CCL 2014-15: Group Stage, Round 4 Round-Up

martin-zuniga

CCL 2014-15 top scorer after four rounds of the group stage: Club America’s Martin Zuniga (pasionaguila.com)

Favorites reasserted themselves in the fourth round of CCL 2014-15’s group stage. Austin Fido brings the round-up and refreshed predictions…

After four rounds of group play, there are five teams officially eliminated and three (Municipal, Real Estelí and Waterhouse) clinging to a set of improbable hypotheticals. But that still leaves two-thirds of the field in the running, which speaks positively to the improving level of competition in the tournament overall.

Five of the eight groups will definitely not decide their winner until the final round of games, and at least three of those can reasonably be expected to be tightly contested matches (Saprissa vs. Sporting Kansas City; Alajuelense vs. Cruz Azul; Olimpia vs. Portland Timbers).

Nonetheless, we’re not yet at a point in the evolution of this tournament where we can count out the favorites from each group until they are mathematically eliminated – as reflected by the cautious nature of the predictions for the quarterfinalists after the fourth group stage match day.

The teams are ranked in order of the seeding they are currently predicted to receive, ranked from highest to lowest…

It's just a prediction, Ben - not a prophecy (concacaf.com)

It’s just a prediction, Ben – not a prophecy (concacaf.com)

1. Pachuca: The Group 1 favorites didn’t play this round, which means there is no reason to change the assumption Los Tuzos are on track for 12 points and the sort of goal difference that should keep them ahead of any team that matches their points total.

2. DC United: The win over Waterhouse FC solidifies DCU’s claim to maximum points from Group 2, though it is unlikely Ben Olsen will field a strong enough team over the remaining games to really challenge Pachuca’s goal difference advantage and threaten to take the highest seed in the quarterfinals.

3. América: Las Águilas have now scored more goals in the group stage than any team has managed since the tournament switched to its current three-to-a-group format. A +14 goal difference makes them the prohibitive favorite to win the highest seed of the best-of-the-rest group that gets to the knockout rounds without maximum points. And they still have a home game to play, so expect that GD to increase.

4. Portland Timbers: If Caleb Porter could be trusted to throw everything at his team’s last CCL match in Honduras, one might consider the Timbers among the group winners likely to get 12 points. But it still seems probable he’ll be preoccupied with securing a playoff spot in October, and therefore is more likely to play for the draw in the group finale.

5. New York Red Bulls: The Red Bulls’ loss to Montreal in round four was anticipated, so it is not a reason to adjust the expectation that RBNY will emerge as the winner of Group 3. Of course, it will be eliminated from the tournament if it doesn’t beat CD FAS in the next round of games, so this might be the club’s last appearance on this list.

6. León: La Fiera still has to be considered favorite to get out of Group 7. The team has the quality on paper (if not frequently evident on the field so far this season) to win both its next games and maybe secure as high as the fourth seed (beating América’s goal difference does not seem likely). For now, a conservative prediction says León gets a point in Costa Rica and then beats Metapán by whatever margin is required to make the quarterfinals with eight points and the tiebreaker advantage over Herediano.

7. Sporting Kansas City: The only change to the predictions from the last round sees KC nudge ahead of Saprissa. It’s not so much the fact La S lost to Sporting in this round, but that its defending was not great – which makes it seem less likely Saprissa will be able to control the score line to its advantage in the return match in October.

8. Cruz Azul: Still backing La Máquina to figure its way out of a tough situation, especially since the start of the two-game, must-win comeback was a 3-0 win over Chorrillo that might easily have been by double that margin.

CSD_Municipal.svgReal_CD_Espana.svgGROUP 1

Municipal 3 – 0 Real España

Municipal wrapped up second place in Group 1 with a home win that also served to eliminate Real España from the competition.

This match wasn’t as lopsided as the final score might suggest, but the home team finished its chances – or rather, Marvin Ávila did.

He got a hat-trick of headers, of progressively greater difficulty – the last was his best:

There's more to Municipal than Carlos Ruiz (concacaf.com)

There’s more to Municipal than Carlos Ruiz (concacaf.com)

The result itself served as a neat summation of the divergent fortunes of Honduran and Guatemalan soccer. The former is supposed to be a rising force in CONCACAF: it qualified for the last two World Cups, made the semifinals of four of the last five Gold Cups, won the 2011 Copa Centroamericana and finished second in the 2013 edition of the Central American championship.

