2/18/2009 – By Dylan Butler
Marathon already is set to return to the CONCACAF Champions League next season. It still has a title to fight for this season.
Marathon clinched its berth in next season’s championship by defeating Real Espana in the Honduran Apertura finals on December 14. It was the seventh league title for Marathon, and second in three years.
But the Puerto Rico Islanders are first in this year’s quarterfinals. The first leg is set for February 26 in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, but the game couldn’t come at a worse time for Marathon, which is battling injuries to several key players.
Maynor Suazo, a former Austrian Bundesliga player of the year, is back with his hometown team after several short spells with SK Brann in Norway, Antalyaspour in Turkey and Cologne in Germany. The 29-year-old midfielder, a native of San Pedro Sula, spent six years with Red Bull Salzburg before bouncing around the rest Europe over the past three years.
Suazo is recovering from a knee injury that has kept him off the field for six months. He is just one of the walking wounded for Marathon.
Erick Norales has drawn interest from Major League Soccer clubs, but the 24-year-old defender remains with Marathon. However, he is recovering from a quadriceps injury.
Honduran international Mario Beata, a 34-year-old defender, could be out for a month with a calf tear in his right leg. Emil Martinez, back from spending a year with Shanghai Shenhua, is in his third stint with Marathon, but is dealing with an injured knee. Marvin Chavez, a 25-year-old attacking midfielder, is suffering from a bruised right leg and veteran goalkeeper Victor Coello also picked up a right leg injury.
Midfielder Carlos Oliva has a herniated disc and striker Mitchel Brown, who is back with Marathon after playing for Chinese side Qingdao Jonoon last year, also has a calf strain.
Despite the injuries, Marathon is in a four-way tie for third in the Primera Division de Honduras Clausura 2009, having lost only once in six games and is two points behind Olimpia. Jerry Palacios and Michel Brown have led with three goals each for a team that has scored nearly twice as many goals (12) as the next closest team.
While Mexican teams clearly dominated, winning three of the four Champions League groups, Marathon finished atop Group A with the best record of any team to advance to the knockout stage.