So Tuesday saw the opening of the CONCACAF CL group stages, and here we would receive the opening matches from groups B and C on the night. The other match played on the evening was from Group D, and in all honesty the result came out as one would expect. So for those of you following along with me, here are a few words on the two matches I was able to watch and I will make sure to drop the score line from the Group D game as well.
UNAM (Mexico) 1 – 0 Comunicaciones (Guatemala)
Columbus Crew (USA/MLS) 2 – 0 Puerto Rico Islanders (PR/USL-1)
I was not sure what to expect out of this match, but I have to say I always saw Columbus as the better side in this one. PRI would be missing a few players to injury and suspension, while Columbus had back their Argentinian leader Schelotto and hard nosed front man Moreno. The match would be played by both sides as expected, with PRI trying to attack through the long ball and Columbus relying on a number of creative passes to create chances. Columbus looked the better side from the start but could not find the net in the first half, taking the match into halftime at 0-0.
Going into the second half, the Crew coaching staff, seeing that they were the dominant side, would make a change to their lineup by bringing in another big attacker in Steven Lenhart to pair with Moreno up top. This would work for the Crew, and in the 57th Lenhart would find the net on a cross from central defender Chad Marshall. This goal would give the side the lead they needed to be able to bring off Schelotto, who is just back from injury, and use their strong defense to close out the match. I had no doubt about the result of this match after Columbus went up, but they surprised me as Robbie Rogers picked up a deflected cross in the box and slotted it home, taking the Crew up 2-0 and all but guaranteeing their win.
Columbus showed well on their first night, but with their group makeup I would not go writing them into the later rounds just yet. Their group also contains Costa Rican side Saprissa and Mexican side Cruz Azul, both teams very tough. So in the end the Crew got the result they needed, as it looks like the rest of the way might be an uphill battle.
Marathon (Honduras) 3 – 1 DC United (USA/MLS)
DC’s run of bad form continues. This is all I could think as I watched the match against the Hondurans. If you watched you would think that DC had the better of the possession and that they looked dangerous on multiple occasions, but I do not think you could say that you thought they would win this one. Having beaten DC handily last season in the CCL, Marathon knew what to expect from a DCU team, even if there were some new faces on the pitch. The Hondurans for their part, started out slow in this one, making even the announcers think DCU had some sort of advantage. The match should have only been 2-1 in the end, but a bonehead encroachment move on a penalty by a DCU player brought the saved penalty by Josh Wicks back to be taken again, at which time Mario Berrios finished his second attempt.
The Hondurans looked dangerous on the counter all night, as a slower DCU back line could not keep up when a ball was played long forward to the Marathon front men, and it was at one of these moments that Marathon’s Walter Martinez would find the opening goal; coming in the 23rd minute after a defensive blunder. DCU would strike back right after the break though with a header that left Luciano Emilio bloodied and highly ineffective for the rest of the evening. Try as they might DCU could not find another goal in this one, and in the 78th, Honduran International Jerry Palacios found the net for the goal that would put the Honduran side ahead. Insult to injury would be added from the penalty spot late, but with a busy schedule coming up; DCU will get on with it and return to DC to await the Galaxy of the MLS at the weekend.
DC do not look like they will make it out of the group stages at the moment, but as we have seen many times before, you cannot base the final from the first performance. The side currently looks to lack the talent to compete at this level, but with the transfer window still open, there could be more bodies on their way in. Marathon should be dangerous in this group with their combination of speed and attacking, but this match would not be one they would want a repeat performance of. Had DC been a better side the result could be very different, but Marathon made it work and fought through a performance that was not up to their skill level. The return leg of this one should make for an interesting match as DCU will now be looking for their first win in 4 against the Hondurans.
So there is the wrap on Tuesday night’s CONCACAF CL action, there are a few more matches this week, but the TV coverage is spotty and only showing the MLS sides I think. I will update with them as they come in, but I would not expect much in the form of an in depth story, as many of the matches in these early rounds will not be shown. So until next time, tune in to some MLS, CCL, or any of the other footy that has now started up around the world.