The Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League is here. 16 teams from all across CONCACAF will take part in the new format. Let’s take a look at how they match up this year, and who are the favorites to advance out of the Round of 16.
Guadalajara vs. Cibao FC
1st Leg, Thursday, February 22: Cibao FC (DOM) vs. CD Guadalajara (MEX), 8 pm ET
2nd Leg, Wednesday, February 28: CD Guadalajara (MEX) vs. Cibao FC (DOM), 8 pm ET
Current league standing and Form: Cibao FC has only been in existence for three years, and simply getting this far, is already a great achievement. The team representing the Dominican Republic, enters this tournament in preseason form.
Chivas de Guadalajara finds themselves in a bit of a rough patch at the moment, having only won one of their eight matches played in the Liga MX Clausura. Despite their current form, Chivas is one of the most talented, and deepest teams in all of CONCACAF.
Series Forecast: This is the most lopsided series this round, and Guadalajara should romp over their overmatched opponent.
Players to watch: Cibao FC - Dorny Romero is a Dominican striker, who has managed to come up with goals in every big match Cibao FC has been involved in.
Guadalajara - Alan Pulido (Center Forward), leads Chivas with four goals scored this clausura. Chivas has struggled offensively in their past eight matches (9 goals), and Pulido has been one of the few bright spots in the attack.
Seattle Sounders vs. Santa Tecla
1st Leg, Thursday, February 22: Santa Tecla FC (SLV) vs. Seattle Sounders FC (USA), 10 pm ET
2nd Leg, Thursday, March 1: Seattle Sounders FC (USA) vs. Santa Tecla FC (SLV), 10 pm ET
Current league standing and form: Santa Tecla (El Salvador) are currently 2nd place in the Primera Division Table. They are the highest scoring team in their league, averaging two goals a match. They are a newer powerhouse in their country, having won three of their national titles in the past three years (two tournaments per year), and have been runners up in two of the other three tournaments in that time span. They are a deep, experienced team, known for their tough defense, which is currently the 3rd best in their league.
Seattle Sounders are currently in preseason form, but return most of last years team, that lost in the MLS Championship. Seattle has actually made back to back title games, and won the title two years ago. Seattle has racked up a couple of injuries during preseason, and will head to El Salvador minus right back Kelvin Leerdam, midfielder Osvaldo Alonso and center back Roman Torres. Seattle also has several veterans who have yet to round into shape.
Series Forecast: This promises to be one of the most hotly contested series this round, as the more talented team is in preseason form, while the underdog is in excellent midseason form.
Players to watch: Santa Tecla - Ricardinho, the Brazilian striker (real name Ricardo Ferreira) currently leads Primera Division in scoring, with five goals.
Seattle Sounders - Clint Dempsey has been the man in Seattle for a long time. While some people expect for age to start catching up to the USMNT member, Duece is eager to show that he can still carry his team pretty far.
New York Red Bull vs. Olimpia
1st Leg, Thursday, February 22: CD Olimpia (HON) vs. New York Red Bulls (USA), 10 pm ET
2nd Leg, Thursday, March 1: New York Red Bulls (USA) vs. CD Olimpia (HON), 8 pm ET
Current league standing and form: CD Olimpia has yet to lose a match this clausura, and are currently on a nine-match unbeaten streak. The Honduran club is one of the biggest, and most prestigious clubs in all of Central America, and they are a team that expect to compete for trophies, year in and year out. CD Olimpia won the inaugural CONCACAF League to earn entry into the SCCL. One of the deepest teams in Central America, Olimpia boast the top attack in the Honduras Liga Nacional, and the 3rd best defense.
New York Red Bulls enter the tournament in preseason form, and boast what they hope is their deepest lineup ever. The team has gone out and revamped their roster to better suit their preferred high-pressing style. This year, the team hopes to have high player rotation, and lineup flexibility. The Red Bulls have a history of not taking the SCCL seriously, but that tended to be during group play, which is now a thing of the past.
Series Forecast: Olimpia is one of the few Central American clubs that can compete with anybody in North America. While the Red Bulls are the more talented bunch, Olimpia is in far better form, and are a very deep team themselves. Olimpia will be hampered by having to play the first leg in an empty stadium, due to CONCACAF sanctions for crowd behavior. Expect this series to be one hell of a slugfest.
Players to watch: Olimpia - Carlos Costly (Center Forward) has 3 goals this season, for a team that boasts a plethora of weapons. Costly is simply one of those savvy veterans, who just know how to get the ball in the net, one way or the other.
