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Poll: MLS in Champions League

Three MLS clubs are in the group stage of the 2009-10 CONCACAF Champions League. Columbus and D.C. United begin play Tuesday night against Puerto Rico and Marathon, respectively. Houston starts Wednesday against Metapan of El Salvador.

Group A: Houston, Metapan, Pachuca, Arabe Unido (Panama)
Group B: DCU, Marathon, Toluca, San Juan Jabloteh (T&T)
Group C: Columbus, Puerto Rico, Cruz Azul, Saprissa
(No MLS teams in Group D)
The top two in each group will move into the quarterfinals.

So the question is.....

By Steve Goff  |  August 17, 2009; 7:59 PM ET
Categories:  CONCACAF Champions League , D.C. United , MLS , Poll  
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Comments

Houston has a pretty easy group. Columbus has the hardest group, but easily the deepest squad of any team in the league. Its not impossibly for United to advance, but given the number of games they're playing, I seriously doubt they'll survive the group stage.

Posted by: CACuzcatlan | August 17, 2009 8:11 PM | Report abuse

I have all lost confidence in Tom Soehn and DC United...

Posted by: alan19 | August 17, 2009 8:40 PM | Report abuse

I really wanted to say Houston and Columbus, but I feel much safer saying that no MLS clubs advance.

Posted by: ImWithStupid | August 17, 2009 8:43 PM | Report abuse

I hope Columbus and Houston fail cause I hate them both. VAMOS UNITED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: 9Nine9 | August 17, 2009 9:02 PM | Report abuse

My heart says all three advance for the good of MLS. My head says only Houston advances.

Posted by: croftonpost | August 17, 2009 9:05 PM | Report abuse

Each has their different expectations:

Houston is in a soft group. Pachuca can realistically be counted amongst the top 2 or 3 teams in the field, but out of the rest of Group A Houston is clearly the class. Not only is it safe to assume that they're stronger than Isidro Metapan and Arabe Unido, but they're also virtually assured of a playoff spot already. The Dynamo will be able to play starters in the CCL if needed, using MLS matches to rest. Anything less than a spot in the knockout round would be a big disappointment for Houston.

DC can claim neither of these advantages. We're on the outside looking in for the playoffs, and our group is stronger. Like Houston, we got one of the hot favorites (Toluca), but our likely competitor for 2nd is stronger; Marathon managed to win last season's group of death. That said, I was never particularly impressed with Marathon, who played their strongest team every time out and seemed to benefit from the fact that Cruz Azul and DC sent reserves, while Saprissa was surprisingly short of form. They're not bad, but even with DC's current questionable form I think we are capable of, at worst, splitting the points with them. A draw in San Pedro Sula would go a long way towards our advancement. Toluca should win the group, and San Juan Jabloteh should finish last, but neither is going to win/lose all 6 games. DC and Marathon need to do everything to make sure they're the team that takes a point or three off Toluca, while also avoiding being the team that gives away points in Trinidad. If DC sharpens up a bit in front of goal, I'm going to make the bold prediction of a 2nd place finish. If, however, the recent profligacy continues, we will have to again watch a Marathon side blessed with little more than speed join a Mexican giant in advancing from our group.

Columbus has a similar situation to Houston in terms of being able to prioritize CCL games if they wish. The downside is that they face a nightmarish group. Cruz Azul has shown the ability to rip opponents apart in the CCL when they set their minds to it, while Saprissa has what should be a fierce home field advantage (the DCU reserves' improbable draw there last season notwithstanding), and Puerto Rico has mastered the "art" of ruining soccer in the name of getting results. If Columbus doesn't play very well tomorrow night, they'll already be in trouble. Puerto Rico has gone 9 games in all competitions without conceding a goal, despite the USL's Friday-Sunday scheduling and the absurd amount of travel they have to do. I'll come out and say it: a Crew reserve side will lose at home to the Islanders. They need their best players playing well to take a vital 3 points tomorrow night.

Let me boil it down to percentages:

Houston - 90% (Failure to advance would be a major embarrassment)
DC - 40% (current form makes me nervous)
Columbus - 40% (not as much a reflection on the Crew as an acknowledgment of the group's strength)

Posted by: Chest_Rockwell | August 17, 2009 9:06 PM | Report abuse

Yeah Chest, but are you sure it's cool with "them" to call them "The" Dynamo?

