CONCACAF Champions League preview

CONCACAF Champions League preview

CONCACAF

CONCACAF Champions League preview

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BY DYLAN BUTLER

Major League Soccer's lone CONCACAF Champions League survivor had its chance on Tuesday night. Tonight is the United Soccer League's turn to show what it can do in the region's top tournament.

The Houston Dynamo squandered a great chance to take a one-goal lead to Cancun on Tuesday night, and instead settled for a 1-1 draw with Atlante at Robertson Stadium. The other six participants in the quarterfinal stage of the Champions League will face off tonight and Thursday.

Among this six are the USL-1's Montreal Impact and Puerto Rico Islanders, which have both enjoyed impressive runs in the inaugural tournament. The Impact will look to upset Santos Laguna in front of an expected crowd of 50,000 at

Here is a quick look at all three match-ups for the first leg games of the quarterfinal round.

Montreal Impact vs. Santos Laguna

When: Wednesday, Feb. 25
Time: 8 p.m.
Location: Olympic Stadium
Television: Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Sports Espanol, Telefutura

The Montreal Impact are going back in time for the first leg of its quarterfinal aggregate series with Santos. A crowd of 50,000 is expected to pack Olympic Stadium Wednesday night, which would make it the largest in club history and the biggest for a soccer game in Montreal since the Montreal Manic of the North American Soccer League.

The Impact return several of its key cogs from last year, including midfielder Tony Donatelli, forward Roberto Brown, defender Nevio Pizzolitto and goalkeeper Matt Jordan. The Impact was one of the surprise stories of the group stage and one of two United Soccer Leagues First Division squads in the final eight.

While the match comes during Montreal's preseason, Santos is already in round 8 of the Mexican Clausura. Daniel Guzman's squad has shaken off a slow start, which saw fail to win its first matches, to win two of its last three. Santos, which will be playing its fourth match in 11 days, should be bolstered by he return of striker Christian Benitez from a shoulder injury.

Cruz Azul vs. Pumas UNAM

When: Wednesday, Feb. 25
Time: 10 p.m.
Location: Estadio Azul
Television: Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Sports Espanol, Telefutura

Pumas might be seeking revenge for being knocked out of the quarterfinals of the Mexican Apertura playoffs last year by Cruz Azul, but its the hosts who are playing well heading into this Mexico City derby.

Cruz Azul defeated Necaxa, 4-2, on the road in the seventh round of the Clausura this weekend with Luis Angel Landin, the club's prized off-season signing from Morelia, striking for two goals in a 12-minute span and Jaime Lozano scoring a goal and setting up another as La Maquina snapped a five-match losing streak.

Pumas, meanwhile, is reeling, having not won since the second round of the Clausura. A defense which was best in the league last season has already conceded nine goals, including six in the past three games following a 2-0 loss to Atlas on the weekend.

Puerto Rico Islanders vs. C.D. Marathon

When: Thursday, Feb. 26
Location: Juan Ramon Loubriel Stadium
Time: 8 p.m.
Television: Fox Soccer Channel, Galavision

The last time the Puerto Rico Islanders played a competitive match, the club played Tauro FC to a 2-2 draw in Panama to advance to knockout stage on Oct. 30. The squad has prepared for arguably the biggest game in franchise history by playing three friendlies against Major League Soccer teams in Bradenton, Fla.

The bulk of the Islanders team that also lost to the Vancouver Whitecaps in the USL-1 final is back, including league award winners Bill Gaudette (Goalkeeper of the Year), Christian Arrieta (Defender of the Year) and Colin Clarke (Coach of the Year).

Marathon heads to San Juan decimated by injuries. Defenders Erick Norales and Mario Beata, goalkeeper Victor Coello and midfielderd Maynor Suazo and Carlos Oliva are all expected to be sidelined for the opening leg. However the Monstruo Verde is bolstered by the return of attacking midfielder Marvin Chavez, who returned from a bruised leg to help lead Marathon to a 1-0 victory at Motagua Sunday.

Chavez also struck for the winner in a 2-0 win against Saprissa on Nov. 5 that earned Marathon the Group A title.

What do you think of these match-ups? Will you be watching? Who has the best chance of an upset in the quarterfinals? Share you thoughts below.

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