Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

CONCACAF: Monterrey hope to defend Champions title in 2011-12

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on August 15, 2011

Monterrey CFNorth and Central American champions Monterrey CF will begin their defence of the CONCACAF Champions League this week and it is difficult to look beyond them or any of their compatriots from Mexico claiming the crown yet again. Since the tournament was re-branded from the old CONCACAF Champions Cup three years ago Mexican clubs have claimed the title every year and it is difficult to see who can stop that trend from continuing this time around

Monterrey CF have had a successful couple of years having been Mexican champions in the last two Apertura championships and they complimented domestic success with the big continental prize earlier this year by defeating American side Real Salt Lake 3-2 on aggregate in the 2010-11 final. The defending champions should easily progress from Group D in this year’s competition as they face Guatemalan champions CSD Comunicaciones, American Open Cup champions Seattle Sounders and Costa Rican outsiders CS Herediano. The latter two teams sealed their places in the group stage by defeating San Francisco (Panama) and Alpha United (Guyana) respectively in the qualifying round.

The other Mexican teams in the competition should also encounter few problems in the group phase of the competition. Two of them, Santos Laguna and Monarcas Morelia, had to feature in the qualifying rounds before they were assured of CONCACAF Champions League football this year but aggregate wins over Olimpia (Honduras) and Tempête FC (Haiti) saw them through and with neither of these clubs ever having won this tournament they are both keen to break their duck this year. Monarcas’ two clashes against Los Angeles Galaxy in Group A will be amongst the most anticipated clashes in the group stage especially as the American side are desperate to end the Mexican stranglehold on the competition and seem the most likely non-Mexican team to have a major chance of emerging victorious this season. UNAM Pumas have been continental champions on three occasions but have endured 22 years of hurt since their last win in 1989. They will face MLS side FC Dallas, Canadian champions Toronto FC and Panamanian Tauro FC in Group C and should at least make it to second place in the group.

GROUP A: Alajuelense (Costa Rica), Los Angeles Galaxy (USA), Monarcas Morelia (Mexico), Motagua (Honduras)

GROUP B: Colorado Rapids (USA), Isidro Metapán (El Salvador), Real España (Honduras), Santos Laguna (Mexico)

GROUP C: FC Dallas (USA), Tauro FC (Panama), Toronto FC (Canada), UNAM Pumas (Mexico)

GROUP D: CSD Comunicaciones (Guatemala), Herediano (Costa Rica), Monterrey (Mexico), Seattle Sounders (USA)

Mexico: Can Monterrey win third straight Apertura?

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on July 22, 2011

Monterrey CFThe Mexican football season kicks off this weekend with eighteen teams hoping to claim the Apertura (Opening) Championship. UNAM Pumas are the most recent Mexican champions following their 2010-11 Clausura (Closing) Championship success but Monterrey will hope to repeat their 2010-11 Apertura title triumph.

The new season will see a slightly different format in the first stage of each championship. Instead of the eighteen teams being split into three different groups there will now be just one championship table which will clearly decipher who the best eight teams of the regular season are and will, thus, decide the post-season play-off fixtures which ultimately decide each championship. Monterrey are looking for a third straight Apertura championship having won the 2009 & 2010 editions but will also have to pay attention to their CONCACAF Champions League campaign which they enter this season as title holders following their 3-2 aggregate win over American side Real Salt Lake in last season’s final.

UNAM Pumas have been largely inactive in the transfer window and have added no further players to their squad thus far. The champions, who won a 7th domestic crown last season, will also be participating in the CONCACAF Champions League along with the two best non-champion teams of the 2010-11 campaign Monarcas Morelia and Santos Laguna. Club America, traditionally the biggest club in Mexico, haven’t won a domestic title for six years but after signing last season’s Apertura top scorer Christian Benitez from Santos Laguna hopes are high that they can challenge for a title this time around.

The situation regarding relegation in Mexico is similar to that in Argentina in which each team’s points average over three seasons (six championships) will determine who goes down into the second tier Liga de Ascenso next season. Tijuana, from the north west of the country on the Mexico-US border, will naturally start with zero points in the averages table having been promoted last season at the expense of Necaxa. They will be hoping to have a good season so that they can climb above the likes of Estudiantes Tecos (1.0441 average), Queretaro (1.0882), Jaguares (1.1324) and Atlas (1.1471) who lie immediately above them at the commencement of the new campaign.

Estudiantes Tecos will begin the new season on Friday, 22 July with a home match against Toluca. Four matches take place on Saturday, the biggest of them being Pachuca v Santos Laguna, whilst Sunday will also see four games played with defending champions UNAM Pumas at home to San Luis while last season’s Apertura champions Monterrey face a potentially tricky away tie at Jaguares.

