Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Last Days of CCL Group Stages

There are 4 more matches to be played today and tomorrow, but all of the MLS teams in CONCACAF Champions League now know their respective fates.

In Group A action, a very, VERY reserve-heavy Real Salt Lake squad held court (again) at home beating Cruz Azul 3-1 behind a brace from Paulo and a third from Collen Warner, just for good measure. Cruz Azul notched one late from Cesar Villaluz, but it was nowhere near enough.

Now look, I'm admittedly not very good with Mexican league teams. I'm sure the Cruz Azul was rolling out a b-team as well given they had clinched passage through. What I do know though, is that Real Salt Lake only had two starters (defenders Nat Borchers and Tony Beltran) in this CCL game who also started in their last league game against FC Dallas. In a welcome surprise, 16 year old Arsenal target Luis Gil got the start and 45 minutes of action for RSL.

Toronto FC ended their tournament on a high note, beating poor, defenseless Arabe Unido 1-0. I hesitate to go too far in giving them credit against an over-matched opponent, but TFC played a good game. Hopefully that's high praise coming from me because I have been pretty hard on them lately even when they do manage to get a result. Maybe this and their final game this weekend at DC United can be building blocks for next season.

Finishing only 2 points out of 2nd place though, you know Toronto is kicking itself for a poor showing down in Panama and a draw at home against RSL.

A quick jump to Group C and sees Seattle Sounders lose at home to Saprissa in the team's final CCL game. Seattle had been eliminated a while ago, but continued to fight hard with reserve lineups and almost pulled off a result except for a goal by Josue Martinez in the 89th minute. Seattle does get the pleasure of knowing they will be back next year though, thanks to their second straight US Open Cup championship.

Finally we move to Group B where, even though they didn't play, Columbus Crew are now guaranteed a spot in the knockout stages thanks to Santos Laguna pounding out Municipal 6-1. Columbus will finish their group stage tomorrow against Joe Public in Trinidad, but will probably put out the most reserve-laden squad they can manage. It is impossible for them to improve their position in the group and they are just 1 point back of New York for first place in the East.

Like Toronto, Columbus may end up kicking themselves, however. Had they sent out a real lineup last game against Municipal and won, they would be in position to win their group rather than finish second.

As it stands, two MLS squads, RSL and Crew, will face off in the knockout stages in late February/early March.

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