Clubs eager to get cracking after glitzy SCCL draw in Miami

…Caribbean champions Atletico Pantoja await Red Bulls or Timbers

Friday, December 07, 2018

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Following Monday evening's glitzy draw event of the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League (SCCL), clubs are already eager to get cracking.

The draw for the Round of 16, which was conducted live at the studios of Concacaf media partner Univision in Miami, was to determine the match-up for the first set of matches to start on February 19, next year, in the home-and-away knockout tournament.

Caribbean champions, the Dominican Republic's Atletico Pantoja, were drawn to face either New York Red Bulls or Portland Timber of Major League Soccer.

Following the 2018 Major League Soccer play-offs slated for tomorrow, the positions of the US-based MLS qualified teams for the SCCL will be finalised.

Meanwhile, Toronto FC, who lost in last year's final in a dramatic penalty shootout to Mexico's CD Guadalajara (popularly called Chivas), are determined to go one better this year.

“We threw everything into it last year, we wanted to win it, we certainly felt like we had a chance to win it and I think we're going to approach it the same way again this year,” said Assistant Coach Robin Fraser, who attended Monday's draw.

“I think there are things that we'll take away from last year that we'll continue to do and I think we'll make adjustments based on different things, various conditions,” he added.

Fraser and his club are hungry for a slice of history as no US Major League team has ever won the SCCL.

“This is something that no MLS team has ever done before and I think that's something that all the MLS teams involved are trying to become the first to do it,” noted Fraser.

The Canada club has been drawn to face Panama's Independiente, and managing director of the Panamanian League Daniel Fernandez has high hopes of a good showing.

“This (qualifying for SCCL) is an indication that our league is getting stronger… I think that Independiente has been doing a very good job, so I expect them to demonstrate their capacity to surpass this challenge and go to the second round, so let's see what happens,” he told the Jamaica Observer.

US Major League outfit, Houston Dynamo, who have been out of the SCCL since 2013/14, is relishing their return.

“We had a goal this year of wanting to win MLS Cup and the US Open Cup and we were fortunate enough to win the Open Cup, which has us back in the Champions League.

““We are very excited and we are already preparing for it in terms of where the team needs to be and getting ready for that first game,” said assistant coach Davy Arnaud.

Houston will face Guatemala's Guastatoya in their Round of 16 tie and the Central American outfit is delighted to be playing in a prestigious tournament as the SCCL.

“After the suspension of Guatemala (by Fifa), we are very proud to be at this competition, and we hope to have a good play… thank God we are at a place where we are in international competition,” noted club executive of Guastatoya Jahiro Otzoy.

Meanwhile, Concacaf general secretary Philippe Moggio underlined the importance of the SCCL in the federation's club football portfolio.

“This competition is very important because it is the top club competition in the region… every club in Concacaf aspires to compete in it as it allows the opportunity to go to the Fifa Club World Cup, the opportunity to be Concacaf champion, so there is a lot at stake in this great competition,” he said.

“What's more important is that there is an entire platform for club competition in our region, and that is not only the Champions League, it is also the Concacaf League which gives the opportunity for more Caribbean teams to compete.

“We also have the Caribbean Club Championship, which is a specific competition for the Caribbean, plus the Caribbean Club Shield where more amateur teams can compete, obviously pushing to become more professional… so we have developed a system of competitions that we believe will help club competition in the region to develop,” Moggio added.

Monday's SCCL draw was conducted by Concacaf's Chief Football Officer Manolo Zubiria and former Concacaf stars, Mexico's Moises Munoz and Panama's Blas Perez.

Round of 16 match-ups

Marathon (Honduras) vs Santos Laguna (Mexico)

Pantoja (Dom Rep) vs Red Bulls or Timbers (USA)

Saprissa (Costa Rica) vs UANL (Mexico)

Guastatoya (Guatemala) vs Houston Dynamo (USA)

Sporting Kansas City (USA) vs Toluca (Mexico))

Independiente (Panama) vs Toronto FC (Canada)

Herediano (Costa Rica) vs Atlanta United FC (USA)

Alianza (El Salvador) vs Monterrey (Mexico)

— Sean Williams

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