Guatemala finished sixth in the 2013 Copa Centroamericana, failing to qualify for the Gold Cup for the second time since 2009.

But Los Chapines are enjoying a renaissance. The Guatemalans upset the established order of Central American football in the 2014 Copa Centroamericana, beating Honduras to win their group and finishing second overall to Costa Rica.

The Hondurans, absent most of the stars of the squad that finished third in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, limped to a fifth-place finish in CCA.

Similarly, Real España has lost many of the players that brought the club into CCL – and the team just hasn’t appeared to have the required confidence or cohesion to have an impact in this tournament.

It’s unlikely the events September 2014 foreshadow any lasting change in the fortunes of Guatemalan or Honduran football, but this match functioned as a neat proxy for the divergent experiences of two Central American soccer programs this fall.

Next Match: 9/24 – Pachuca vs. Municipal (7:00 pm, Chicago time; UDN)

The only realistic combination of results that can prevent Pachuca from advancing to the quarterfinals is for Los Tuzos to lose both remaining matches, since the only combination of results less plausible than that scenario is the one seeing Municipal travel to Mexico and winning by four goals or more (which would hand the Guatemalan side the head-to-head advantage over its Liga MX group rival, allowing Los Rojos to progress should Real España force a draw with Pachuca in the group finale).

In other words: don’t hold your breath for an upset in Group 1. Pachuca has looked comfortably better than either of its CCL opponents. Indeed, the only obstacle between Los Tuzos and the top seed in the knockout phase (they have the best goal difference of any presumptive group winner still on track for 12 points) is complacency.

Pachuca’s form in Liga MX has dipped recently (one point from its last two matches), so it won’t be surprising if coach Enrique Meza elects to use a second-string side to close out CCL. That will make Municipal’s task marginally easier, but not much: it was pretty much a Pachuca reserve team that went to Guatemala at the end of August and brought back a 7-3 win. Those players will be looking forward to the opportunity to show what they can do in front of their home fans.

sporting kc logoDeportivo_Saprissa.svgGROUP 2

Sporting Kansas City 3 – 1 Saprissa

If you want to make excuses for Saprissa, you might say the team was a little rusty: it hadn’t played competitively since the end of August, as the Costa Rican Primera División kindly allowed some of the country’s bigger clubs to take a break while their players were contesting Copa Centroamericana with the national team.

But a club like Saprissa doesn’t need excuses. The team slipped up against Sporting Kansas City, never really getting the measure of the MLS side’s all-action, high-pressing game. Of course, La S will seek to make KC similarly uncomfortable when the teams meet again in Costa Rica, but the advantage will likely rest with the visitors: this two-goal victory means Sporting can (if it wins its next game against Real Estelí) win Group 2 with either a draw, a one-goal loss, or even a two-goal loss (so long as KC scores), in the final match of the group stage.

Rusty or not, Saprissa will be mindful of the fact KC won every significant measure of attacking superiority the game had to offer: possession (56.5% to 43.5% in favor of the home team); attempts on goal (20 for KC; nine for Saprissa); shots on target (11 for KC; one for La S); and, most pertinently, goals scored.

KC’s goals were all a function of persistent pressure in the final third: a penalty won by Benny Feilhaber; a shot from distance by Toni Dovale of the sort he and his teammates had been punting on target for most of the game; and a harder-than-he-made-it-look, close-range finish from Dovale that should have been the fourth or fifth for KC, if easier chances had been put away as efficiently.

Roofed it (concacaf.com)

Roofed it (concacaf.com)

Andy Gruenebaum was lucky not to be sent off in the first half for a feet-first challenge that may have got a little bit of ball but certainly got quite a lot of man, and maybe a different referee would have made a different call, swinging the match in Saprissa’s favor.

Probably don't get away with that sort of challenge every day, Mr. Gruenebaum. (concacaf.com)

Probably don’t get away with that sort of challenge every day, Mr. Gruenebaum. (concacaf.com)

But Gruenebaum stayed on the pitch (as, in fairness, did Saprissa ‘keeper Danny Carvajal for bringing down Feilhaber in the box – though he was carded), and it is difficult to argue with the score: KC was the better team, by some margin. Saprissa needs to regroup  for what is now a must-win game at home in October.

