by Brandon Arendt
The CONCACAF Champions’ League is midway through its’ season and there are still plenty of matches left to be played,
That notwithstanding, let’s examine which MLS teams will qualify for the elimination stages and which will suffer an early departure from the tournament.
Santos Laguna (Mexico)
Toronto FC (Canada)
Club Deportivo Aguilar (El Salvador)
Projected Winner: Santos Laguna
The Rundown: In every major international tournament there is a remarkably tough group to qualify out of, a “group of death” is the most common term for such a group. The CONCACAF Champions’ League is no exception. This year’s group of death is group one. Group one is the only group to pit two teams from the two largest leagues in the region against one another at such an early stage.
The teams in question are last year’s semi finalists, Toronto FC and last year’s runner-up Santos Laguna. I’m not sure that Toronto has much of a chance to qualify for the quarterfinals. In order to advance out of group one Toronto will not only have to defeat CD Aguilar in El Salvador but must also beat Santos Laguna in Mexico all while gaining five goals in goal differential. This task becomes compounded when you take into account that Santos Laguna broke Canadian hearts with a 3-1 victory at BMO Field in Toronto. Smart money is on Santos Laguna staving off the threat that is Toronto and yours should be too.
Heridiano ( Costa Rica)
Real Salt Lake (USA)
Tauro FC (Panama)
Projected Winner: Real Salt Lake
The Rundown: Despite being in a bit of a desperate situation after their CCL opener loss to Heridiano, RSL managed to bounce back with a 2-0 win over Tauro at home. This means Real Salt Lake stills holds their destiny in their own hands. A win tonight against Tauro in Panama sets up what will most likely be a winner take all match against Heridiano in Sandy, UT. If RSL gets the win expect them to finish the job in October.
Houston Dynamo (USA)
Club Deportivo FAS (El Salvidor)
Projected Winner: Houston Dynamo
The Rundown: Even though Houston and Olimpia are tied on group points Houston has had a significantly harder road. Houston has had to play all of their games on foreign soil. That means the road to the quarterfinals goes through BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, a venue the Dynamo have yet to lose in. With the form Houston has been in there is no reason for that to change. Houston will advance to the quarterfinals.
Seattle Sounders (USA)
Caledonia AIA (Trinidad & Tobago)
Projected Winner: Seattle Sounders
The Rundown: Currently the Sounders are sitting on top of group four with 6 group points after cruising to two victories in their home and away series with Caribbean Champs, Caledonia. All that Seattle must do to clinch quarterfinal qualification is simply win one of their next two matches against Honduran powerhouse, Marathon or draw both. Given their current form, Seattle has little trouble closing the deal.
Los Angeles Galaxy (USA)
Isidro Metapan (El Salvador)
Puerto Rico Islanders (Puerto Rico)
Projected Winner: LA Galaxy
The Rundown: This has been the easiest group to predict. The LA Galaxy has crushed both teams in their group by overwhelming score lines. Add to that the signing of Swedish international Christian Wilhelmsson and the recent emergence of youngster Jose Villareal to an already star studded lineup. With the Galaxy’s stars along with their depth stepping up and contributing, advancing to the quarterfinals is the closest thing to a “given” as you can get in this sport.
Feel free to discuss these predictions in the comments section below or contact me via twitter @BrandonA_MKE