Canada: Toronto make it three on the spin

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on July 3, 2011
Toronto FC

Toronto FC won their third consecutive Canadian title on Saturday

Toronto FC secured their third consecutive Nutrilite Canadian Championship title on Saturday. With the first leg tied at 1-1, the champions had to come from behind in their second leg 2-1 victory over Vancouver Whitecaps in order to win the Voyageur’s Cup yet again.

The second leg was initially scheduled on May 25th but the game was abandoned due to treacherous weather conditions. With these two teams having met in a Major League Soccer fixture just three days earlier (Toronto emerged victorious with a slender 1-0 win) this game took on more importance as the national title and a place in the 2011-12 CONCACAF Champions League were at stake. The visiting Whitecaps team took the lead after 21 minutes thanks to a Camilo Sanvezzo free-kick and that goal was all that separated the two teams at the half-time break.

Toronto came back early in the second half with Joao Plata restoring parity from the penalty spot after he’d been tripped in the box. Plata needed two attempts to level the scores after his first effort was saved by Vancouver keeper Joe Cannon who had come off his line too early, thus requiring a re-take. The crucial winning goal of the game came in the 61st minute when Mikael Yourassowsky was set up by Plata to score his first goal for the club during a spell in which Toronto looked the more likely of the two teams to score.

Toronto’s reward for winning their third Nutrilite Canadian Championship title is another tilt at the CONCACAF Champions League in which they will feature in the preliminary round stage against Real Estelí of Nicaragua.

CONCACAF: 2011 Gold Cup Preview

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on June 2, 2011
Mexico Gold Cup 2009 champions

Mexico are the defending Gold Cup champions

The latest edition of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the top tournament for national teams in the North and Central America region, begins on June 5th with the United States hosting the event for the tenth time. Mexico are the defending champions having thrashed the United States in the 2009 final by five goals to nil and this year’s host nation would like to make up for that setback. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog previews all of the teams involved in the tournament which finishes on June 25th in the Rose Bowl, Pasadena.

GROUP A (Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, Mexico)

COSTA RICA (FIFA World Ranking 53) are making their tenth appearance in the CONCACAF Gold Cup having qualified thanks to a second place finish in the 2011 Copa Centroamericana. Los Ticos have never won this competition, their tournament best coming in the 2002 event in which they lost 2-0 to the United States in the final. Costa Rica should expect to progress to the knock-out stages but a tournament win may prove beyond them yet again.

CUBA (113) qualified for their sixth Gold Cup after finishing third in the 2010 CFU Caribbean Championship. Their best performance in this tournament came in 2003 where they lost out to a rampant United States at the quarter-final going down 5-0 with Landon Donovan hitting the net four times for the Americans. If they perform well then a quarter-final place is a possibility but expect them to go no further.

EL SALVADOR (110) finished in 4th place in the 2011 Copa Centroamericana which gained them a place in their seventh tournament finals. El Salvador reached the quarter-finals in successive Gold Cups in 2002 and 2003 going out to the United States and Costa Rica respectively and have yet to reach the last four. Expect them not to reach the semi-finals again this time too although they will fight out with Cuba for a quarter-final spot.

MEXICO (28) are the defending champions having defeated the United States 5-0 in the 2009 final. This is Mexico’s eleventh appearance in the finals and they have high hopes of adding to their haul of five tournament wins this time. Mexico may be placed ten places lower than arch-rivals United States in the current FIFA World Rankings but they often save their best performances for big tournaments. Expect to see them in the final once again.

Jamaica CFU champions 2010

Jamaica won the Caribbean Cup in 2010

GROUP B (Grenada, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica)

GRENADA (128) are the rank outsiders in this year’s tournament having qualified for only the second time ever after finishing in fourth place of the 2010 CFU Caribbean Championship. Their one and only appearance to date came in 2009 where they failed to get past the first round, finishing bottom of their group containing the United States, Honduras and Haiti. Expect them not to progress beyond the group stage this time too.

GUATEMALA (115) have yet to better the fourth place they achieved in the 1996 edition of the Gold Cup. Having finished fifth in the 2011 Copa Centroamericana, and thus gaining the last spot in this year’s Gold Cup tournament, the Guatemalans will hope to squeeze into the quarter-finals with one of the best third-place records. Should they shock the form guide and defeat either Jamaica or Honduras in the group stage then a top two place could be viable. A quarter-finalist at best.

HONDURAS (52) are the best ranked nation in the CONCACAF region outside of the big two (Mexico & United States) and are appearing in their tenth tournament finals. The 2011 Copa Centroamericana champions have only ever reached a Gold Cup final on one occasion and were unfortunate to lose out to the Americans in a penalty shoot-out following a goalless final. They have the potential to top their group and could go all the way to the final should they have a good day against expected semi-finalists United States.

