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CONCACAF Champions League Pairings

Results of today's draw:

Feb. 24-26 and March 3-5
Atlante vs. Houston Dynamo*
Santos Laguna vs. Montreal Impact*
Marathon vs. Puerto Rico Islanders*
Pumas vs. Cruz Azul*
*hosts first leg

March 17-19 and April 7-9
Atlante-Houston winner vs. Santos-Montreal winner
Marathon-Puerto Rico winner vs. Pumas-Cruz Azul winner

Finals: April 21-23 and April 28-30

What do you think of Houston's and the USL teams' chances?

By Steve Goff  |  December 10, 2008; 2:45 PM ET
Categories:  CONCACAF , MLS , USL  
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Next: Moment of Silence


Houston can play with Atlante. The fact that the knockout stage again begins in the preseason is a big problem, but the Dynamo are perfectly capable of overcoming that and moving on. I'd rate their chances of advancing at 45%.

Santos struggled with Puerto Rico's very direct style, and Montreal seems quite happy to play in a similar fashion. Still, if Santos shows the proper amount of focus (something they didn't do a couple times in group play), this should be where Montreal's unexpected run ends. The weather conditions in Montreal in late February should give the Impact a good chance to win the first leg, but Santos should be able to dismantle them back in Mexico. I'd say Montreal has a 30% chance of going through.

Puerto Rico has once again gotten themselves a fortunate draw. Marathon did win the group of death, but they didn't particularly impress me, and I think they were the most desirable group winner to get. They will struggle with Puerto Rico's highly physical, Route 1 style, and the Islanders have the athleticism throughout their team to cope with Marathon's speed. Marathon is technically much stronger, but Puerto Rico has shown that they are perfectly capable of dealing with that disadvantage (from where I sat, they were the least technical team in the entire group stage, and yet here they are). I would not be surprised at all if Puerto Rico went through. This one is 50/50 to me.

Posted by: Chest_Rockwell | December 10, 2008 3:02 PM | Report abuse

wow to chest_rockwell sub-blog length...

Dynamo has their chances against Atlante.

Posted by: TheWashDipsSince88 | December 10, 2008 3:27 PM | Report abuse

I guess it depends on who is still in the Dynamo lineup. If it remains unchanged, then they can hang in there. If they lose people, maybe not.

Posted by: fischy | December 10, 2008 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Houston vs. PR in the final :-)

Posted by: dcufan | December 10, 2008 3:47 PM | Report abuse

I guess it depends on who is still in the Dynamo lineup. If it remains unchanged, then they can hang in there. If they lose people, maybe not.

Posted by: fischy | December 10, 2008 3:40 PM


The Mexican teams deserve to be favored but its worth noting that they go through lots of turnover every offseason, too. But they won't be in preseason like Houston will be.

Posted by: Joel_M_Lane | December 10, 2008 4:11 PM | Report abuse

I think Houston has a "punchers chance" against Atlante. They haven't really impressed me since they won their championship last year. I do think Puerto Rico, if they have the same players, have a real good shot beating Marathon.

Posted by: SonicDeathMonkey | December 10, 2008 4:42 PM | Report abuse

I expect it to be an all-Mexico final. Houston is terrible in preseason (lost 6-0 to Gamba Osaka in the PPC final). I'd love to see an all-USL final (!), but I think Montreal and Puerto Rico to be outclassed by Santos Laguna and Marathon.

Posted by: Brokenbil | December 10, 2008 4:46 PM | Report abuse


Apparantly some people didn't actually watch Marathon play. We (as MLS/US Soccer fans) have to get over the preconceived notion that Central American teams aren't that good. This particular Marathon team might be one of the best CA teams in years.

I think it's safe to say that I disagree 100% with Chest Rockwell and others on their thoughts on Marathon.

I wasn't only swayed with the way they toyed with and destroyed United in group play, they did the same thing to each team in the group. Topping a group that had 3 of the top 4 teams in the entire tournament isn't an easy thing to do and shouldn't be dismissed so easily.

I put PR's chances at 5-10% going through. And I say that knowing the rather uneven officiating that is prevalent thru the region.

I say Marathon wins 5-2 on aggregate

Houston squeaks by Atlante

Pumas defeats Cruz Azul in a tough series (perhaps PK's)

Santos wins comfortably.

Posted by: ARickey | December 10, 2008 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Wow, why doesn't CONCACAF have a rule against teams from the same federation playing each other in the quarters?

Are they afraid of an all-Mexican semis?

