CCL 2012-13 Qualifiers: Finals and More Finals
Posted on December 10, 2011 12:02 am
On Sunday, the reigning CONCACAF Champions League winner will finally make their debut on the global stage, as Monterrey take on Kashiwa Reysol. We will revisit them tomorrow, but this weekend also features domestic championships involving teams that can make the Club World Cup – two years from now, at the earliest (Santos and Metapan excepted).
Once again I will go through these games in chronological order, and on Saturday there are only two of them. First, in El Salvador, FAS will host Once Municipal at 8:00 p.m. (all times EST), in the second leg of their semifinal series. The “Eleven”, who I assume face an existential crisis anytime a player gets sent off, managed to win the first match 1-0, so the higher-seeded FAS only need a victory to move on to the Final.
Later, at 9:00 p.m., Xelaju face the difficult task of overturning a 3-0 deficit when they receive Comunicaciones in the Guatemalan semifinals. Given that Xelaju are the higher seed, normally a three-goal win would be enough for them to survive, and as best I understand it a 3-0 score will do the trick. But the first tiebreaker in the Guatemalan playoffs is actually away goals, so a goal for Comunicaciones would force the Superchivos to score five.
The second finalist in Guatemala will emerge from Sunday’s match between Suchitepequez and Municipal at 12:00 noon. The Rojos won the first leg 3-1, but that away goal gives Suchi room to breathe. While a tie or a loss would eliminate them, Suchitepequez only need a 2-0 win to advance, and (if I am not mistaken) a 3-1 scoreline would also favor them as the higher-seeded team. Then again, if Municipal score twice, Suchitepequez will also need to chase five in order to save their season.
El Salvador’s own Final will be completed later: Luis Angel Firpo will host Isidro Metapan at 4:00 p.m., with the former obligated to win. The first leg did end 3-3, but another draw would hand the series to higher-seeded Metapan. Why they have to play this decisive match on the road is beyond me, but their performance over the last few months suggests that Edwin Portillo’s side will return to the Estadio Cuscatlan the following week.
While Guatemala and El Salvador wait to find out who will survive the penultimate round of playoffs, and Belizean and Panamanian club football remain inactive, championship matches will be held everywhere else in Mexico and Central America on Sunday. First, in Nicaragua, Walter Ferreti and Real Esteli will take the field in Managua at 4:00 p.m. for the first leg of the Final. The army team lost out on a maiden appearance in the CCL back in May, when Real Esteli beat them in the league final, so motivation will not be in short supply for Ferreti. Of course, the Apertura winner will still need to outperform the rest* in the Clausura, but I will keep track of that once the CCL spot is within reach. As for how to follow the game, I have not found any television broadcast information, so the best bet is to keep up with Real Esteli’s Facebook page for updates.
An hour later, at 5:00 p.m., Olimpia will open hostilities against Real Espana in the first leg of the Honduran final. They actually could have run into each other in the current CCL, but Olimpia could not overcome Santos Laguna in the preliminary round. The Tegucigalpa club will hope that forward Douglas Caetano does as much damage as in the last Apertura final…when he scored the game winner for Real Espana against Olimpia.
Speaking of the guerreros, they did lose 1-0 at home to Tigres; but considering that they played most of the game a man down, Santos Laguna are probably grateful for that scoreline. Tigres will host them at 7:00 p.m., knowing that a win or tie will hand the felinos their long-awaited championship. A one-goal defeat would send the Final into extra-time, while a loss by two or more would give the Apertura trophy to Santos.
Finally, just like Tigres, Herediano head out in search of their first league title in three decades.
The florenses will face off against Costa Rican bicampeón Alajuelense at 7:00 p.m., in the first leg of the Costa Rican Torneo de Invierno Final. This match will be shown on Canal 6; and for the first time in three tournaments, Alajuelense will have to kick off the Final at home. On the other side, Jafet Soto will attempt to join an exclusive group of Costa Rican coaches that won the championship on their first try, an achievement that would crown an incredible turnaround under his leadership. His predecessor, Alejandro Giuntini, did not exactly leave behind a disaster situation: Herediano had made the Torneo de Verano semifinals earlier this year, and reached the group stage of the current CCL. But starting with the unexpected victory in Seattle, Soto fashioned a side with the quality and consistency necessary to finally end el Team‘s 26-year trophy drought.
* Many thanks to Emir Alfaro Mercado, General Director of Pinolero Sports, for informing me that only regular-season results get taken into account when determining which half-season champion will receive Nicaragua’s spot in the CCL.
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 [MEX2 or MEX3]
7. Tigres UANL [MEX1]