The second round of CONCACAF Champions League games begins Tuesday, with Panama’s Aribe Unido club hosting Toronto FC and Santos Laguna playing host to the Columbus Crew at Estadio Corona. On Wednesday night, Cruz Azul host visiting Real Salt Lake, while the Puerto Rico Islanders play in Bayamon against FAS of El Salvador and Monterrey visit Qwest Field to take on the Seattle Sounders. Thursday matchups include Toluca hosting Honduran club Olimpia, while fellow Honduran club Marathon have the uneviable task of taking on the Purple Monster of Saprissa at their home fortress, Estadio Ricardo Saprissa. Finally on Thursday night, Joe Public of Trinidad and Tobago travel to Guatemala City to take on Municipal.
Toronto FC are coming off possibly the biggest win in franchise history when they defeated Cruz Azul 2-1 at BMO Field last Tuesday night. An third minute goal by Martin Saric gave Toronto FC an early lead, and was the first goal conceded by Cruz Azul in five CCL matches against North American teams. Newly acquired Miguel Angel Ferrer Martinez, better known as Mista, opened his account with Toronto FC with a low shot that Cruz Azul keeper Yosgart Guiterrez touched but couldn’t stop. Cruz Azul, who rested six regulars, brought in Captain Gerardo Torrado and attacker Javier Orozco, but could only manage a very late goal on a beautiful free kick by Christian Giminez.
Aribe Unido played last Wednesday at Rio Tinto Stadium against Real Salt Lake. The Panamanian club grabbed the lead in the 13th mnute, as Armando Cooper hit a shot that deflected off Nat Borchers and into the net. Aribe Unido, however, went down to 10 men in the 29th minute as Nahill Carroll was redcarded for a two-footed sliding tackle into Kyle Beckerman. Real Salt Lake’s Alvaro Saborio got the equalizer in the closing moments of the first half, and added another goal on a penalty kick. Protests following the penalty kick by Arabe Unido’s Andres Santamaria resulted in him receiving two yellow cards, and the Panamanians finished with nine men.
Arabe Unido will have the advantage of playing at home, along with having more CONCACAF Champions League experience, over Toronto FC. Arabe Unido lost in last year’s CCL to eventual finalist Cruz Azul in the quarterfinal round. The 2010 Panamanian League Clausura champion features mostly Panamanian players, with the exception of four Colombians. It should be interesting if Toronto FC can take the form they displayed against Cruz Azul on the road. The game will be broadcast on FSC at 7:00pm CDT.
In tonight’s other CCL matchup, the Columbus Crew travel to Mexico to do battle with Santos Laguna and attempt to become the first American team to win on Mexican soil in CCL play. Both teams come off wins in their first CCL games last week, with Columbus defeating Municipal 1-0 while Santos Laguna downed Joe Public 5-2. The Crew are coming off a 3-1 win over the Colorado Rapids in MLS action Saturday, while Santos Laguna lost its first Saturday to Tigres 1-0.
Still, Santos Laguna are atop Group 1 in Primera Division play, and are tied for the league lead at 12 points with Cruz Azul after five games. Los Guererros also boast the Primera Division’s leading scorer, as former Birmingham City forward Christian Benitez has scored six goals in five games, and have been an offensive juggernaut, scoring twelve goals while allowing only two. Santos Laguna have a strong goalkeeper in former Mexican national team star Oswaldo Sanchez, and in last week’s CCL win over Joe Public, forward Jose Maria Cardenas became the first player in CCL history to score four goals in one game.
According to the Columbus Crew’s website, Argentinian star Guillermo Barrios Schelotto did not make the trip, and veteran backup goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum will start in tonight’s game. The 2008 MLS champions are leading the MLS Eastern Conference with a 12-5-4 mark, and are second only to Western Conference leaders the LA Galaxy in total points. The Crew are plus eleven in goal differential and are led by Schelotto in goals and assists, with Steve Lenhart pitching in with five goals and Emilio Renteria adding four.
The Santos Laguna-Columbus Crew matchup will be televised at 9:00 pm CDT on FSC and Galavision.
CONCACAF Champions League Standings:
Team G W D L P
Real Salt Lake 1 1 0 0 3
Toronto 1 1 0 0 3
Arabe Unido 1 0 0 1 0
Cruz Azul 1 0 0 1 0
Team G W D L P
Santos 1 1 0 0 3
Columbus Crew 1 1 0 0 3
Municipal 1 0 0 1 0
Joe Public 1 0 0 1 0
Team G W D L P
Marathón 1 1 0 0 3
Monterrey 1 1 0 0 3
Seattle Sounders 1 0 0 1 0
Saprissa 1 0 0 1 0
Team G W D L P
Olimpia 1 0 1 0 1
Puerto Rico Islanders 1 0 1 0 1
FAS 1 0 1 0 1
Toluca 1 0 1 0 1