• Friday Aug 15, 2014

    CCL Scene: Cruz Azul’s title task

    Christian Gimenez (pictured) celebrates after scoring in Cruz Azul's 1-1 CONCACAF Champions League draw against visiting Alajuelense on August 5, 2014, in Mexico City. (Photo: Mexpsort)

    CCL Scene is a CONCACAF.com feature that will take a deeper look into the games, people, places and unique elements of CONCACAF’s premier competition for clubs. 

    MIAMI – Teams from Mexico have captured all six editions of the CONCACAF Champions League since the competition was introduced for the 2008/09 season.

    While those sides possessed indisputable quantities of outstanding talent, did any other feature – tangible or intangible -- link them together in the pursuit of regional success?

    Cruz Azul, last year’s champion, opened defense of its title on August 5 with a hard-fought 1-1 draw against visiting Alajuelense.  The host took the lead just after halftime, but the 2013/14 CCL semifinalist equalized ten minutes later.

    While an away point in Group 6 could prove priceless for Alajuelense, what is the potential impact on the six-time CONCACAF club champion?

    A review of the CCL’s previous six editions showed that the eventual champion won its opener – whether in the preliminary round or group stage -- each time.

    CCL OPENERS – EVENTUAL CHAMPION

    2008/09
    Champion: Atlante (Mexico)
    Result: 1-0 home WIN v Olimpia (Honduras) 

    2009/10
    Champion: *Pachuca (Mexico)
    Result: 3-0 home WIN v Deportivo Jalapa (Guatemala) 

    2010/11
    Champion: Monterrey (Mexico)
    Result: 1-0 home WIN v Saprissa (Costa Rica)

    2011/12
    Champion: Monterrey (Mexico)
    Result: 5-0 home WIN v Herediano (Costa Rica)

    2012/13
    Champion: Monterrey (Mexico)
    Result: 5-0 home WIN v Chorrillo FC (Panama)

    2013/14
    Champion: Cruz Azul (Mexico)
    Result: 3-0 home WIN v Herediano

    * Preliminary Round match

    Interestingly, all of the eventual champions opened their CCL campaigns with shutout wins at home over Central American opponents.

    What does the draw against the Costa Rican power theoretically mean to Cruz Azul?  Does not winning at the Estadio Azul portend a less than desirable final outcome?

    To be fair, sharing points with the Manudos did not inflict serious damage on La Maquina’s CCL hopes.

    Case in point…in 2009/10, Pachuca won its preliminary round, first leg match at home against Guatemala’s Deportivo Jalapa.  Three weeks later it lost 4-1 at Arabe Unido in its group-stage curtain raiser.  The Tuzos went on to lift the trophy, defeating none other than Cruz Azul in the final on the away-goals rule.

    Back then, though, the group stage consisted of six games with the first- and second-place finishers advancing to the quarterfinals.  That format allowed for wiggle room, so a team could recover from a setback.

    Today, each of the four group-stage encounters is incredibly important, especially considering only the group winners progress to the knockout stages.

    Can Cruz Azul reverse the CCL champion trend and repeat its championship feat?

    Absolutely, but it will have to avoid a slip-up against Chorrillo FC, the group’s other competitor, and, possibly, need a result at Alajuelense on October 21.

    After all, passage through the tournament is earned and that’s why they play the games.

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