CCL 2012-13 Qualifiers: Room for Four

Posted on December 17, 2011 5:51 am

The last relevant matches of 2011 in our region will take place over the weekend; and unfortunately, Monterrey have nothing to do with it.

Before we get to Central America, however, one last word on a little-publicized milestone that the rayados achieved in Japan. Their candidacy for the Club World Cup ended as soon as it began, after falling to Kashiwa Reysol on penalties. But according to FIFA, and as much as Andy Gray may not like it – I remember him going on a five-minute rant about this during the Euro 2008 final – the game officially ended in a draw. Add in Monterrey’s 3-2 victory over Esperance in the fifth-place match, and the Mexicans finished with an record of 1-0-1. And that is the accomplishment: Monterrey are the first-ever CONCACAF team to exit the Club World Cup undefeated. Maybe that is what Victor Manuel Vucetich meant when he said that Monterrey had a “good participation” in the tournament.

Back in our corner of the world, four more teams will qualify for next season’s CONCACAF Champions League over the next couple of days, as Apertura tournaments come to an end in Central America. Of course, the Nicaraguan champion will have to wait until next year to lay claim onto the country’s sole CCL berth, but Real Esteli and Walter Ferreti will attempt to get one foot in when they face off at the Estadio Independencia, this Saturday at 8:00 p.m. (all times EST). The first leg in Managua ended 1-1; and since away goals count in the Nicaraguan Final, Esteli will obtain their second-straight domestic title with a scoreless draw. A victory will do for either side, while a 2-2 draw or higher would fall in Walter Ferreti’s favor. Unfortunately, I have not found any broadcast information, so we will just have to wait for Real Esteli’s fans to spoil the result on their Facebook page.

Later, at 8:30 p.m., the next CCL qualifier will emerge from Olimpia’s visit to San Pedro Sula for the second leg of the Honduran Apertura Final.

Olimpia won the first leg 1-0, so a second victory or a draw will give el Leon its first trophy in two years (a long dry-spell for a team of its stature). A one-goal win for Real Espana will send the series into extra time, while an aurinegro triumph by two or more will give the hosts another shot at continental play next year. Honduras’s La Prensa will provide audio coverage of the game, which is already guaranteed to enter the history books as the first Honduran Final to feature a female (assistant) referee.

Sunday’s trio of finals will begin at 4:00 p.m. in El Salvador, where Isidro Metapan will face Once Municipal in a one-off at the Estadio Cuscatlan. The ambiance might underwhelm: neither team is based in San Salvador, so the crowd will be made up of traveling fans and “event” spectators. On the field, however, the match has no shortage of intriguing implications for both sides. Isidro Metapan’s domestic dominance in the Champions League era has been such that they could conceivably be considered a grande of Salvadoran football a generation from now. They have qualified for every CCL to date, and enter this match as heavy favorites for yet another title. On the other hand, Once Municipal are the only team playing this weekend that could potentially reach the continental stage for the first time; and their 2-1 win at FAS last week served notice as to their quality.

Finally, Guatemala’s and Costa Rica’s championship matches will kick off simultaneously at 5:00 p.m. Up in chapin country, Comunicaciones will host Municipal at the Estadio Cementos Progreso. The rojos won the first leg 2-0, so Comunicaciones will have to chase at least a two-goal victory in order to force extra time. Anything less will force them to watch their archrivals hoist a trophy on their turf, while a repeat of the 3-0 thrashings Comunicaciones handed out in the Clausura final will send the cremas to their third CCL.

Meanwhile, in Costa Rica, Herediano will aim to put their 18-year trophy drought to an end, at home against back-to-back defending champions Alajuelense (on Costa Rica’s Canal 6). The first leg ended 1-1, so this match is a de facto one-off: another draw will send the series into extra time, while either florenses or manudos could return to the CCL with a win.

Normally, I would be glued to my computer this weekend, live-updating the qualifiers list as referees blow final whistles, stadium organizers light up the sky with fireworks and team captains lift trophies to the inevitable tune of “We are the Champions”. I will actually be traveling today, however, and Sunday will be filled up with personal obligations. Whoever would like to update us on how these matches turn out, please feel free to do so in the comments section, and I will add in the new CCL qualifiers at my earliest convenience.

Let me take this opportunity to sign off by thanking you, my readers, for your contributions to The Regional Review. Rest assured, I have read and appreciated every one of your comments over this year, and have been encouraged by your interest in this blog. Also, many thanks to BigSoccer for having promoted me to the front page; I hope my body of work over the last four months has justified their decision. There will be a couple of “2011 in Review” entries over the next two weeks, but I will be back with regular content next year, once the CFU finally reorganizes itself and kicks off qualifying for the next Caribbean Cup.

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]
8. Olimpia [HON1 or HON2]
9. Isidro Metapán [SLV1 or SLV2]
10. Municipal [GUA1 or GUA2]
11. LD Alajuelense [CRC1 or CRC2]

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