Tuesday, August 16, 2011 |
So here we go again. Two MLS teams start their CONCAChampions campaigns tonight. After the thrilling, but ultimately disappointing, story of Real Salt Lake to start the year, the tournament that has remained such an MLS bugaboo is back to twist our gonads.
MLS has five teams in the group stages, a new high. Presumably that means a better chance that one or two of those teams can make strong runs deep into the tournament, though some of that will be down to luck. A couple of these clubs have fairly daunting task ahead of them just to make the knockout rounds. Real Salt Lake was a special team through the 2010-2011 tournament. It remains to be seen if any of the MLS clubs in this edition are worthy of that label.
I'll be honest: it doesn't seem like it from where I'm sitting. LA is a good team, might win the Shield and just added a quality (if pricey) striker to augment their attack. But like any LA team of the last few years, their always good for a shocker every now and then. If they have one at the wrong time in the CCL, there won't be a chance for them to do an RSL. See: last year's qualifying series against Puerto Rico.
So there's hope for the Galaxy, partly because they want to wash the taste of last year's debacle out of their mouths. As for the rest of the MLS contingent, FC Dallas should do the league proud. There's not reason to doubt Hyndman, and although Maicon Santos is cup tied and can't play in the competition, the Hoops have the firepower necessary to get them through. Their group is made of a Tauro (Panama), Toronto FC, and Pumas. One seriously tough out, with second place easily attainable if they put forth a reasonable effort. Pumas is planning on playing a reserve side about FCD tomorrow night. That means winning the group should be the goal.
I don't know what to make of the Sounders' chances. Getting off to a good start tonight is crucial, and I hope to see them come through at home. No reason they shouldn't, though stranger things have happened.
And I'll leave TFC aside. As their rebuilding project continues, it's almost impossible to believe they're ready to surprise in the CCL. The win over Real Salt Lake might provide some confidence, but playing in Panama is no one's idea of a picnic.
Here's a good preview of the group stage from Scott French, complete with first round schedule.
I'm certain to be around on Twitter tonight as the games go one, so go ahead and follow me.