Next Match: 9/23 – Sporting Kansas City vs. Real Estelí (7:00 pm, Chicago time; UDN)

Peter Vermes is one of the few MLS coaches one cannot accuse of lacking respect for CCL. He consistently put out strong lineups last year, and he has done so again this year, albeit in a tougher group than he faced in 2013-14.

KC will have noted that even winning out in this group is no guarantee of a high seed, since América would appear to have a lock on the goal difference tiebreaker for teams chasing 10 points, and there are still four teams in the competition in the hunt for maximum points from the group stage.

A heavy win over Estelí would be a Pyrrhic victory if it costs KC the ability to beat New England Revolution three days later and maintain control over (at least) second place in the Eastern Conference. The one thing we can be certain Vermes does not want to face in October is back-to-back, all-or-nothing games to make the CCL quarterfinals and the MLS playoffs.

So he might, uncharacteristically, choose to field a significantly under-strength team when the Nicaraguans come calling, as the benefits of victory do not dramatically outweigh the consequences of failure. He wants to be in position to play a full-strength team in Costa Rica in October, which means being able to play without fear of the outcome of the team’s last MLS game of the regular season against New York’s Red Bulls.

No team in CCL knows not to underestimate El Tren del Norte better than KC – this is the second year running the two clubs have played each other in the group stage, and they have drawn two out of three games in that time.

Nonetheless, KC can afford to not win this game more than it can afford to lose any other in its immediate future. In a curious way, it is because Vermes has such desire to do well in CCL that he may be inclined to mail in his team’s last home game of the group stage.

As such, despite the benefit of a full week to prepare for the match without distraction by MLS obligations, do not be shocked if a lightweight Kansas City team turns up in the next round of CCL. KC definitely doesn’t want to lose this game, but it may not want to win it enough to field the best lineup it can muster.

530px-Montreal_Impact_(MLS)_logo.svgNew York Red BullsGROUP 3

Montreal Impact 1 – 0 New York Red Bulls

Both coaches tried to sell this result as a positive; neither had a particularly convincing case.

For the Red Bulls, Mike Petke looked at a squad riddled with injury and fatigue (this was the team’s fourth game in 10 days), looked ahead at a still-crowded schedule (three matches between 9/20 and 9/28), and decided to give his entire first team the night off. His all-reserve lineup lost by the slimmest possible margin, even after going a down a man in the 76th minute.

Talking up a 1-0 loss is not a comfortable situation for any coach.

Montreal’s Frank Klopas had it even worse: he had to celebrate his best-available selection’s inexplicable failure to absolutely thrash the dregs of the Red Bulls’ roster. Indeed, but for Evan Bush’s reflexes – L’Impact’s ‘keeper stopped a goal-bound flick-on that might have stood up as the equalizer – Klopas would have been trying to put a positive spin on a truly disappointing result.

Blushes spared (concacaf.com)

Blushes spared (concacaf.com)

For RBNY, the team can take encouragement from the fact the reserves stood up pretty well. Montreal missed a lot of chances, but the Red Bulls  had opportunities to score and, had they managed to field even one competent goal scorer (Saer Sene was woefully ineffective in a lone forward role), would not have been undeserving of a point.

The Red Bulls can still make the quarterfinals if they win both their remaining games, and they bought themselves the rest day they needed to juggle the roster in order to balance that requirement with the work they need to do to make the MLS post-season.

For Montreal, three more points does mean L’Impact wins the group should RBNY get anything less than six points from the next two games. Furthermore, the Red Bulls will probably need to beat L’Impact by two goals in October, since a one-goal win may still leave Montreal with the tiebreaker advantage (much will depend on the outcome of RBNY’s next game against CD FAS).

As Klopas said, it is hard to be too disappointed with a team that has won all three of its CCL group games. And Montreal dominated the game. The goal that was scored looked offside, but L’Impact had abundant opportunity to put the result beyond the reach of one 50/50 call.

Di Vaio beats the trap again (concacaf.com)

Di Vaio beats the trap again (concacaf.com)

Yet L’Impact should be disappointed, since the Red Bulls took a big chance and the home team did not make them pay for it.

Petke ought to be disappointed as well: the cost of not being able to focus on CCL at this stage of the season is RBNY has no margin for error in its remaining games. If it fails to qualify, it can blame this match – when it couldn’t find the wherewithal to field a strong side for a tournament it has known it will be playing for almost a year.