JAMAICA (76) won the 2010 CFU Caribbean Championship and will be competing in the CONCACAF Gold Cup for the eighth time. Their tournament best came in 1993 when they came third and they also gained a fourth place finish five years later but since then the Jamaicans have failed to get past the quarter-finals. The last eight is the target once again but a place in the semi-finals may just be a little optimistic.

United States Gold Cup champions 2007

Will the United States win a fifth Gold Cup title?

GROUP C (Canada, Guadeloupe, Panama, United States)

CANADA (88) are participating in their tenth Gold Cup tournament and will hope to equal their 2009 showing by reaching the last eight. Canada is a one-time champion of this tournament having surprised everybody by beating guest nation Colombia in the 2000 final but a repeat of this victory looks out of reach this year. Will be fighting it out with Panama for second in the group.

GUADELOUPE (No ranking available) have improved in recent years having finished third in the 2007 Gold Cup tournament and having qualified for their third tournament finals by narrowly losing to Jamaica in the 2010 CFU Caribbean Championship final. However any hopes that Guadeloupe have of progressing beyond the group stage have been hampered by a tough draw and not even a third place finish looks likely this time out.

PANAMA (70) qualified for their fifth tournament finals by finishing in a respectable third place in the 2011 Copa Centroamericana. Their tournament best came in 2005 when they were unlucky to lose out in a penalty shoot-out to eventual champions the United States, the same nation that knocked Panama out of the last tournament in 2009 at the quarter-final stage. A place in the last eight of the competition is likely this time too but they’ll need plenty of luck if they’re to qualify for their second final.

UNITED STATES (18) are the slight favourites going into this year’s CONCAF Gold Cup. As tournament hosts the Americans will hope that their eleventh appearance in the competition will see them equal Mexico’s record of five tournament victories. The USA were embarrassed by Mexico in the 2009 final and they have a chance to get their own back should both teams reach the final as expected this time out.

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CFU: Islanders on course to defend title

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on May 26, 2011

Puerto Rico Islanders crestPuerto Rico Islanders will face off against Haitian club Tempête FC in the final of the 2011 CFU Caribbean Club Championship.

Defending champions from last year, Puerto Rico Islanders are hoping to become the first team in over a decade to win back-to-back titles having overcome the challenge of Alpha United on Wednesday. With Guyana playing host to the semi-finals and final of this year’s competition Alpha United enjoyed home advantage against the champions. But the Islanders eventually proved too strong for United although they needed extra-time to overcome the Guyanese. Matthew Bouraee’s 23rd minute strike for the Islanders was cancelled out by United’s Dwain Jacobs with eight first half minutes remaining. But the crucial goals came in the second half of extra-time with Jonathan Faña and David Foley finally sealing the Islanders’ progress.

The Islanders’ opponents in the final will be Tempête FC who needed a penalty shoot-out to get past 2001 champions Defence Force from Trinidad & Tobago following a goalless 120 minutes. Rawle Fletcher and Anton Joseph were the unlucky culprits for Defence Force whose penalties failed to hit the net and thus handed the win to Tempête FC. The Haitian champions had a 100% conversion rate from their four spot kicks will now play in their first ever final which takes place at Providence Stadium in the Guyanese capital of Georgetown on Friday.

Mexico: Pumas clinch tense Clausura title (+video)

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on May 23, 2011

UNAM Pumas have won Mexico’s Torneo Clausura thanks to a 3-2 aggregate victory in the final against Monarcas Morelia.

Both teams had shared the goals in a 1-1 draw in Friday’s first leg with Juan Francisco Palencia (UNAM) and Joao Rojas (Morelia) both hitting the target. So the scene was set for a thrilling finish in Sunday’s return fixture, played at the Pumas’ home ground of Estadio Olímpico Universitario, and it was the home side who opened the scoring on 14 minutes with Palencia converting an early spot kick. Just eleven minutes later parity was restored via the same method as Morelia won a penalty of their own which was scored by Jaime Lozano. The goal which ultimately decided the game and the championship came deep in the second half; Javier Cortés scoring an amazing goal which helped his team to their seventh national championship title.

WATCH 2ND LEG GOALS AND TITLE CELEBRATIONS HERE:

Mexico: Favourites Tigres crash out; Clausura Review

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on May 9, 2011
Héctor Reynoso

Héctor Reynoso helped Chivas defeat Tigres

The quarter-final stages in Mexico’s Torneo Clausura have been completed this weekend and for UNAM Pumas, Guadalajara, Morelia and Cruz Azul the dream is still alive.

The biggest shock came courtesy of Guadalajara who disposed of tournament favourites and number one seed Tigres UANL with a 4-2 aggregate victory. Having won the first leg at home 3-1, Guadalajara made a good job of holding on to their two goal aggregate lead in the second leg until the 64th minute when Héctor Mancilla scored to give Tigres hope. Guadalajara restored the two goal advantage just fifteen minutes later through Héctor Reynoso and effectively killed the game as a contest. The Chivas will face off against UNAM in the semi-finals after the Pumas, now the new tournament favourites following Tigres’ elimination, knocked out 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League winners Monterrey CF from the competition. Although the tie finished 3-3 on aggregate UNAM progress to the final four due to their higher regular season ranking.

