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Upsets, buried gems emerge from Preliminary Round of CONCACAF Champions League™
9/12/2008

– Some of the mighty fell. A few ambitious youngsters emerged. And that was only in the Preliminary Round of the CONCACAF Champions League™. The region’s club championship gets underway in earnest on Tuesday with a few surprises already having emerged. Former two-time CONCACAF Champions’ Cup™ winner Alajuelense of Costa Rica was eliminated along with Major League Soccer sides Chivas USA and the New England Revolution, while Panamanian clubs San Francisco FC and Tauro FC moved into the Group Stage along with Trinidad & Tobago’s Joe Public FC and two teams from the United Soccer Leagues, the second division of North American soccer. “Alajuela losing to Puerto Rico, I think, is a bigger deal than Joe Public beating New England,” said Brian Dunseth, who played eight years in the USA’s Major League Soccer and is a veteran of the CONCACAF Champions Cup. Dunseth, who now works as a commentator for Fox Soccer Channel — one of several TV partners broadcasting the Champions League in the United States, can’t gush enough about the achievement of the USL’s Puerto Rico Islanders. “Given that Alajuela has given so many teams so many problems, I was surprised. I played against them. They’re so hard to play against on the road. No one wants to go there,” Dunseth said. “It’s a David vs. Goliath mentality at the early stages. No disrespect to Puerto Rico or (coach) Colin Clark, but there is no way they should have beaten Alajuela.” The Islanders — who advanced with fellow USL club the Montreal Impact, joined Group D with Club Santos Laguna of Mexico, CSD Municipal of Guatemala and Tauro. It’s a group that could provide another surprise. But Dunseth sees Group C with Atlante FC of Mexico, Montreal, Joe Public and CD Olimpia of Honduras as the group to watch. “Atlante has to be the favorite, and Olimipia is always difficult at home,” he said. “But you don’t know what you’ll get with Montreal and Joe Public. They could squeak in and go through as the No. 2.” Joe Public’s success can largely be attributed to the play of 26-year-old Guyanese striker Gregory Richardson, who scored four of the club’s six goals in the Preliminary Round. “Richardson is not going to be a Joe Public player much longer,” Dunseth said. “His speed, pace, he showed he’s able to hold ball. He can play at much higher level than what he is at Joe Public.” The Group Stage opens with three games on Tuesday, beginning with Puerto Rico-Tauro, and D.C. United-Saprissa of Costa Rica in Group A. A Group B encounter will follow later Tuesday between San Francisco and Mexico City giant Pumas UNAM. The schedule continues Wednesday with Santos-Municipal , Montreal-Joe Public, Houston-Firpo of El Salvador in a Group B encounter and CD Marathon of Honduras against Mexico’s Cruz Azul in Group A. The first round of matches concludes Thursday with Atlante against Olimpia. By the numbers: 2 –Number of USL teams in the Group Stage. 2 in 3 – Goals scored in minutes played at end of PRI Islanders Alajuela game sending the Puerto Ricans into an unlikely group stage berth. 2.93 – Goals per game in Preliminary Round. 5 – Goals scored by Javier Orozco. 10 – Number of nations represented in Group Stage. 28 – Minutes needed for Gregory Richardson of Joe Public to complete his hat-trick against the New England Revolution. 44 – Goals scored in 15 first round matches. 48 – Group games to be played before 30 October. 62 – Games remaining in 2008-2009 CONCACAF Champions League™ .

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