UPDATE: And this one has to go up high. To my shame and embarrassment, I failed utterly to see Amado Guevara’s name on Motagua’s roster. And, yes, it’s there on the CONCACAF official site roster. I have no excuse. Guevara is suited up in #20.
It was a conspiracy, an act of collusion between my two East Coast partners on this site. We entered discussions as to who was going to cover what in this week of tournaments – e.g. Olympic qualifying and the CONCACAF Champions Cup – and, apparently, I lost. We played some game, Ryan had a number in his head, I was supposed to guess the number, I guessed wrong, blah, blah, blah. Anyway, I lost, so I’m covering the CONCACAF Champions Cup for Center Holds It. And I’m not happy about it.
OK, that’s a big lie. I volunteered. In truth, I wake up most days thankful the other two contributors tolerate my rambling and off-subject posts. Besides, Breton knows more about the players in Olympic qualifying than I do so it’s a good fit. I, on the other hand, have a lot of learning to do. After all, only two of the clubs in the 2008 CONCACAF Champions Cup come from Major League Soccer (MLS): DC United and the Houston Dynamo. That leaves six clubs, more or less, for me to figure out. That project begins below.
Before getting to that, CONCACAF’s official site posted a couple useful items: rosters each of the eight clubs will take into the quarterfinals. They also posted a tournament bracket, so we can all see who gets who now and in the semifinals to come. One thing that caught my eye there: assuming all three get past the first round, DC, not the Dynamo, gets Mexico’s CF Pachuca; here I thought there was some kind of rule. Again, assuming all goes as expected, Houston would get Mexico’s Atlante FC in the semis.
Rounding out the eight-team competition bracket are Harbour View FC (Jamaica), CD Motagua (Honduras), Deportivo Saprissa (Costa Rica), and CSD Municipal (Guatemala). I’ll get previews ahead of all the games, hopefully sooner than I did today. Ideally, future editions will gain from observations made during previous games. For now, though, I’m stuck with the web…and my gringo-specific/limited research skills. Opening day features just one game: CD Motagua versus CF Pachuca. I mentioned everything going according to plan in the previous paragraph; a big theme of these previews will be the odds of the smaller teams upsetting plans. What can we expect out of Motagua tonight?
Who is this Club Deportivo Motagua? First, let’s pause to thank that nerd for inventing Wikipedia….OK, done. The wiki entry dubs Motagua is “one of the most successful and renowned in Honduras.” Then again, it also contains some beautiful, Babelfish passages:
“The metropolitan club is one of the best of Honduras and Central America and already has accumulated many championships, being also an old acquaintance of the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup, where has participated in diverse opportunities although yet has not been able to arrive a final hostess; in 1986 had her but noticeable action al to achieve the fifth position.”
“Pitifully in 1972-73 the national championship was declared nil, depriving him to Motagua to be judged the title that it had almost in the market, since carried an almost insurmountable advantage on its escort to few dates of the end.”
OK, Babelfish fun aside, one can learn a thing or two between the Wikipedia entry and links therefrom. Motagua has, in fact, won quite a few titles, eleven, by my count; and, down the years, they placed and showed plenty besides. Their fifth-place ranking in the current campaign may look like a falling off, but that’s one tight pack – we’re talking MLS tight. Probably nothing to worry about there.
If you want something to worry about, that comes with Motagua’s history in the CONCACAF Champions Cup. The club’s 12 appearances amount to a parade of beat-downs at the hands of Costa Rican and Guatemalan teams – if memory serves, Comunicaciones and Municipal for Guatemala and, generally, Saprissa for the Costa Ricans; this last bit means Motagua’s win over Saprissa in last year’s Torneo Interclubes de UNCAF must have tasted of the sweetest nectar. Motagua has even faced Yanqui opposition in the Champions Cup, losing to the LA Galaxy in the 2003 tournament and, incredibly, the New York PanCyprian-Freedoms in 1983. (Who says we only hit the world stage in 1994?) Anyway, you can read about Motagua’s international struggles here.
So, what players are likely throw a counter-punch in the face of that sorry history? Well, naming Motagua players to watch gets a little tricky. The official page of La Liga Nacional de Futbol Profesional (LNFP) seems a little light on links; if there’s a way to a team page from there, I can’t find it. Wikipedia’s entry contains a bunch of links to Motagua’s players on the squad, but, lacking context, they’re just names to me. What I can say is that Motagua’s Josimar Nacimento sits on five goals for the current campaign (see LNFP link and “Tabla de Goleadors”), good to tie him for third. The same player, incidentally, scored the winner against Saprissa in the Torneo Interclubes de UNCAF. For now, call him the danger man and we’ll see what we learn tonight.
MLS fans, at least the closer observers and Dynamo fans, are familiar by now with Pachuca. I think Houston played them more often than they played the Columbus Crew in 2007. To refresh fans’ memory, though, you may remember Pachuca from such lofty victories as last year’s CONCACAF Champions Cup final and their penalty kick victory over the LA Galaxy in the Superliga final; you may also remember them eating a big, nasty one in last December’s FIFA World Club Cup. OK, it wasn’t that bad – or at least I didn’t view as such at the time – but closer observers like Sideline Views’ Luis Bueno noticed cracks in Pachuca’s recent dominance before the World Club Cup and going into the Mexican Primera’s 2008 Clausura campaign. If memory serves, this was nothing huge, just players getting older and Pachuca’s front office failing to reload/keep up with the rest of the Primera. By way of hard data, the current standings for the Primera show Pachuca playing to a .500 record, a detail that makes their second place standing in Group 1 a little less impressive.
For all that, a middling team in the Mexican Primera shouldn’t struggle too mightily against a middling team in the Honduran LNFP. And names I recall from past viewings of Pachuca – Juan Cacho, Damien Alvarez, Gabriel Caballero, Andres Chitiva, Christian Gimenez – are not only still around, but their goals tell me they’re still contributing (see sidebar to current standings). And they’re producing in the Primera. With Motagua hosting the first leg, who knows? A crappy field, incompetent refs, bags of urine hitting Pachuca players: any of these could force a draw or even a loss. But Pachuca is pretty experienced on the international stage. I rate the likelihood of an upset pretty low here.