Wednesday, May 18, 2011

CCL Draw: Challenging Group For Galaxy

The CONCACAF Champions League draw was held Wednesday, finally. The draw was supposed to have been held at 8 a.m. PT but the results were not announced until about four hours later, which made for some frustrating moments.

Regardless, here is how the LA Galaxy fared.

The Galaxy were drawn into Group A and the only team that is for sure in the group is Costa Rica's Alajuelense.

Joining the Galaxy and Alajuelense will be the winner of the Motagua-Municipal series as well as the loser of the Clausura 2011 final between Pumas and Morelia. The Mexican side will need to qualify as they'll face a Caribbean team in the preliminary phase but barring a major upset, Pumas/Morelia will go through.

Dates are still TBD but at least the road to CONCACAF glory is a lot more clearer than it was this morning.

Initial thoughts... it's not an easy group. Pumas are the stronger side and are favored to beat Morelia, but either team would be difficult. Pumas have been the more consistent side so if Morelia upset Pumas, than the Galaxy would really have it difficult. Still, Morelia are no slouches and getting a result from Estadio Morelos would be challenging.

Motagua and Municipal each pose problems. Motagua feature several former MLS players, including Guillermo "Pando" Ramirez, whose goal in MLS Cup 2005 gave the Galaxy their second MLS Cup title, as well as Ivan Guerrero and Amado Guevara. "El Lobo" was a star for New York and is very much a formidable player still. Motagua would be the tougher of the two but Municipal have a lot of supporters in Southern California.

Alajuelense meanwhile are the only known commodity. The Costa Ricans won the 2004 CONCACAF Champions Cup, going through San Jose and Monterrey en route to the final. Alajuelense beat bitter rivals Saprissa to win the championship but did not get to participate in the Club World Cup as it was on hiatus then. Alajuelense are based just outside of the capital city of San Jose, Costa Rica. The Galaxy has some history there as in 2006 the Galaxy led 2-0 at halftime against Saprissa only to see the lead crash and lost by a 3-2 score.

Games will be played in August, September and October, which will test the Galaxy's depth and roster. Presumably the club will be battling for the Western Conference title, if not the Supporters' Shield, and balancing both league and cup tournaments will be tricky.

If nothing else, it will be interesting to see the Galaxy play in competitive games against Mexican and Central American competition. It will make for some very interesting and entertaining midweek games in late summer and early fall.

The rest of the tournament shaped out this way:

Group B
Colorado Rapids
Real Espana (HON)
Santos (MEX) or Olimpia (HON)
Metapan (SLV) or Caribbean Club champ

Group C
Pumas/Morelia winner
Tauro (PAN)
FC Dallas or Alianza (SLV)
Vancvouer/Toronto or Nicaraguan qualifier

Group D
Monterrey (MEX)
Comunicaciones (GUA)
Seattle or San Francisco (PAN)
Herediano (CRC) or Caribbean Club 3rd place

The Preliminary Round will be held in late July and early August and will determine the rest of the field but for now, this is what the tournament looks like.

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