Three match days in the books and some teams can already clinch advancement to the knockout stages of the CONCACAF Champions League. FC Dallas, the Seattle Sounders and Comunicaciones can all clinch a spot in the knockout stages of the competition on match days four, but several teams find themselves on the opposite side of things. CD Motagua, Real Espana and Herediano are all on zero or one point through three matches and can all be eliminated this week, but that's not the real shocked in the possible elimination category.
Monterrey are the defending tournament champions and in the opinion of many, the most talented team in the competition. That's what makes their current standing so shocking. Through three matches they have just three points and if they lose to Herediano this week then they will be eliminated from the competition not just in the group stage, but with two group stage matches. To say that of the holders and a team with Humberto Suazo, Aldo de Nigris, Jesus Zavala, Jonathan Orozco and the rest of the stacked Monterrey team is shocking, but it's a possible reality now.
This group was thrown a mess of confusion thanks to a referee last week. Instead of the Los Angeles Galaxy being three points clear of anyone else in the group and Alajuelense sitting in second place, three points clear of third place, the Galaxy, Alajuelense and Morelia are all tied on six points. Meanwhile, Motagua is fighting for their tournament life all the way down at the bottom on zero points.
Los Angeles travels to Alajuelense this week in one of the spotlight matches of the week in the competition. Whether they play a full squad remains to be seen, but after seeing the way they outplayed Morelia in Mexico last week it is safe to say they won't be overwhelmed by playing on the road. LA took care of the Costa Rican side at home earlier in the competition, but they leaned on goalkeeper Josh Saunders more than they would have liked. They can't expect to allow as many chances and come away with a win against a team that will almost assuredly finish better than they did last time around.
With Motagua bringing up the rear in the group, matches against them would normally be considered an easy three points, but that's not the case. With Jerry Bengston, Guillermo 'Pando' Ramirez and Amado Guevara, they are no pushover. They have played only one match at home thus far and facing elimination they can give Morelia a run if the Mexicans aren't up to the task. Considering Morelia hasn't played its best side in the competition yet it seems unlikely that they will now, opening the door for Motagua to stun the Mexicans.
Like Group A, Group B has turned into a three team race. If they lose on Wednesday to the Colorado Rapids, they are eliminated, leaving the Rapids to battle it out with Isidro Metapan and Santos Laguna for the two advancement spots. Santos and Metapan lead the group with six points each, while Colorado is sitting behind them on four points something that is concerning for a team that has just one home match left.
With just one home match left and it being against Real Espana, Colorado absolutely needs three points on Wednesday. The difference in the group right now is the Rapids' inability to get three points at Real Espana, something that can't happen this time around. Against a team that is clearly overmatched in the competition there is no excuse not to win.
Elsewhere, Metapan will visit Torreon for a match against Santos in which they have no business getting a result. Even if Santos play an understrength squad, they should be able to handle Metapan at home. Ever since Benjamin Galindo took over as manager a couple weeks ago Santos has been flying and showed that they can carry it over to the Champions League when they demolished Colorado in Denver last week.
FC Dallas was supposed to be on maximum points at this point. They won against an understrength UNAM Pumas side in Mexico to open the tournament then went to Canada and defeated Toronto FC. That was the hard part, but then they had to hang on for dear life to manage a draw against bottom feeding Tauro FC at home. It makes no sense, but that's why they are on just seven points instead of nine. It's why Pumas are in the mix just three points back and while Toronto has a shot still too, sitting on three points.
That sets the stage for Wednesday's headliner between Dallas and Pumas. This isn't like the first match-up when Dallas beat a bunch of reserve and youth Pumas players. Guillermo Vazquez has said that Pumas will play their top team in Dallas, testing one of MLS' top sides against one of Mexico's best with both at full strength. Brek Shea against Luis Fuentes on the outside will be the headline match up, but this match will be determined by how Dallas' defense, specifically Ugo Ihemelu, handles Martin Bravo. There's also the fun of wondering how Francisco 'Paco' Palencia is still alive and even more amazingly, still good. Ohhhh, we've got ourselves a good one!
Toronto is also playing Tauro this week. Simply put, if Toronto cannot get three points at home then they are out of contention for an advancement spot and deserve to be. There is no reason for them not to beat Tauro at home.
Three matches, nine points. The Seattle Sounders are cruising and with two of their last three matches, they are almost assuredly through to the knockout stages. The same can't be said of Monterrey, who have just three points so far and trail second place Comunicaciones by three points. Languishing at the bottom is Herediano, who are still in search of their first point.
Simply put, if Monterrey do not get three points on Tuesday they will not advance to the next round. That's not the mathematical situation, but it is the realistic one. They are chasing Comunicaciones and host the Guatemalan side at home so they need to get maximum points from the match. That's especially true considering they have a trip to Seattle left on their schedule. Suazo and de Nigris will have to lead the attack, but they will also need to find some sort of help from the midfield. In last week's lost to Comunicaciones the strikers were stranded alone up top and it showed as they struggled to generate a dangerous attack. Starting Suazo and de Nigris as opposed to bringing them off of the bench like last week would help too.
Considering the Sounders have already grabbed three points from Herediano in Costa Rica you wouldn't think it would be too difficult to get three points at CenturyLink Field. The question is whether the Sounders play their top players. With injuries, a congested schedule and their relatively safe spot in the top two of Group D it wouldn't be a surprise to see them go with several reserves in this contest. Plus, their reserves should be able to get at least a point at home, if not three.