CONCACAF Champions League preview



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.

  • Alex

    Actually Dylan, the 50,000 who bought tickets is CONCACAF Champions League RECORD also…

    Go Montreal! and BOOOOOO!! to all the Mexican Teams!


  • Mike, Boston

    No, Montreal’s owner refused to pay the full expansion fee after submitting his bid, so Montreal’s bid is no longer being considered. Let’s hope a better owner comes forward in the future so Montreal will have a shot.


  • jtd

    i know why montreal isn’t in mls running anymore, but WHY aren’t they?

    montreal’s owners have the cash…


  • This Guy

    Montreal would be great for the MLS.

    MLS should bring in Portland, Montreal, and Vancouver.

    Then they should relocate the Wiz to St. Louis.


  • CSD

    It doesn’t look like anyone wants to pay the MLS $40 Million expansion fee.

    Montreal looks very good in this match.


  • Jacob A.

    OKay, no, he wasn’t, my feed crapped out and when I got it back he was face to face with the ref and taking his gloves off.


  • Jacob A.

    Goes final 2-0 Montreal. Good win, good crowd, looks positive for their advancement to the semi-final


  • John

    i hate to say it, but montreal looked very good tonight. they probably could have finished off a lot more chances, but for the most part their midfield held it down and dominate possession.


  • Branden

    Montreal beating Houston in the semi final… is that too much to hope for?

    Probably seeing as how Montreal looks to qualify while Houston doesn’t.


  • John

    Kept the clean sheet. Nab an away goal in Torreon and it’s on to the semis. Maybe if Houston can get their act together against Atlante they’ll be the next opponent at a packed Olympic Stadium in Montreal.


  • Scott A

    Anybody watching Cruz Azul and UNAM? What is that noise that I keep hearing? Is there a train in the stadium? Am I going insane


  • Don

    Can’t wait for the MLS apologists to rationalize away the performance of a USL-1 team once again. Maybe it is time to dump the MLS Soviet-style capitalism (single entity owners) and go for real teams with real owners.


  • CSD

    No, Montreal’s owner refused to pay the full expansion fee after submitting his bid, so Montreal’s bid is no longer being considered. Let’s hope a better owner comes forward in the future so Montreal will have a shot.

    Posted by: Mike, Boston | February 25, 2009 at 06:43 PM

    So you want a better owner than the current one that wins his clubs national tournament, sells out games regularly, has the highest attendance in his league,sends his club to Italy for 2 weeks of preseason training going undefeated, has a team playing as good as any club in CONCACAF in an international tournament and oh yah sets a tournament attendance record with 55k fans all while having great soccer outreach programs to his community.

    Good luck finding a better owner than that.


  • Jacob A.

    No Don, it’s a sound that they play. Kinda like the Yankees and “day-o”, if I remember correctly. Apparently their old stadium had a train station next door, and they brought the sound effect as tradition.


  • Jason

    I dont think MTL would be wise to go to MLS right now. In USL-1 that have the ability to have a bigger roster than they would in MLS which enables them to compete better on all fronts (voyageurs cup, USL-1, Concacaf). Also, 40 mil is not worth MLS right now…


  • Andy in Atlanta

    kudos CSD…could not have said it better…MLS needs to take notice…there is a reason Toronto does well..they enjoy the game up there….


  • undrafted

    And MLS wasn’t worth $15 million to Saputo in 2005. Everyone might be more cautious right now, but how much is MLS going to cost Saputo in 2013? 2015?

    Jason, right now Montreal lists 22 players on their roster. Would MLS’s senior roster limit of 20 be that harmful?

    The USL seems set to lose Miami within 2 weeks (if they are being honest about needing 5,000 season tickets). Throw in the possible loss of Portland and Vancouver with the shaky recent financial history of Rochester – good luck Montreal. Maybe MLS will be begging them to come in cheaply at some point but I wouldn’t bet on it.


  • alex

    Outside of Vancouver, every bid has some major question marks. There seem to be more than a few questioning the price.

    Don Garber needs to do the math. Montreal paying slightly less and profiting more afterwords, or another team that may be more deadweight but would gladly pay 40M!

    MLS needs strong fanchises more than it needs some guys pocket money which will just serve to cover losses.


  • Justin O

    Jason. MLS = more money for more players and a longer season. It is absolutely an advantage in this tournamenet to be an MLS club rather than a USL club. So MLS really doesn’t have any excuses that aren’t as valid or more valid for USL clubs.


  • The Lantern

    sorry, undrafted: L’Impact will have a full roster come regular season, plus many players on the CSL’s Trois Rivieres Attak which they can use as needed…they control far more players as a USL club than any MLS could…


  • mednus

    Montreal has 22 players listed on there IMPACT roster but they also have another 24 paid players on there Trois Rivieres Attak reserve team.
    Throughout the year they will have 50 players on contract compared to MLS’s 24.
    It is the ability to move players back and forth that creates the advantage.


  • East River

    So Montreal can with a 13,000 stadium and income worthy of a 2nd division team can afford to pay 22 player 1st team players and then pay a reserve team roster as well. What is MLS’s excuse for not being able to pull something similar off?


  • undrafted

    Fair point and maybe true but I’m not really sure how the Trois Rivieres Attak players are that crucial to the CONCACAF CL success. Maybe it does but MLS doesn’t have too many Friday/Sunday games like USL. Last season Montreal had 28 players play more than 1 game with Barnett and Gbeke being midseason departures. So Montral carried a roster of 26 compared to current MLS rules of 20+4. Entering MLS would probably mean doubling their salary budget so I’m still not so sure they’d be incredibly hampered.


  • undrafted


    within the last year

    “It also left many wondering how a Major League Soccer franchise with a payroll approaching $2.5 million could not beat a United Soccer Leagues side with less than half that payroll. ”

    I’ve followed news articles on USL closely over the years and most put the typical USL payroll under 7 figures though Montreal is probably the highest of the bunch and probably IMO has cracked 7 figures the last few years. 25 guys averaging 40k/yr would be about that.


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