Other than that, a decent draw.

Go Dynamo!

Posted by: TrueCrew | December 10, 2008 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Montreal in February?

That sounds like fun...

NOT! But if you're Montreal you have to like the advantage you get.

Posted by: Modibo | December 10, 2008 5:27 PM | Report abuse


My understanding is that they do, but they also have a rule which doesn't allow teams who played each other in the group stage to face off again in the quarterfinal round. So if you followed both rules, Cruz Azul would have had no eligible opponents. So they decided having two Mexican teams meet in the quarterfinal was the better solution than having Cruz Azul and Marathon go at it again.

And honestly, I think that's the right decision.

Posted by: Soccer_Jeff | December 10, 2008 5:31 PM | Report abuse

Re: Gamba's whacking of Houston back in February, they did end up winning the Asian Champions League impressively. They might be the best club on either side of the Pacific.

Posted by: EricB1 | December 10, 2008 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Interesting to see that someone else (ARickey) observed Marathon's quality during the group stage. That was no fluke. If they are not too tired from their domestic schedule I see them playing and beating one of the Mexican teams in the final.

Posted by: sbg1 | December 10, 2008 5:59 PM | Report abuse

"We (as MLS/US Soccer fans) have to get over the preconceived notion that Central American teams aren't that good."

Speak for yourself. The fact that only Houston is in the QFs (and they barely made it) says that the Central American teams were, if not good, then certainly better than the MLS entrants. In fact, you could make the quality argument for USL as well: two teams in the QFs and one in the USOC final.

Man, after writing that, MLS really sucks.

My sentimental final matchup is Montreal-Puerto Rico.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | December 10, 2008 7:51 PM | Report abuse

Don't beat yourself up too much. MLS teams would have fared better had they not been shelled by their schedules. Houston probably had the deepest, plug in and play roster of any team in the League again this last year. That may not be the case next year, but we'll see.

Posted by: DadRyan | December 10, 2008 11:12 PM | Report abuse


Bro, while the fact that you diplomatically included yourself in your stereotype (or "generality"), I gotta go with Mr. Connector, aka I-270...

I got GOLtv. I got FSC. I have seen Marathon play. The Green Monster is class. Excellent team.

"I put PR's chances at 5-10% going through. And I say that knowing the rather uneven officiating that is prevalent thru the region."

The 5-10% thing you completely pulled out your erh, uhm--let's just say out of the air.

Marathon has to go play at Bayamon (maybe that is why you are giving PRI a chance to actually score during the rout). We got rain and lots of it. We got a field that we know that other clubs struggle with. And we got guys who overachieve and in General Clarke, we have a coach who knows how to nuture guys to overachieve. And PRI has already sent Clarke and Whitebread to Argentina to look a for a bargain or two.

Marathon is class. Their play in group stage was no fluke. Islanders will have an uphill battle but your "5-10% chance" has me chuckling a bit...

We have yet another wonder opportunity to show that hunger, ambition (and favorable weather) can sometimes help level a playing field when playing superior competion.

How does TO say it?
"Get your popcorn ready..."
I'm really looking forward to it.

Posted by: yankiboy | December 11, 2008 9:15 AM | Report abuse

@yankiboy: as I write this, I am in Puerto Rico (I need to finish my work so I can get out of this room and enjoy the outdoors). I only wonder how anyone gets any sleep on here. To paraphrase Samuel L. Jackson, "I've had it with the m***** f****** frogs on this m***** f****** island!"

Joking, of course, it would be truly sad if the coquis went silent.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | December 11, 2008 12:08 PM | Report abuse

PR in December, Seattle in May... what are you, a Field Turf salesman? :-)

Posted by: DadRyan | December 11, 2008 3:20 PM | Report abuse

It's better than grass. Really.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | December 11, 2008 4:05 PM | Report abuse


I call it like I see it. I just think Marathon is easily the most impressive team I saw during the group stage and I watched most, if not all, of the group stage matches.

A team that looks that impressive in the toughest group will get my nod every time.

As for the vaunted PR Islanders, when exactly did they become the 27' Yankees?

Look, they have played well and they deserve to get through to the knockout stages though the group they played in was a bit suspect.

I guess we'll find out in February how all of our prognostication skills look.

And for the record, how am I stereotyping Central American teams? Speaking the truth isn't a stereotype. Central American teams, for the most part, do get overlooked in these competition as DC found out.

Posted by: ARickey | December 12, 2008 9:49 AM | Report abuse

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