2010 CONCACAF Champions League, Group B, Match Day 1
Columbus Crew (11-5-4, 37 points, MLS) vs. CSD Municipal (2-1-1, 7 points, Guatemalan National League), at Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.
All-time series: The Crew hosted Municipal in a postseason exhibition on Nov. 8, 2006, and won 2-0.
8 p.m. ET; Fox Soccer Channel
Municipal have won their domestic league twice in a row – the 2009 Apertura and the 2010 Clausura. Third in their league table, Municipal are coming off of a 3-1 victory over last-place Suchitepéquez.
The Crew are currently in first in the Eastern Conference and, opposed to their rivals, are coming off a 2-0 loss at Real Salt Lake. They'll be looking to start off on the right foot in Champions League competition and will hope to gain some confidence back with a solid victory over their Guatemalan counterparts.
Three of Columbus' first four Champions League games are at home. The Crew, winners of the past two Supporters’ Shields, finished 2-2-2 in last year's CCL group stage to become the only MLS team to move to the quarterfinals. However, they were eliminated 5-4 on aggregate by Mexico's Toluca.
“[The Champions League] is a good competition for us,” midfielder Brian Carroll said. “We were close to advancing even further [last year]. There’s a lot we can learn from that [loss], build from that and do well this year. It’s a challenging tournament at a challenging time for us.
“We learned it’s tough but we can grind out performances home and away and we’re going to need everybody’s minutes and everybody’s legs in order to do well.”
Three of Municipal's players are familiar with MLS and the style of play, having once donned MLS clubs' jerseys. Two in particular, Mario Rodríguez and Freddy García, should know the Crew pretty well. In 2005, Rodríguez scored one goal for Columbus, against Kansas City on June 29. García played with the Crew a few years before Rodríguez (2002-03) before returning home.
The third player with MLS experience, and with the most important contribution from the trio, is Guillermo “Pando” Ramírez, who played on loan with Los Angeles in 2005. He didn't score during the regular season, but notched the overtime winner against New England to give the Galaxy an MLS Cup title.
Nevertheless, Municipal will be led by captain Juan Carlos Plata, who has 299 goals in his 20-year career with the Guatemalan club.
Heroes & Villains
Jetlag vs. home advantage: There’s no telling what the lineups will be but both sides want a fast start to the tournament. Municipal have a long flight to get to Columbus, so a point on the road would be a great result for the Guatemalan club. The Crew are coming off a road loss, but they should exploit their home advantage. In order to get three points, Columbus' midfield must perform better than in the loss to RSL.
Stat that makes you go “Hmm...”
Rodríguez is known as “El Loco” (the Crazy One) but was relatively sane with the Crew. In 19 games (15 starts) he committed 24 fouls, received two cautions and one red card.