CONCACAF Champions League 2012-13 Preview: The Halfway Point, And Some Teams Are On The Brink

HOUSTON, TX - JUNE 30: Brad Davis #11 of the Houston Dynamo celebrates with Jermaine Taylor #4 of the Houston Dynamo and Macoumba Kandji #9 of the Houston Dynamo after scoring in the first half against the Philadelphia Union at BBVA Compass Stadium on June 30, 2012 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

The group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League heats up in matchday three action.

Just like matchday two, matchday three of the CONCACAF Champions League comes with the threat of elimination. It may not be mathematical elimination from the competition, but end this week without a single point and you might as well kiss the knockout stages goodbye. Such is the nature of the three-team groups of the Champions League.

Group 1

Toronto FC (Canada) vs. Santos Laguna (Mexico) - Tuesday, 8:00 p.m. ET

These two teams lead Group 1 with three points each after beating Aguila in their opening matches. The Salvadorian side is basically out, leaving quarterfinal spot to either Toronto or Santos .

There is no doubt that Santos is the favorite in this group. In fact, they might be the favorites to win the competition and Toronto knows just how dangerous they can be. These two teams squared off in last year's semifinals and after drawing 1-1 at BMO Field, Santos took the Reds out behind the woodshed in the second leg in a 6-2 win.

Once again, Oribe Peralta, Herculez Gomez, Daniel Luduena and the rest of the Santos team that went to last year's Champions League final stands between Toronto and advancement in the region's preeminent club competition. That means Toronto has to make the most of their match in Canada because things could very well get ugly in Mexico.

Group 2

Tauro (Panama) vs. Herediano (Costa Rica) - Thursday, 8:00 p.m. ET

Tauro were always going to need to take six points from their two home matches if they wanted to have a chance of advancing and the importance of winning on Thursday is doubled after dropping their opener to Real Salt Lake. A loss to Herediano will essentially knock them out of the competition and put the Costa Ricans in the driver's seat for the spot in the quarterfinals.

The key for Herediano will be getting Luis Renteria involved. For long stretches in their first match against Salt Lake he was stranded and devoid of service. They still got three points form that match, but if Renteria isn't regularly involved, even if just to draw attention and create space for his teammates, then Herediano could fall victim to an upset.

Group 3

Olimpia (Honduras) vs. Houston Dynamo (USA) - Thursday, 10:00 p.m. ET

The battle for first place in the group will take place in Honduras, where the two teams who defeated FAS in their first Champions League matches square off. Considering that the Dynamo are nearly unbeatable at BBVA Compass Stadium, any point is a great result for them and has them en route to the top spot in the group.

Getting a result will require some sturdy defending from the Dynamo, who will have a tough time with Cristiano and we might even get a peak at former MLS MVP Luciano Emilio. But the biggest difference between these two teams might be Oscar Boniek Garcia, who Houston bought from Olimpia.

Group 4

Caledonia AIA (Trinidad and Tobago) vs. Seattle Sounders - Thursday, 8:00 p.m. ET

Caledonia might have gotten a result when they hosted Marathon, but the Hondurans struggle to score. That isn't the case of the Sounders and Fredy Montero, Mauro Rosales, Eddie Johnson and whoever else they feel like throwing out there. Unless the hosts can manage a shock result, Seattle will find themselves running away with Group 4.

Group 5

LA Galaxy (USA) vs. Puerto Rico Islanders (Puerto Rico) - Wednesday,10:00 p.m. ET

The Galaxy are hitting their stride and working their way up the MLS table. They're looking like one of the better teams in the league, which should be more than enough to dispose of a team like the Islanders, right? We thought the same thing two years ago and Puerto Rico put a 5-3 whooping on LA that wasn't as close as the scoreline after two legs might suggest.

This is LA's last home match of the group stage so they better get all three points. They need to put some distance between them and Metapan before they hit the road in September and October.

Group 6

Real Esteli (Nicaragua) vs. Alajuelense (Costa Rica) - Tuesday, 10:00 p.m. ET

Playing for second place is fun. This group is all Tigres.

Group 7

Municipal (Guatemala) vs. Monterrey (Mexico) - Wednesday, 10:00 p.m. ET

This group should be Monterrey's, but a Municipal win on Wednesday gives them a shot. Both of these teams beat Chorrillo in their openers and are joint top of the group ... for now. Asking Municipal to win in Mexico is a little much, especially against the two-time defending champions Monterrey, but at home they have a chance and that gives them a chance at winning the group.

Here's the problem for Municipal -- they just played Chorrillo last week in Panama, played over the weekend and now have to take on Monterrey. That's three matches in six days and high-profile, important ones at that for a team that isn't particularly deep.

Group 8

Chivas Guadalajara (Mexico) vs. W Connection (Trinidad and Tobago) - Wednesday, 8:00 pm. ET

The Goats were going treat this group like a walk in the park and when they went to Guatemala to play Xelaju last week they looked like they were just have a laugh. The result was a loss that has this group back up for grabs. W Connection won't snatch a point or even scare them at Estadio Omnilife, but it will be worth watching how seriously Chivas take the match after being upended last week.

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