In my excitement to get my previews for the upcoming MLS season done, I’ve just remembered to write one for the Champions Cup as well. North America’s current version of the Champions League (to be replaced next year with the CONCACAF Champions League), the CONCACAF Champions Cup is played between eight teams, in the spring of each year.
The eight teams in the running for the Cup this year are:
CF Pachuca (Mexico): 2007 Primera División de Mexico Clausura champion.
CF Atlante (Mexico): 2007 Primera División de Mexico Apertura champion.
Houston Dynamo (USA): 2007 MLS Cup champion.
DC United (USA): 2007 MLS Supporters Shield champion.
CD Motagua (Honduras): 2007 Union Centroamericana de Fútbol Copa Interclubes champion.
Deportivo Saprissa (Costa Rica): 2007 UNCAF Copa Interclubes runner up.
CSD Municipal (Guatemala): 2007 UNCAF Copa Interclubes third place team.
Harbour View FC (Jamaica): 2007 Caribbean Football Union Club Championship winner.
Tuesday 11 March
CD Motagua (Honduras) v CF Pachuca (Mexico)
Traditional Honduran and Central American powerhouse Olimpia didn’t qualify this year. Given Mexico’s usual dominance of this tournament (23 winners and 9 runners-up in 44 competitions) and the fact that Pachuca are not only the defending Champions Cup winners, but also the defending SuperLiga winners, this should be a rather easy match for them. The experience and talent of Pachuca should easily overshadow the enthusiasm of the Honduran players and fans.
My prediction: 0-3.
Wednesday 12 March
Harbour View FC (Jamaica) v DC United (USA)
These two teams met back in 2006, and it was a highly entertaining tie. DC United are, talent-wise, clearly superior to the Jamaicans. Luciano Emilio will have quite a fun time running at the Harbour View defense. However, fitness-wise, Harbour View should be superior. They are currently in the midst of chasing another Jamaica National Premier League title (having won twice before), while DC is nearing the end of preseason training.
My prediction: 1-2.
CSD Municipal (Guatemala) v Houston Dynamo (USA)
Both of these teams clearly prefer to have players from their own country in their squad. There are just two foreigners on Municipal, and with Houston’s four, this will be as good of an indication of national superiority as it will be of club superiority. Houston was in the competition last year, and only lost in the semi finals to the eventual champions, Pachuca, in extra time. Look for them to come back strong and with a vengeance against a team who haven’t been in the competition since 1974.
My prediction: 1-3.
Thursday 13 March
CF Atlante (Mexico) v Deportivo Saprissa (Costa Rica)
I can’t wait for this match. In this case, I think CONCACAF is saving the best for last. Saprissa has been in this competition plenty of times, winning in 2005 and going on to win third place at the FIFA Club World Cup (which is what is at stake in this competition, by the way: a trip to Japan later this year). CF Atlante are the winners of the 2007 Apertura (opening, or first half of the season) in Mexico, and have had to beat some tough teams to get there. They beat both Club América and CF Pachuca (who won the second half, or Clausura, to get here), who are both continental superpowers. This will be a tight match, and the Mexican fans will settle for nothing less than a home win.
My prediction: 2-2 (and a lot of flair).
For fans in the USA, all of these matches will be shown on Fox Soccer Channel. Unfortunately, due to Olympic qualifiers, a couple will be delayed. Also, the qualifiers will deplete some squads of young talent that would benefit from this competition. But such is the world of football.
I’ll be back next week to review the first leg and get everybody ready for the second leg.