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  • CONCACAF Champions League preview


    Ray Burse Jr. is starting in goal for Columbus.

    You can try and break down tonight's CONCACAF Champions League game all sorts of ways, but the appearance of the Crew's third string keeper, a guy that moved back to Columbus in 2010 to go to school, could be the bottom line.

    That's not a slight on Burse, he did play a few games for FC Dallas a couple years back, but it's not ideal. The Crew are beat up and are squarely in re-build mode already. In addition to the issue at keeper Columbus is also missing projected starters Kevin Burns and Danny O'Rourke for the game.

    Salt Lake is pretty much healthy and is only missing Robbie Findley from the side that qualified for the quarterfinals of the CCL.

    SLC is geared up for this thing too (interestingly, it's the lead story in the Salt Lake Tribune). They are healthy and, well, better than the 2011 Crew. They should be considered heavy favourites.

    The weather might end up grabbing the most headlines. Currently they are calling for -2C at kick-off, with 10km winds from the North-west. Of all the winds, the north-west winds are the worst. It's unclear whether the weather will provide an advantage to either team. It's unlikely anyone other than the hardest of the hardcore will be in the stands. Based on last year's cold weather nights, BMO Field wouldn't be much fuller than Crew Stadium will be. So this isn't meant as a dig at the Crew fans. Rather, it's a reflection of reality -- a near empty stadium will neutralize home advantage.


    What's great about this year's draw is that the two MLS sides are playing off against each other to play the winner of another non-Mexican quarterfinal. Thus, there will be a non-Mexican team in the final. CONCACAF claims that wasn't done on purpose. Most of us would be more impressed if it was (and would suggest that it would be better for the tournament if moving forward there were Mexican and non-Mexican sides of the draw). One of the biggest problems MLS sides have had in this event is trying to compete with in-form Mexican teams (that are more talented to begin with) while in pre-season form. This evens that out. It will be April before MLS lines up against a FMF side.

    The other quarters see Saprissa, likely the most successful CONCACAF team outside of Mexico, take on Olimpia of Honduras. The winner plays the MLS team still standing.

    Two Mexican team Canadian fans will be familiar with -- Cruz Azul and Santos -- face off in one semi, while Toluca and Monterrey play off in the other.

    Americans can watch the games on Fox Soccer Channel. Canadians can watch at CONCACAF.org.

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