Montreal is committed to CCL since it has nothing else to play for this season; RBNY is committed to keeping itself alive in MLS and CCL until at least October. These are not the sort of ambitions typically rewarded by success in a competition, but one of these two is going to the quarterfinals.

Next Match: 9/24 – CD FAS vs. New York Red Bulls (9:00 pm, Chicago time; UDN)

Since CCL switched to its current format, there hasn’t been a Salvadoran club in the knockout rounds. There won’t be one this year either, but RBNY would do well to take more careful glance at the recent history of El Salvador’s clubs in CCL: last year, Tijuana and LA Galaxy combined to get one point from their road trips against Salvadoran teams; in 2012-13, CD FAS and Isidro Metapán each managed to win one of their two home games (Águila, however, lost every game it played).

Salvadoran clubs have consistently struggled to make much headway in the competition since Metapán made the quarterfinals back in 2011-12, but they are not necessarily pushovers.

The Red Bulls’ last MLS game suggested Mike Petke is mindful of the threat and preparing to take his team’s must-win trip to El Salvador more seriously than he took the doesn’t-really-matter-what-happens trip to Canada in the last round.

Against Seattle, a must-not-lose game in the context of RBNY’s MLS season, Petke held Tim Cahill and Péguy Luyindula out of his starting lineup, and kept Saër Sène out of the match-day squad entirely. Those three can be presumed to form the core of the Red Bulls’ attack against CD FAS.

If they don’t start, RBNY is inexplicably taking an even bigger risk in CCL than it did in its last outing. Los Tigres are struggling in their league, but the Red Bulls just lost on the road to a team with a similarly awful league record (Montreal is currently second-worst in MLS).

Waterhouse_FCDCUnitedGROUP 4

Waterhouse FC 1 – 2 DC United

DC United would have been effectively eliminated from CCL by a two-goal loss in Jamaica, so the fact Ben Olsen elected to play a relatively strong team cannot be interpreted as a sign of all-in determination to win the group with maximum points.

Olsen needed to come away from this game with the twin ambitions of winning the Eastern Conference in MLS and winning this CCL group intact. He did, and his management of his playing resources should be praised.

For this match, Olsen sent out his first-choice ‘keeper (Bill Hamid), the team’s best defensive midfielder (Perry Kitchen), and its attacking leader (Fabian Espindola). Each played an important part in a somewhat nervous win.

Waterhouse had the better of the early exchanges, including two decent penalty appeals (declined by the referee) and a shot that captain DaMarley Samuels ought to have made more challenging for Hamid.

Gotta do better than that to beat Hamid (concacaf.com)

Gotta do better than that to beat Hamid (concacaf.com)

And then Espindola produced the best goal of the round, outwitting and outrunning three defenders before chipping the ‘keeper from an impertinent angle.

There are not points for style, but sometimes you wish there were (concacaf.com)

There are no points for style, but sometimes you wish there were (concacaf.com)

DCU never really settled into control of the game, but Espindola grabbed another goal shortly after half-time to provide some breathing room for the visitors.

Once Taylor Kemp was sent off in the 70th minute, Waterhouse did find the net (from the ensuing free kick) but the finishing touch was consistently lacking for the hosts, who peppered Hamid’s goal with shots but rarely found the appropriate combination of power and placement to trouble DC’s ‘keeper.

FINALLY (concacaf.com)

FINALLY (concacaf.com)

Two wins over Waterhouse gives DCU the head-to-head advantage over the Jamaican team, so this result effectively ends the Caribbean club’s involvement in CCL – unless Tauro can beat DC twice, without overhauling Waterhouse’s modest +2 goal difference.

Perhaps the greatest disappointment regarding the near-certain end of Waterhouse’s run is that it means the tournament is unlikely to see more of Cardel Benbow, a 19-year-old midfielder just returned home from a spell with NPSL’s Tampa Marauders. He was an active and lively threat for much of the game.

Benbow (19-year-old NPSL player) vs. Inkoom (2009 U20 World Cup winner)

Benbow (19-year-old NPSL player) vs. Inkoom (2009 U20 World Cup winner)

For DC United, the door is open to kick on and get 12 points from the group stage, which will certainly deliver home advantage for the quarterfinals.