NY Red Bulls - Kaku Gamarra, is a young designated player, that was brought in as a replacement for the now departed Sacha Kljestan. Kaku will be handed the keys to the Red Bulls attack, and the faster he acclimates to his team, the more dangerous the Red Bulls become.
Tijuana vs. CD Motagua
1st Leg, Wednesday, February 21: CD Motagua (HON) vs. Club Tijuana (MEX), 10 pm ET
2nd Leg, Tuesday, February 27: Club Tijuana (MEX) vs. CD Motagua (HON), 10 pm ET
Current league standing and form: CD Motagua is currently the top team in the Honduras Liga Nacional, and are on a 10-match unbeaten streak. Motagua boast the second best attack in their league, with 16 goals, and also have the top defense in the league. Motagua has a very balanced attack that boasts three players who have scored at least 3 goals this clausura.
Tijuana is currently 8th place in the Liga MX Clausura Table. Los Cholos have struggle to score, with only seven goals in eight matches played (four of those came in their most recent match!), which is the second worst attack in Liga MX. Tijuana has managed to stay midtable, bolstered by the best defense in Liga MX, having only allowed five goals.
Series Forecast: The chances of this being one of the most hotly contested series this round, took a big hit when Motagua’s home stadium failed to meet CONCACAF requirements. Motagua will now play their home match at HEB Stadium, in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas. The fact that HEB Stadium is near the US-Mexico border, means that there will be a very pro-Tijuana crowd at hand. Expect Tijuana to coast into the next round.
Players to watch: CD Motagua - Roman Castillo is one of the most dangerous forwards in Central America. Roman leads Liga Nacional with five goals, this Clausura, and has a combined 18 goals over the course of the two most recent tournaments (including this one).
Club Tijuana - Gibran Lajud (Goalkeeper) has five clean sheets in eight matches for Tijuana. The 24-year old, anchors the top defense in Liga MX, and his performance has been good enough to earn him his first Mexican National Team call up.
Tigres UANL vs. Herediano
1st Leg, Tuesday, February 20: CS Herediano (CRC) vs. Tigres UANL (MEX), 8 pm ET
2nd Leg, Tuesday, February 27: Tigres UANL (MEX) vs. CS Herediano (CRC), 8 pm ET
Current league standing and form: CS Herediano is currently the top team in the Costa Rican Primera Division, widely considered the toughest league in Central America. Herediano is known for its stingy defense (top defense in their league), which has only allowed seven goals in 12 matches played. Currently on a 9 match unbeaten streak, Herediano also has the 3rd best attack in their league.
When it comes to Tigres UANL form or standing, you can throw all that out the window. Tigres are simply the most talented team in CONCACAF, boasting the most dominant lineup this decade in Liga MX, and have been the runners-up in the two previous editions of the SCCL. This is a team that has proven it can turn on a switch any time it wants, and run through everyone all the way to a title. This team is currently coasting its way through Liga MX, with a meek looking 3-3-2 record. Don’t be fooled, when the Clausura playoffs roll around, you can bet this team will be right in the thick of the title chase.
Series Forecast: This series will come down to how serious Tigres UANL takes this round of the SCCL. Tigres is a team that boasts too much talent to falter against Herediano, but could be caught asleep by a far more motivated opponent, at least in the 1st leg.
Players to watch: Herediano - Yendrick Ruiz is having a breakout tournament this Clausura, with six goals in 12 matches. He is currently the hottest hand, for a team with several scoring threats.
Tigres UANL - Andre-Pierre Gignac is simply the most talented player, on the most talented team in the SCCL. When Gignac “turns it on”, there is not a better player in all of CONCACAF.
1st Leg, Tuesday, February 20: Colorado Rapids (USA) vs. Toronto FC (CAN), 10 pm ET
2nd Leg, Tuesday, February 27: Toronto FC (CAN) vs. Colorado Rapids (USA), 8 pm ET
Current league standing and form: The Colorado Rapids are currently in preseason form. Colorado was one of the worst sides last year in MLS. They have gone out and completely revamped their team, from the coaching staff, down to their players. Because of all these changes, Colorado will be considered a big underdog in this series.
Toronto FC are currently in preseason form. In an attempt to accelerate their preseason preparations, Toronto traveled to Mexico City to train and scrimmage at high altitudes, and play friendlies against Mexican clubs. Toronto returns most of the players that guided it to the first ever “Treble” in MLS history, and arguably the greatest season in MLS history. The team is motivated to add the SCCL Title to their growing trophy case.
