[CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE] Of the two MLS teams playing Concacaf Champions League matches Tuesday, Seattle has the easier, and clearer, task by far. Heading into the fifth round of group play, no team has yet clinched a spot in the knockout phase but several, including Group D leader Seattle, can advance. Toronto is in deep water against one of the favorites to win the competition.
Group C: Toronto FC (2-2-0, 6 pts.) vs. UNAM (2-1-1, 7 pts.), 8 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer, Galavision
Toronto FC revived its CCL hopes last week by beating Tauro, 1-0, at BMO Field but UNAM, which pummeled TFC, 4-0, in Mexico City two weeks ago, is tied for the group lead with FC Dallas and can clinch a quarterfinal spot with a victory.
TFC coach Aron Winter fielded a fairly strong lineup Saturday against Chivas USA at Home Depot Center in a 3-0 loss that all but extinguished its already fizzling playoff hopes. TFC’s CCL prospects, despite garnering six points, aren’t much brighter, but its attacking corps of Danny Koevermans, Joao Plata, Ryan Johnson and Nick Soolsma can cause UNAM some problems.
Whether or not TFC can withstand UNAM’s skillful, quick fleet of players is another matter. UNAM has won five straight games in all competitions, and beat Dallas, 2-0, last week before toppling UAG, 2-1, in a Mexican league match to move within one point of three teams tied for the overall lead.
Former Chivas USA attacker Francisco Palencia netted the winner against UAG. Substitutes Eduardo Herrera and David Izazola scored in the final seven minutes at Pizza Hut Park, so even if the main danger-men, Javier Cortes and Martin Bravo, can be contained, UNAM has alternatives.
GROUP D: Comunicaciones (2-2-0, 6 pts.) vs Seattle (3-1-0, 9 pts.), 10 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer
By beating or tying Comunicaciones in Guatemala City, the Sounders can assure themselves a spot in the quarterfinal round. Their three-game winning streak in CCL play ended last week when they were beaten, 1-0, by Herediano at CenturyLink Field.
On the first day of group play in mid-August, Seattle hammered Comunicaciones, 4-1,with backup striker Mike Fucito nailing two of the goals within six minutes. He sat out the Sounders’ 3-1 league win at Vancouver Saturday, and Coach Sigi Schmid is hopeful of getting Erik Friberg and Roger Levesque, who have been battling fatigue and injuries, into the mix as well.
Getting the right result is especially critical given that the Sounders conclude group play next week in Monterrey, which lost its home CCL opener to Seattle, 1-0, and has been playing catch-up ever since. Comunicaciones lost 3-1 to Monterrey last week. The result leaves the teams tied for second place.
Yet the Sounders also know that Comunicaciones won its home game against Monterrey, 1-0, at Estadio Cementos Progreso Sept. 14 with a goal by Uruguayan striker Carlos Ramirez just before halftime.
“We’ve played them before, so we kind of know what we’re dealing with,” said attacker Lamar Neagle to mlssoccer.com. “But we’ve decided on this trip we want to focus on ourselves, and what we’re doing, rather than trying to accommodate the other team.”