Next Match: 9/24 – DC United vs. Tauro FC (7:00 pm, Chicago time; Fox 2)

One point is all DC United requires to get to the quarterfinals, and Ben Olsen will have two attempts to get it. 

An all-reserve team was sufficient to get all three points for DCU in its last home game in CCL, so it would be harsh to fault Olsen for attempting the same strategy in this match.

He should want to get maximum points from the group, grab a high seed and secure home advantage for at least the opening series of next year’s knockout stage. But he is also in a race for the MLS Eastern Conference title (which would secure qualification for CCL 2015-16) and the transitive property (DCU’s reserves beat Waterhouse at home; Waterhouse beat Tauro home and away) suggests he has a decent shot at getting what he needs out this game with a B-team.

Tauro’s form has improved recently: it has picked up its first couple of wins of the season and is undefeated in four games since its thrashing by Waterhouse in Jamaica. Perhaps the Panamanian team has stumbled into the form required to stop DC from getting 12 points, but it is hard to imagine the players who were brushed aside by Waterhouse in Jamaica suddenly finding the means to take down DCU in RFK.

Portland TimbersCD_Olimpia_(Honduras)GROUP 5

Portland Timbers 4 – 2 Olimpia

For 45 minutes, this was a demented match between two professional soccer teams that had seemingly forgotten every principle of defending.

Portland scored first because Olimpia forgot the advice to clear the ball decisively, and to cover the near post. Next, Kevin Alvarez schooled the Timbers’ defense on set pieces. Then the ‘keepers traded errors: Noel Valladares tipped Will Johnson’s shot into his own net; Andrew Weber dropped a routine save for Romell Quioto to tap in.

Oops (concacaf.com)

Oops (concacaf.com)

The score was 2-2 at half-time, and the match looked destined to finished 6-6.

But the Timbers pulled themselves together in the second half, perhaps inspired by Maxi Urruti, who scored a goal (his second of the game) in the 57th minute that had little to do with anything but his own talent.

Clever (concacaf.com)

Clever (concacaf.com)

The result keeps Portland in the hunt for maximum points in the group and means Olimpia will have to beat the Timbers at home – probably by two or more goals – in order to make the quarterfinals.

Los Leones will hope Caleb Porter sends the same defense to Honduras, where they have scored 18 goals in four home games between 8/24 and 9/21 (as well as winning their only road game in that time 4-1). But Porter seems to believe his forwards can be relied on to compensate for his team’s deficiencies at the back – as he should, since this has been his philosophy for most of this season, regardless of the competition.

The evidence suggests we can look forward to a free-scoring Group 5 finale in October.

Next Match: 9/23 – Portland Timbers vs. Alpha United (9:00 pm, Chicago time; UDN – delayed broadcast)

Will Alpha United’s lineup included drastic changes for the fourth game running? Can Portland run up  the score sufficiently to build the sort of goal difference that might challenge for the top seed in the quarterfinals (if the Timbers can also beat Olimpia in Honduras)?

The Hammer has managed to get progressively worse over its three matches in CCL so far; Portland should win comfortably. The only questions about this game are the scale of the Timbers’ seemingly inevitable victory, and the identity of the players Alpha United has recruited for the journey to Oregon.

Cruz-AzulChorrillo_FCGROUP 6

Cruz Azul 3 – 0 Chorrillo FC

The champs aren’t leaving CCL without a fight.

Cruz Azul isn’t having a great season in Liga MX, but that did not prevent Luis Fernando Tena from sending out a strong lineup for this must-win home game.

Tena rested just three of the players who had started the preceding match against Toluca (at Estadio Azul; lost 2-1) and was rewarded with a fluid, dominating performance – except in front of goal.

Penalty (concacaf.com)

Penalty #1 (concacaf.com)

La Máquina had three penalties in the game, not one of which was particularly controversial (unless you consider kicks to the chest or back to be part of the rough and tumble of a contact sport), but converted only one. And finishing was generally problematic: three goals does not convey the scale of Cruz Azul’s domination of its opponent.

Chorrillo will rue ‘keeper Junior Torres’s injury-time ejection from the game (for his second yellow card; he was perhaps a little fortunate not to have been red-carded for the infraction which incurred his first booking – and the second penalty conceded by his team).