Posted by: DadRyan | August 17, 2009 9:28 PM | Report abuse

Jaysus, you crybabies are so British in your pessimism! Get over yourselves. So they went to Toronto and laid an egg, so what? They may not advance, but it'll have little to do with the team's "current form." Gag me with a spoon, lads! And look out for the sky, 'cuz she's a fallin'.

Posted by: loosek | August 17, 2009 9:50 PM | Report abuse

Did someone say "Marathon"?!

"It's not how fast you can go
The force goes into the flow
If you pick up the beat
You can forget about the heat
More than just survival
More than just a flash
More than just a dotted line
More than just a dash..."

Rush, "Marathon," circa 1985

Did someone say "British"?!

"She floats like a swan
Grace on the water
Lips like sugar
Lips like sugar
Just when you think you've caught her
She glides across the water
She calls for you tonight
To share this moonlight..."

Echo & the Bunnymen, "Lips Like Sugar," circa 1987

Posted by: joedoc1 | August 17, 2009 10:06 PM | Report abuse

Sugar kisses...... That brings back memories.

Posted by: croftonpost | August 18, 2009 12:51 AM | Report abuse

piss off doosh

Posted by: DadRyan | August 18, 2009 1:11 AM | Report abuse

DadRyan:

Not sure I follow. I capitalized "the" because it was at the beginning of a sentence. No coffee yet, so I could just be slow on the uptake.

loosek:

Since I'm normally on the side of calling out the sky is falling types, and also not big on the English bias most Americans have, I'm doubly perplexed by what you're saying. Actually, it's even more confusing: the British are usually guilty of being wildly overconfident (how often have they talked up the national team as a real contender for the World Cup?).

How can DC's form right now have nothing to do with their advancement from the group? We're playing 2 games in that group this week. Let me pose the question this way: When was the last time you were happy with a DC United performance in a game that counted? The 3-1 win over Colorado (which was a month ago)? Beating Chicago 2-1 at home (over 2 months ago)?

***

Thought I'd take a guess at tonight's lineup:

--------- Moreno - Quaranta*
-------------- Szetela
Allen - Jacobson - Olsen* - McTavish
------- John - Janicki - James
--------------- Kocic

I put an * next to Olsen and Quaranta because I think both could end up on the bench (for DiRaimondo and Emilio respectively). Soehn has a problem tonight: only one potential forward is fit to play and didn't go 90 against Toronto (Moreno). Unless N'Silu is not actually hurt and DC is gaming the system by using MLS's injured reserve list to gain an extra, temporary roster spot, someone's going to be logging nearly 180 minutes over a 4 day span. We're stretched up front to the point that I wouldn't be shocked to see Allen pushed up at some point (he played there in emergencies for LA last year).

Obviously the weak point in that lineup is the back three. I doubt Soehn is just going to throw Habarugira in, though I could see him entering as a sub. James will boost the overall speed of the group, but I am nervous about the fact that each of that back three has had major critical thinking lapses in the recent past. If we're taking points tonight, we're going to have to shield them via possession; cheap giveaways are as dangerous tonight as taking shots on our own goal.

Posted by: Chest_Rockwell | August 18, 2009 9:12 AM | Report abuse

Great breakdown in both your analyses, Chest. But I'd like to see Habarugira go a full 90 in a 4-4-2. We might rest Gomez and Habanothertequila has been practicing with the team for several weeks so he should be pretty used to everyone.

Your analysis of the teams chances is spot on. But as a Homer, I've gotta give my team DC at least 51% chance to get through.

So much depends on how much of a priority teams to decide to make of the CCL. In DC's case we should have a good idea of how much effort to exert after our first 2 games: tonight in Honduras and next Wednesday vs Toluca at RFK.

Posted by: Joel_M_Lane | August 18, 2009 9:46 AM | Report abuse

Sorry Chest, just a bad attempt at making a joke.

Posted by: DadRyan | August 18, 2009 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Chest: Because "form" is ephemeral. Who can explain it? And the Brits (hell, any sports fan anywhere, really) can swing pretty wildly to the suicidal end of the emotion spectrum at the drop of a hat.

I'm just sayin': Relax, everybody.

Last time they looked good in a game that counted? Well, they looked pretty good at Firpo a couple weeks ago, didn't they? They got a result at least.

Posted by: loosek | August 18, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

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