August 04, 2010

2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League: Group A Preview and Prediction

One group in the 2010-11 edition of the CONCACAF Champions League is set. The group includes favorites Real Salt Lake, of the USA; Cruz Azul of Mexico, Arabe Unido of Panama and Toronto FC of Canada.

How they got here

Real Salt Lake: Won the 2009 MLS Cup over heavy-favorites Los Angeles Galaxy in penalty kicks.

Arabe Unido: Champions of Panama's 2009 Apertura, as well as the 2010 Clasura.

Cruz Azul: As runner's up in Mexico's 2009 Apertura, Azul had to play Panama's San Francisco in the preliminary round, where Los Cementeros won 9-2 on aggregate.

Toronto FC: Won the 2010 Canadian Championship defeating Montreal Impact 2-1 in the finals. The Canadian giants played Honduras' Motagua in the preliminary round. The Reds were victorious 3-2 on aggregate.

What to expect

One would think that Real Salt Lake and Arabe Unido should be the favorites to advance from the group due to their byes. Not necessarily. They did get the byes into Group Stage, but this is a fairly evenly matched group.

Arabe Unido and Cruz Azul have the advantage of more Champions League experience over the two MLS clubs. Last season, Cruz Azul and Arabe made semifinal and quarterfinal runs in the Champions League respectively. Toronto was eliminated by Puerto Rico in the preliminary rounds, while RSL did not quality.

However, RSL and TFC are in mid-season form and Salt Lake has been having a very good campaign this season, garnishing an impressive 10-4-4 record, and sitting pretty in 2nd place with 34 points.

Toronto's season has been back-and-forth. The club has done very well at home and not so well on the road. Of Toronto's 6 wins this season, 5 were at BMO Field, and of their 6 losses? All on the road. They did snag a tie in Tecigulapa last night to quality, so maybe a sign of things to come.

As for Azul and Arabe, they had rather forgettable performances in the respective Bicantero tournaments this past Spring. Finishing in 10th and 7th, respectively.

Final Prediction
Team (Prediction in W-D-L)

1. Real Salt Lake (4-1-1)

Seeing the way this team plays, they're very offensive minded and heed the speedy Robbie Findley and the talents of Johnson, Espindola and Beckerman. They lead the league in goals scored (34) in only 16 games thus far. Playing in Rio Tinto is a nightmare for any team, as RSL has not lost there since 2008. 

They're also a menace on the road, and have above a .500 record on the road this season, which makes it shaky for the other three clubs during their fixtures against RSL. 

I see RSL winning all their home games, snatching a victory in Panama, while tying and losing on the road to Toronto and Azul respectively. 

2. Cruz Azul (4-0-2)

Thumbnail for version as of 20:50, 2 October 2008Cruz Azul has become the "Bills" of the CCL, or the "Revolution" of the the tournament. Finishing in second place for the past two campaigns, it goes without saying that the Warriors will be contending for the title. However, they face a very daunting challenge, especially from the two MLS sides. Needless to say, while Cruz should be able to hold off RSL and Toronto at wont be a breeze.

In spite of this, I believe that Cruz will be able to snatch a victory on the road in Panama like RSL, and win all their home fixtures. However, I just sense that they will come up empty handed in both BMO Field and Rio Tinto. Thus making the Warriors embarrassingly finish in....their favorite spot......second.

3. Toronto FC (2-1-3)

The Red's knack to win at home and lose on the road should transition quite well for the Canadian champions in the CCL. I'm not sure what it is, but I guess the only way for them to perform is their outrageous fan support at BMO. While it should withhold the wrath that Arabe and Cruz may bring, I can't see TFC earning the full three points against RSL.

As for their road series? Lose narrowly at Arabe. Lose noticeably at RSL. Lose horribly at Cruz Azul. They'll be happy with most of their CCL accomplishments. I'd think.

4. Arabe Unido (1-0-5)
Thumbnail for version as of 20:02, 1 March 2009

The lone representative now for Panama in the CCL...well...I cannot see them doing much of anything. At home or away. They try to make stabs at goal and then close down with a ten-man defense. With the explosive offense of both Cruz Azul and RSL, they'll most likely crumble down Arabe's defense. TFC might be their only hope for any type of points, but apart from that, it'll be a slow and painful chain of defeats for Arabe.

About the Author

Tyler Walter

Author & Editor

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