Penalty #2 (concacaf.com)

Penalty #2 (concacaf.com)

The ‘keeper’s second caution was unnecessary twice over: Torres is about 6′ 3″, and managed to plant a foot in 5’ 8″ Xavier Baez’s back while jumping to collect a ball Baez had given up on; since Chorrillo was already two goals down with about a minute to play, the team ought to have realized the scale of any defeat was irrelevant and saved its energy for winning its next match.

Penalty #3 (concacaf.com)

Penalty #3 (concacaf.com)

The loss of its first-choice goalkeeper may ultimately cost Chorrillo more dearly than the loss of this game.

 Next Match: 9/25 – Chorrillo FC vs. Alajuelense (9:00 pm, Chicago time; Galavision)

No team can yet be ruled out of Group 6.

If Chorrillo wins this match – and we should remember it has already beaten Cruz Azul on home ground – then the Panamanian team can make the quarterfinals if La Máquina and Alajuelense play to a draw in the last game of the group stage.

A tie or loss eliminates Chorrillo, and sends Alajuelense into its last match needing just a point to get out of the group without having to worry about tiebreakers.

Logo_metapanCS_HeredianoGroup 7

Isidro Metapán 2 – 4 Herediano

If Los Caleros had kept their heads, they might have got something out of this game.

Herediano won this match in part because it was the better team on the night, and in part because its players were better at winning the sympathy of the referee.

The match turned in the 59th minute ( at which point, the score was still 1-1) when Christian Sánchez was sent off for stamping on Yosimar Arias. At least, that is what the referee saw. On second glance, the stamp looked like retribution for Arias’s effort to take out David López with a somewhat wild sliding tackle. A yellow card for Arias would also have been appropriate, but the ref had little time for Metapán’s side of the story.

Not smart (concacaf.com)

Not smart (concacaf.com)

This was further demonstrated in the 76th minute, when Jonathan Barrios swung an arm back too violently in an attempt to shake off Elías Aguilar, who was grabbing at his opponent’s shirt to stop a breakaway. Had Barrios hit the deck instead of Aguilar, he would at least have had a free kick for his trouble, but Los Caleros were too easily distracted by the gamesmanship of the opposition.

Even less smart (concacaf.com)

Even less smart (concacaf.com)

When they weren’t slapping at each other, the teams played out an entertaining game on a wet, muddy pitch.

Metapán’s Jamaican striker, Romeo Parkes, elicited the second-worst goalkeeping blunder of the round with a near-post shot that slipped out of Leonel Moreira’s rain-slicked gloves and oozed over the line.

Wait...what? (concacaf.com)

Wait…what? (concacaf.com)

 

Victor Núñez knocked in the equalizer and go-ahead goal for Herediano; Yendrick Ruiz grabbed a couple more against tiring, short-handed opponents. And Marvin Monterroza restored some pride for the hosts with an exquisitely controlled chip from distance into an empty net after Moreira and Cristian Montero managed to fumble a simple back-pass routine.

Great goal if your team isn't already three goals down (concacaf.com)

Great shot, even if your team is three goals down with no time to come back (concacaf.com)

The result eliminates Metapán, and brings Herediano tantalizingly close to the quarterfinals: a win in its final game of the group stage and the Costa Rican side that wasn’t even supposed to be in this competition (it is an after-the-last-minute replacement for Belize’s Belmopan Bandits) will be in the knockout rounds.

Next Match: 9/24 – Herediano vs. León (9:00 pm, Chicago time; UDN)

Unfortunately for Herediano, the team it has to beat to be certain of a CCL quarterfinal place is León. If beating La Fiera were easy, the club wouldn’t have won both Liga MX titles last season.

That said, this year’s Leon is not the same as last year’s edition. It has lost six of nine league matches to date, and those three wins have come against Liga MX’s worst (Morelia), third-worst (Veracruz) and Pumas, who are currently 11th.

More pertinently, all León’s wins in the league have been at home.

This is Herediano’s best shot at qualifying – but the team needs to win to be able to sleep easy. A loss all but hands the group to La Fiera, who will surely be able to beat Metapán at home in October, not least because Los Caleros will have a couple of players suspended.

Even a draw puts León in control of the group, since it will know exactly what sort of win it needs over Metapán to edge Herediano out on tiebreakers (and anything other than 0-0 or 1-1 gives La Fiera the advantage on head-to-head record anyway).

