( not included in the salary cap)to include younger players.

  24. K-Town says:

    Playing outside of our league head to head against other league’s clubs is the ONLY fair way to say who is best. Anything else is speculation. Unfortunately MLS has not taken games outside of it’s own league seriously these last 15 years so it is their own fault for the poor ranking.

    However, if MLS teams start to do good in these inter-league matches then I have no doubt that MLS will rise quickly in the rankings.

    We all know that MLS is better than the ranking suggests, but once again, until it is actually proven on the field, anything else would just be speculation. This is why I want MLS to take CONCACAF CL serious, so that we can get the recognition we deserve.

  25. Red says:

    Worst. Formula. Ever.

  26. CSD says:

    Everyone that is someone that knows someone knows the Indian league is a little better than the MLS but the league in Malawi clearly isn’t there yet. The Sudan league is clearly superior to the MLS. I think these rankings are spot on. I hope someday MLS players will be good enough to play in Libya, Thailand, Angola or Botswana. If Manchester United was touring those countries they would get destroyed. Almadina S.C. in Libya would go “Funky Cold Madina” on Sir Alex’s boys.

  27. CSD says:

    thanks for the link bozo

  28. Scott A says:

    Pretty pumped to watch these games tonight. And I don’t even support any of the teams

  29. Colin says:

    What are you talking about, Red? Everyone knows that Fulham is the BEST TEAM IN ENGLAND.

  30. Isaac says:

    Based on some Facebook stalking, apparently Sacha Kljestan scored his first goal for Anderlecht. In his first appearance in the Champions League as well. You’re still my fave Sacha! I still believe!

  31. seanie blue says:

    What leagues are better than MLS, top to bottom? EPL, La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga, the Championship (English 2nd Division), France, Brazil, Mexico and what else? Holland, Belgium, Greece, Turkey, Scotland, and all the Scandinavian leagues have at least half their teams at a level far below any MLS club; attendance in the bottom half of the First Division in Scotland is a joke: apart from the two top monster teams, no club had attendance over 15,000 people last season, and more than half the league had average attendance LOWER than the worst MLS club currently has. Same is true basically for the rest of the Euro leagues. Look up Russia and Poland and Portugal; the figures are simply ridiculous. Even France is lame. The MLS is a top-ten league (even if they are gallingly dumb about foreign competition), if you look at the league from top-to-bottom. Why don’t they do well in CONCACAF? Priorities, priorities, priorities. The same sort of pathetic executive-level leadership that has our national team held hostage to two amateurs like Sunil and Bob Bradley. The culture has to change for the sport to reach the street in the USA. We all know this. But for that to happen, the culture must be changed at the very top. Why doesn’t Ives say this? On ESPN, Yahoo, and SI, the writers are similarly silent; I know they feel outraged by what is happening with the national team and its shoddy performance in South Africa. Why aren’t they writing what they feel?

  32. dena says:

    Very excited for these two games, come on MLS!

  33. Isaac says:

    and he apparently already had a goal in their domestic cup I believe…How is this not getting some sort of recognition with at least an SBI snippet of a post about it?

  34. Tetsuo54 says:

    He scored in Champions League play actually it was the first goal scored.

  35. bsrumorz says:

    this is a really stupid way to judge the quality of the league. There is also a revenue stream called “television” and in every country in Europe and I imagine Latin America, soccer gets 10-20x the MLS rating on local channels.

    Besides, unlike MLS these clubs don’t have any spending restrictions and the top teams are owned by oligarchs who buy the best African and latin American players, as well as fellow Eastern Europeans.

    As far as your list, add the Ukrainian League to list of those superior to MLS. Shakhtar, Dynamo and Metalist do well in Europe and would be the best in MLS if they were playing here.

  36. I heart SW6 says:

    I fully agree. Fulham is by far the greatest team in England

  37. john says:

    anybody got a stream for these? I’m moving, have internet but no FSC

  38. emabes says:

    Qwest Field…not Quest.

  39. jonk says:

    atdhe.net

  40. seanie blue says:

    What? The TV revenues in Ukraine are how much? Are you joking? We’re talking on the order of thousands of dollars per game! And who else is in that league? Give me a break. Ukraine! Would love to go there, make a visit and hang out, but the football there is way behind Turkey’s, and the Turkish first division is comparable to but still lesser than the MLS. I don’t like the MLS. I think it’s poorly organized and terribly run for too many reasons to express here, but just because you’re from Ukraine don’t try to sell me on such a silly idea. The average game attendance in the Ukraine’s first division last season was less than 8,000. Minor league all the way, except for those handful of clubs owned by oil guys who ripped off their countrymen a generation ago!

  41. phil says:

    word up.

  42. DaveW says:

    GalavisiĆ³n has quite a few of the Concachampions games. Not Motagua-Toronto, though.

  43. Scott A says:

    Toronto looking active with the lead

  44. Scott A says:

    Very nice by Mista. F that was close from Peterson

  45. Citronomics says:

    Here comes Mista for TFC… first touch set up Peterson who directed his shot over the net.

  46. ja says:

    Man, I’m switching between our Champions League and the Libertadores game. Huge difference.

  47. Scott A says:

    This commentator’s funny. Oh my goddd he did not take the shot. Good stuff. Don’t often hear commentators say oh my god like that

  48. Citronomics says:

    you mean the game being called in Spanish right :-).

    Libertadores matches are often entertaining but the TFC v. Montagua match ain’t bad (except maybe finishing by both sides)

  49. Montreal says:

    Gordon and Lewis….Puerto Rico has a chance!!!

  50. westcoaster says:

    You’re comparing the SEMIS of the Copa Libertadores with the PRELIMINARY round of the CCL.

  51. bsrumorz says:

    why don’t you check the track record of head to head matches between Ukrainian and Turkish clubs before you utter such nonsense… in 2006, the Ukrainian League had the 6th most players participating out of the entire world.

    Shakhtar won the UEFA cup and Dynamo was in the semis the same year…. look it up, instead of checking attendance records and thinking that this makes you an expert on international soccer.

  52. bsrumorz says:

    ^at the 2006 world cup….

  53. Martha says:

    MLS wants to take champions league seriously huh? Somebody forgot to tell Bruce Arena.Thanks alot LA for embarrssing rhe league again.

  54. seanie blue says:

    yo dimwit: Turkey’s pro leagues supplied the 2010 world cup with 13 players, Ukraine supplied 2. That’s TWO, as in one and two. The pro leagues in China, Poland, and even Romania supplied more players to South Africa than did Ukraine’s national league. Ukraine football is a minor league affair, except for the two clubs run with thieves’ money. Still, I am sure, a lovely place and I’m meaning to visit, but not to watch 3rd grade football.