The CONCACAF Champions League action for 2012 comes to an end this week. It is the final matchday of the group stage, which will send eight teams to the quarterfinals, which begin in March. Three teams, Seattle, LA and Monterrey, have already booked their spots and Santos looks like a sure bet to go through, but that still leaves half of the knockout stage field to be determined.
Santos Laguna (Mexico) vs. Toronto FC (Canada) - Wednesday, 8:00 p.m. ET
Toronto still has a chance to make the quarterfinals. All they have to do is go to Torreon and beat Santos Laguna by three goals, or two so long as the score four so it really isn't so HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
Real Salt Lake (USA) vs. Herediano (Costa Rica) - Tuesday, 10:00 p.m. ET
When these two teams squared off on the opening matchday, the Costa Ricans picked up a 1-0 home win, but RSL played more than 30 minutes with 10 men and Herediano still didn't look overwhelmingly better. Still, that win puts them in a favorable situation going into the final match, where any result or a one-goal loss that isn't 1-0 will see them through to the quarterfinals.
Both Salt Lake and Herediano play primarily through the middle and are relatively strong in front of a tough back line so odds are this will get ugly, which is fine for RSL. The physicality of Alvaro Saborio and Fabian Espindola makes them the more likely team to find a goal in that kind of a match, even if Javier Morales can't get free.
Houston Dynamo (USA) vs. Olimpia (Honduras) - Tuesday, 8:00 p.m. ET
This one is simple -- Houston advances with a win or draw and Olimpia advances with a win.
The Dynamo are the clear cut favorites here. They are at home, where they have no lost a competitive match all season and they got a draw in Honduras, where they looked the better side. This is not the best team Olimpia has ever had and they really struggle in the attack, which will make watching their former player and current Dynamo winger Oscar Boniek Garcia running at them all the more painful.
Seattle Sounders (USA) vs. Marathon (Honduras) - Wednesday, 10:00 p.m. ET
Congratulations, Sounders. You already won the group. Everyone else, apologies for having to deal with this meaningless match.
Isidro Metapan (El Salvador) vs. LA Galaxy (USA) - Thursday, 10:00 p.m. ET
If you thought Bruce Arena didn't care about the Champions League before, just wait to see what he does in a meaningless match because they already clinched the group.
Tigres UANL (Mexico) vs. Alajuelense (Costa Rica) - Wednesday, 10:00 p.m. ET
Alajuelense has had a very good showing in the Champions League for a second consecutive season, but if they cannot get a result at Tigres then their run will end in the group stage yet again. Tigres got back on track over the weekend with a 5-0 win thanks to Alberto Acosta's hat trick, but this is still the same team that had gone five matches without a win before that.
The two sides played to a 2-2 draw in August thanks to a Luis Miguel Valle stoppage time equalizer, but it will obviously be much tougher for Alajuelense to get a result in Mexico. If they are going to get it done then Valle and Alejandro Aguilar will have to be excellent up the middle because Alajuelense doesn't offer a lot on the wings.
Chorrillo (Panama) vs. Monterrey (Mexico) - Tuesday, 10:00 p.m. ET
The tournament's two-time defending champions Monterrey are already through to the quarterfinals. Don't count on a single player of note traveling to Panama.
Chivas Guadalajara (Mexico) vs. Xelaju (Guatemala) - Thursday, 10:00 p.m. ET
The Champions League game has gone largely as expected, except for one team -- Xelaju. The small Guatemalan club is somehow on top of one of Mexico's biggest clubs, Chivas, and need just a draw or a one-goal loss that isn't 1-0 to advance to the knockout stages. Sure, the Goats are struggling this season, but it would still be a major upset.
Xelaju shocked Chivas with a 1-0 win in August, but that was in Guatemala. In Mexico, it will be much, much more difficult. They have been shaky at the back, but have been great going forward. Edgar Chinchilla, who scored the winner against the Goats last time around, has been dangerous all tournament and can challenge a Chivas defense that has had its problems.