Caribbean takes aim at Liga MX in 2021 SCCL
MIAMI, Florida – There is no doubt that the 2021 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League Draw has produced some very exciting match-ups for the Round of 16, which is set to begin the first week of April.
The top half of the draw is highlighted by the fact that both Caribbean teams in the tournament, debutantes Arcahaie of Haiti and Atletico Pantoja of the Dominican Republic, will get a crack at a pair of Liga MX giants.
While the Cruz Azul-Arachaie series marks the first-ever meeting between the two clubs, Cruz Azul is well acquainted with playing against Caribbean opponents.
In eight SCCL matches against teams from the islands, La Maquina possess a 6W-1D-1L record, with the lone defeat coming in the semifinal first leg of the 2008-09 SCCL against the Puerto Rico Islanders.
Ironically, prior to Arcahaie’s run to the semifinals of the 2020 Scotiabank Concacaf League, that was the last time that a Caribbean club reached the semifinal stage of a Concacaf club tournament.
Arcahaie Head Coach Gabriel Michel is aware of the challenge ahead, but is embracing the opportunity of going up against one of Concacaf’s most decorated clubs.
Atletico Pantoja are in the SCCL for the second time and will measure themselves against four-time SCCL champions Monterrey. For Rayados, the 2021 SCCL will be their sixth appearance in the tournament, yet in the previous five they have only played two matches against a Caribbean opponent, winning both.
Having had ample time to prepare for the SCCL after qualifying via the 2020 Flow Concacaf Caribbean Club Championship, Atletico Pantoja may well benefit from Monterrey’s lack of familiarity with Caribbean football.
One of the more intriguing series in the top half of the bracket will be reigning MLS Cup champions Columbus Crew going against Real Esteli of Nicaragua.
Columbus is making their third appearance in the SCCL and their first since 2009-10, and while Central America has always proven to be tough territory for MLS teams in past SCCL matches, Columbus can take heart in owning a 2W-1D-1L all-time record in Central America in SCCL play.
Columbus Head Coach Caleb Porter, who previously coached the Portland Timbers in the SCCL, is optimistic that he can be the first man to guide an MLS team to the SCCL title.
Real Esteli have yet to win a match in six previous SCCLs, however four draws in 10 matches against MLS foes suggest that the Nicaraguan giants will go toe-to-toe with Crew SC.
Rounding out the top half of the draw will be Club Leon of Mexico taking on either Toronto FC or Forge FC of Canada.
Club Leon have never advanced past a round in two previous SCCL appearances, but in Ignacio Ambriz they have a Head Coach who not only was a Concacaf champion as a player with Necaxa in 1999, but also guided Club America to the SCCL title in 2015-16.
Whether it be Toronto FC or Forge, Club Leon will be in experienced hands.