Herediano ought to go for the win; León hasn’t kept a clean sheet since its opening game of the season: this is the game to watch in round five of the group stage.

Group 8

Bayamon_FCClub-America1Bayamón FC 1 – 10 América

Puerto Rico’s Bayamón FC looked like it could be the weakest team in the competition even before Belmopan Bandits got booted. Remember, this is the team that won its Caribbean Football Union Club Championship group by beating Bodden Town (2012-13 Cayman Islands League champion) and tying Centro Dominguito (2013 Curaçao League champion) and USR Sainte-Rose (the fourth-best team in Guadeloupe in 2012-13.

But that doesn’t entirely explain why Bayamón was thrashed even more soundly on its home ground than it had been when it played América in Azteca. Another part of the explanation? Bayamon lost most of a team somewhere between its last CCL appearance Mexico and this match in Puerto Rico.

In Azteca, the Puerto Rican club fielded a goalkeeper with Dutch professional league experience (André Krul), three Costa Rican players who had recently been attached to clubs in their country’s top division (Michael Rodríguez, Daniel Arce, and Saúl Phillip), a MLS rookie (Nicholas Walker, on loan from FC Dallas), a young Colombian with MLS and NASL experience (Yoximar Granado).  All were vanished from the squad for this match.

Their replacements are doubtless better than average footballers, but their professional pedigree is…elusive.

Little wonder perhaps that America’s reserves scored three goals in the opening five minutes, and Luis Rey – one of the few first-teamers in the lineup – looked embarrassed as he strolled through a first-half hat-trick.

You're a pro, Luis (concacaf.com)

You’re a pro, Luis (concacaf.com)

The result didn’t tell Turco Mohamed anything about his fringe players he didn’t already know: they are better than most who play this game. But it did suggest that the Caribbean Football Union needs to look again at its qualifying tournament.

The standard of Caribbean club football is not great, but we have seen teams compete in this tournament (stand tall, Waterhouse FC) and entertain in the last (missing you, Valencia).

Bayamón is currently meeting neither standard.  The suggestion implied by the CFU tournament that this is the one of the three best club teams in the Caribbean is impossible to sustain.

Next Match: 9/25 – Puerto Rico Bayamón FC vs. Comunicaciones (7:00 pm, Chicago time; UDN)

One last shot at redemption for Bayamón, who will seek to end the tournament on a high note by at least not conceding double figures this time around.

For Comunicaciones, the task is to try to outperform América’s achievement in Puerto Rico, thereby taking the goal difference advantage in the group and allowing themselves the luxury of heading to Azteca knowing any kind of score draw will see them through to the quarterfinals.

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The next round of group stage matches runs from September 23rd to September 25th.

Follow @OTFSoccer for updates on our continuing CCL coverage.

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OTF’s Austin Fido chatters about CCL @canetop. 

5 thoughts on “CCL 2014-15: Group Stage, Round 4 Round-Up

  1. I am overwhelmed by the plethora of mostly forgettable clubs. My eyes are burning from the overexposure to all the gaudy uniforms and poorly lit stadia. My ears are …. well they are waiting for the torturerous and inevitable refrains of “GOOOOOLLLLLL!!” dripping with all fake enthusiasm those phoney blowhard Hispanic announcers can muster. (God I hate that. I only wish they will, one day, go to Hockey broadcasting school and learn a new way to inform us someone has scored.)

    Never-the-less I must praise your well written piece and all the hard work you have performed in our behalf. It is greatly appreciated and I can only pity you in this difficult time. One day you will be rewarded. Untill then I can rest in peace knowing that you are doing the dirty work – so I don’t have to.

    Thank you for your service!

  2. てか韓国の後追いみたなその再生数()自慢やめてくれない?
    無理やりドラマを生み出そうと必死すぎてただの茶番になってるとは気付かないんだろうな
    AV女優>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>AKB

  3. だいいち所属はホリプロなんだから、移籍しても個人仕事は大して変わらないだろw
        ∧     ヽニニソ  |     だがここでもう一つ飛躍する為にジャカルタはどうだ?
    とりあえず総監督とかいうわけわからんポジションにいるキツい顔したBBAを引きずり降ろそうか

  4. Pingback: Top 10 goals of the CONCACAF Champions League 2014-15 Group Stage | OTF Soccer

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