Series Forecast: Cold, extremely cold. No seriously, this is the only series that includes a weather forecast for a reason, as both legs are expected to be played in very frigid conditions. Toronto FC is the prohibited favorite, and Colorado’s new manager has actually been quoted as saying that his team will treat this series as part of their preseason.
Players to watch: Colorado - Tim Howard can expect to find himself under fire, and will need a Herculean performance to keep his team in this series.
Toronto FC - Sebastian Giovinco has simply been the best player in MLS for the last couple of seasons, and there are many MLS fans that claim he is the best player in CONCACAF. This SCCL is a great opportunity for Giovinco to prove his fans right.
FC Dallas vs. Tauro FC
1st Leg, Wednesday, February 21: Tauro FC (PAN) vs. FC Dallas (USA), 8 pm ET
2nd Leg, Wednesday,February 28: FC Dallas (USA) vs. Tauro FC (PAN), 8 pm ET
Current league standing and form: Tauro FC has struggled so far this Clausura. They brought in several reinforcements in order to bolster the team for the SCCL. The new additions have yet to gel, and sees Tauro FC currently 6th place in their league table. A team known for their defense, they continue to excel there, with the 2nd best defense in their league. Their attack has been a completely different matter, as the team has created plenty of chances, but has only managed to score six goals in seven matches.
FC Dallas is currently in preseason form. FCD made it to last years SCCL Semifinals, only to bow out against eventual SCCL champions Pachuca. Following a strong start to their season, FC Dallas suffered a collapse at a level never seen before in MLS during the second half of their season. This collapse caused the team to go from 1st place midseason, to completely missing out on the playoffs at the end of the season. This has caused FC Dallas to completely rebuild their backline, and bring in several players to help their attack.
Series Forecast: This is a tough series to predict, but FC Dallas is simply the more talented team, and should advance against a Tauro FC team that is simply too out of sorts to take advantage of their opponents preseason form.
Players to watch: Tauro FC - Enrico Small was brought in to bolster their attack, but has missed most of the Clausura with an injury. Now healthy, he will be counted on to provide a spark for the struggling Tauro FC attack. Enrico Small is also one of two new starters brought in from Arabe Unido, that have experience playing against FC Dallas in last years SCCL.
FC Dallas - Mauro Diaz. While many FCD fans and opponents will be closely watching recently signed Santi Mosquera, it is actually Mauro Diaz that will determine how far this team can go. Now a half season recovered from an achilles injury suffered at the end of 2016, Mauro has begun to look like his old self again in preseason. Anyone who has followed MLS, can tell you that a healthy Mauro, is pure magic for FCD.
Club America vs. Saprissa
1st Leg, Wednesday, February 21: Deportivo Saprissa (CRC) vs. Club America (MEX), 8pm ET
2nd Leg, Wednesday, February 28: Club America (MEX) vs. Deportivo Saprissa (CRC), 10 pm ET
Current league standing and form: Deportivo Saprissa is currently 3rd place in the toughest league Central America has to offer. Saprissa is one of the biggest, and most prestigious clubs in Central America. They are a team that is deep, and talented, and has a long history of success, even in the SCCL. Saprissa boast the 2nd best attack, and 3rd best defense in their league. This year, Saprissa has struggled to get point on the road, but are unbeaten at home, thanks to one of the most intimidating stadiums in all of CONCACAF in the form of “The Purple Monster” (Estadio Ricardo Saprissa Ayma).
Club America is currently 1st place in the Liga MX Clausura Table. They are the most successful team in Liga MX history, and boast seven SCCL titles, their last two coming back to back in the 2015 and 2016 editions. America has yet to lose a match this Clausura, and are on an eight match unbeaten streak in the toughest league in CONCACAF. America currently boast the top attack in Liga MX with 15 goals over eight matches played, and have only allowed six goals, which is good enough to be the 3rd best defense.
Series Forecast: This series will come down to how serious Club America takes Saprissa, Club America is one of the favorites to win the SCCL, and should have simply too much talent and depth for Saprissa to handle.
Players to watch: Saprissa - Daniel Colindres currently leads the vaunted Saprissa attack with six goals, and will need to score a few against Club America, if Saprissa is to have any chance of advancing.
Club America - Henry Martin came over from Club Tijuana, and is having a breakout tournament for Club America. Martin has scored a full third (five goals) of all the goals scored by the highest scoring team in Liga MX.