CCL 2012-13 Qualifiers: Débutant Double
Posted on December 2, 2011 10:01 pm
In a typical qualifying cycle for the CONCACAF Champions League, 11 clubs guarantee their spot in the competition before New Year’s Day. To date, only the four US teams have assured themselves of continental play next season. What does that mean for us? A few weekends like this one, with playoff matches all over Mexico and Central America. Up until now I have looked at them by country; but with so many coming up over the next three days, it makes more sense to present them in chronological order.
We start tonight in Panama, where Chorrillo and Plaza Amador will dispute a one-game Final at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez. The game will kick off at 9:00 p.m. (all times EST), and you can catch it on either RPC TV or TV Max – I would recommend the former for those with a low tolerance of banshee-scream commentary. The victor will make it to the CCL for the first time; this would represent the greatest achievement in the history of Chorrillo FC, who have never won a first-division championship. As for Plaza, the most successful team in Panama not to have reached the continental Promised Land, this accomplishment would crown a long-overdue return to the domestic elite.
This is the only game of direct relevance to The Regional Review tonight. But with respect to the upcoming “Monterrey in the Club World Cup” series (courtesy of John Jagou and/or myself), I should mention that over in Japan, Kashiwa Reysol, Nagoya Grampus Eight and Gamba Osaka will play simultaneous road games on the last matchday of the J-League. Kashiwa are in the driver’s seat, but all three are still in with a shout for the domestic title and the chance to kick off the Club World Cup against Auckland City. If you are planning on staying up, the action will begin at 1:30 a.m.
On Saturday, the next Champions League qualifier will emerge from Mexico, as Santos Laguna host Morelia at 8:00 p.m. The latter won 2-1 in midweek, leaving Santos with a straightforward assignment: any victory will allow them a third-straight trip to the CCL, while a draw or loss will end their season. Then again, the guerreros might just be happy with no extracurricular incidents this time around.
At the same time (8:00 p.m.), the two-leg semifinals will begin in El Salvador’s Apertura, with Isidro Metapan hosting Luis Angel Firpo. This makes sense, given that Firpo are the higher seed…except that they’re not. Isidro Metapan finished on top of the regular-season table; but according to their coach Edwin Portillo, “Firpo did not respect the agreement” and somehow managed to switch the order of the series. I cannot remember the last time that a higher seed faced such a disadvantage, but stranger things have happened. As for how to watch the game: apparently El Salvador’s Canal 4 had broadcast their content at esmiTV, but that site is currently being updated. If anyone familiar with Salvadoran football could share a legal online stream (i.e. no Bieber/Timberlake references), I would greatly appreciate it.
Half an hour later, at 8:30 p.m., Real Espana will receive Vida in the second leg of their semifinal series in the Honduran Apertura. The aurinegros left La Ceiba with a 1-0 victory on Wednesday, so Vida have to win by at least two goals – anything less will allow Real Espana to chase their second title in as many years.
Sunday’s lineup begins in El Salvador, where Once Municipal will host FAS at 4:00 p.m. The former only returned to the top flight last year, after spending time in Second-Division purgatory, and are the only team still alive in the Salvadoran playoffs with no CCL experience to their name. FAS had their reputation ruined by their most recent appearance on the continental stage, so they would be just as happy to avoid any Champions League discussion for the time being.
Meanwhile, the winner of the Espana/Vida series will know their opponent in the Honduran Apertura Final, as Marathon host Olimpia at 4:30 p.m. El Monstruo Verde lost 1-0 in Tegucigalpa yesterday, but simply require a victory in order to move on to the championship. It has been three years since San Pedro Sula has had the Final all to itself, but Real Espana and Marathon have to like their chances of closing out the rest of the country.
Later on, at 5:00 p.m. Herediano will host Cartagines in the second leg of their semifinal series down in Costa Rica. Heredia already have one foot in the Apertura Final after their 2-1 victory in Cartago, while the brumosos need to win by at least two goals in order to overturn the league leaders. This game will be available on Costa Rica’s Canal 6.
At 7:00 p.m., the seventh spot in next season’s Champions League will be contested between Tigres and Queretaro, neither of whom have been to a CONCACAF tournament since 1979. Hopefully Tigres playing in front of a home crowd at the Volcán and the Gallos Blancos’ obligation to win will lead to a more interesting affair than the drab 0-0 they produced in midweek.
Last, but certainly not least, Alajuelense will host Saprissa at 7:30 p.m. on Canal 6. Their fifth encounter this year will be the most exciting, as Saprissa pursue a two-goal victory in front of an exceptionally hostile crowd. If you have not watched a Central American rivalry match before, this is as good as it gets.
CCL 2012-13 Qualifiers
1. Seattle Sounders [USA2]
2. LA Galaxy [USA1]
3. Real Salt Lake [USA4]
4. Houston Dynamo [USA3]
5. Chorrillo FC [PAN1 or PAN2]
6. Santos Laguna [MEX1, MEX2 or MEX3]
7. Tigres UANL [MEX1, MEX2 or MEX3]