Monarcas Morelia, who have only ever been Mexican champions once in their history, remain on course to win a first title since 2000 having overcome the challenge of Club América. Following an impressive 2-1 away win in the first leg, Morelia sealed the deal in the second leg with goals from Joao Rojas (2) and Márquez Lugo helping Monarcas to an overall 5-3 aggregate win. They will meet Cruz Azul in the semi-finals after los Cementos won by the odd goal in three in their two-legged tie against Atlante CF. Christian Giménez’s two goals in Cruz Azul’s 2-1 first leg victory proved crucial as the two teams were unable to break the deadlock in the return fixture played on Saturday.

The two-legged semi-final matches will be played on May 11-12 and May 14-15.

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CONCACAF: Monterrey claim maiden Champions title (+video)

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on April 29, 2011

North and Central America hails a new champion team and it is to nobody’s surprise that the team comes from Mexico. Monterrey CF have claimed the CONCACAF Champions League for the first time after a 3-2 aggregate win over Major League Soccer side Real Salt Lake. After the first leg finished 2-2 in Mexico seven days earlier, this Wednesday saw an expectant 20,000 crowd at the Rio Tinto Stadium hoping to see Salt Lake claim a first Champions League title for an American side under the current format. However the visitors had other ideas and a tight contest was decided by a Humberto Suzao goal on the stroke of half-time. The 1-0 win saw the Mexicans home and they follow Atlante CF and Pachuca CF onto the roll of honour as the only clubs to have won this tournament since its rebranding in 2008.

Canada: Toronto favourites to win Voyageurs Cup title

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on April 26, 2011
Voyageurs Cup

Toronto FC currently hold the Voyageurs Cup

The Nutrilite Canadian Championship kicks off on Wednesday with defending champions Toronto FC favourites to hold on to their title. The format of the tournament has changed from a round-robin involving three teams to a straight knockout format involving four thanks to the inclusion of FC Edmonton alongside traditional entrants Toronto, Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact.

Major League Soccer (MLS) club Toronto FC, currently led by former Dutch international Aron Winter, are the defending Canadian champions having won back-to-back Voyageurs Cups in 2009 and 2010. They will face tournament new boys FC Edmonton in the semi-final and will be overwhelming favourites to reach the final given their considerable experience. FC Edmonton, who were formed only last year, have started life in America’s second-tier football competition, the North American Soccer League (NASL), rather well in 2011 having won two of their first three games and will have no pressure going into their maiden domestic championship campaign.

In the other semi-final Montreal Impact, inaugural winners of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship in 2008, are another NASL team facing off against a more-fancied MLS outfit, namely Vancouver Whitecaps. However this will not be the case beyond this year as Montreal have been given clearance to become the newest member of MLS in 2012. Nonetheless this tie will still interest many due to the current standards of both set-ups. Montreal are winless after three games in the 2011 NASL season whilst Vancouver may only have won just one match out of their first seven in their maiden MLS campaign but that came against fellow Canadians Toronto FC.

Should the two MLS sides qualify for the final, as many pundits expect, then it would be fascinating to see whether Vancouver would hold the Indian sign over Toronto. Would Toronto’s 2011 MLS season opening match blip at the hands of their compatriots be the prime motivation for a spot of revenge? Or can any of the NASL teams upset the big boys and reach the final?

2011 NUTRILITE CANADIAN CHAMPIONSHIP SEMI-FINALS (seedings in brackets)

27/04/11 Montreal Impact (3) v Vancouver Whitecaps (2)

27/04/11 FC Edmonton (4) v Toronto FC (1)

04/05/11 Vancouver Whitecaps v Montreal Impact

04/05/11 Toronto FC v FC Edmonton

2011 NUTRILITE CANADIAN CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL (Highest seed away in first leg)

18/05/11 – First Leg

25/05/11 – Second Leg

CONCACAF: Monterrey and Salt Lake still level after first leg

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on April 21, 2011

The first leg of the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League final saw Monterrey CF and Real Salt Lake draw an exciting match by two goals each. The Mexican side are hoping to make it yet another triumph for the country whose clubs have won each of the last six tournaments whilst Major League Soccer outfit Real are hoping to put the league back on the map and become the first team from the United States to win this competition since a pre-Beckham Los Angeles Galaxy achieved the feat back in 2000. Goals by Aldo de Nigris and Humberto Suazo for Monterrey were cancelled out on each occasion by Nat Borchers and Javier Morales. The second leg of the final takes place in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, April 27th.

WATCH FIRST LEG GOALS & HIGHLIGHTS HERE: