The CONCACAF Champions League resumes Tuesday with Puerto Rico hosting Cruz Azul in the first leg of their semifinal tie.
Mar 16, 2009 11:08:39 PM
The CONCACAF Champions League semifinals kick off Tuesday when the Islanders of Puerto Rico play host to C.D. Cruz Azul of Mexico. The Islanders’ improbable run to the semifinals went through a very talented Marathon side in the quarterfinals, and now the United Soccer League side will look to continue its fine form against one of the region’s traditional powers.
Nicholas Addlery played the hero for Puerto Rico against Marathon. The Jamaican scored once in each leg, including a game winner in the dying minutes of the second leg in Honduras, to help Puerto Rico reach this stage. But Addlery will need some help if the Islanders are to break through the Cruz Azul defensive line. The Cementeros are giving up an average of just one goal every 180 minutes in the CCL and did not allow a goal in their quarterfinal tie with Pumas.
To their credit, the Islanders own one of the better scoring records in the CCL, having knocked home twelve goals in eight matches since beginning group play.
Backing up the Islanders attack is a back line that has been a bit leaky from time to time, but was solid in the victory over Marathon. The fine form of ‘keeper Bill Gaudette should get a lot of the credit. The Hummelstown, Pennsylvania native came up with numerous big saves in the quarters when his team was on its heels for much of the second leg.
Cruz Azul comes into the tie with Puerto Rico as the favorite after dispatching fellow Mexican power Pumas in the quarterfinals. In stark contrast to the Islanders, Frustrazul has relied on defense to carry the team this far. But the fine defensive form should not discount the amount of attacking firepower this team possesses.
The list of stars in the Cruz Azul attack is deep and mixed well between young strikers like Luis Landin and Alejandro Vela and wily veteran midfielders like Jamie Lozano and Gerardo Torrado.
Despite scoring only twice in the tie with Pumas, the Cementeros piled up 25 shots, 15 shots on target, and earned 14 corners in two matches, stats that show the lack of scoring was more a product of poor finishing than a lack of chances created.
Players To Watch:
Puerto Rico Islanders: Noah Delgado. The 29-year-old Californian is Puerto Rico’s co-captain and plays a vital role in the midfield. Delgado will need to be at his best for Puerto Rico to deal with Cruz Azul’s supremely talented midfield.
C.D. Cruz Azul: Cristian Riveros. The Paraguayan finished off the tie with Pumas with a well taken goal in the second leg.
Goal.com Prediction: The Islanders have proven to be a hard team to beat at home, and the Mexican teams have not traveled particularly well in the CCL. Islander 2- 1 Cruz Azul.
Allen Ramsey, Goal.com