Tauro FC of Panama are unbeaten in three straight and have climbed to share the lead, and Mexico’s Club Santos Laguna are only a point back – all with two games remaining.
The Islanders have their final home match against CSD Municipal of Guatemala on Wednesday, while Santos look to avenge its loss two weeks ago against Tauro FC at Corona Stadium on Tuesday.
After losing two of its first three in the Champions League, Santos appears to have regained some of its form. It has won three of its last four, including 1:0 victory over Jaguares on Sunday in the Mexican league thanks to a 33rd-minute goal from Ecuadoran striker Christian Benitez.
In a rematch with Tauro FC, Santos hopes to erase the memory of a 2:0 loss at Rod Carew Stadium on 2 October and the over-the-shoulder strike by striker Brunette Hay just before halftime.
Santos will likely be missing defender Juan Pablo Rodriguez, who recently sustained a left thigh injury, while defender Fernando Ortiz returns to the squad after he left the team to take care of some personal problems.
Santos handed the Islanders their first defeat in the Champions League on 8 October 3:0, and Puerto Rico followed that four days by losing the United Soccer Leagues’ championship match against the Vancouver Whitecaps 2:1.
Despite the most setbacks, Islanders coach Colin Clarke says the team’s deep bench has been a key ingredient in its success.
«It would be very difficult for me to name a most valuable player on the team this season because there are so many players who have (shined) so exceptionally well,» Clarke said. «It has been a collective effort, not only of 11, but of the 21 or 22 players who have been with the club throughout the season. Not playing an entire game doesn’t deter our substitutes bench, and when they enter the game they are ready to perform. This team remains united and will do anything to achieve a result.”
In their next match against Municipal, the Islanders will be without forward Joshua Hansen, who was red-carded in the 61st minute of his team’s loss to Santos.
CSD Municipal and Tauro FC fought to a 2:2 draw at Estadio Mateo Flores in Guatemala on match day four, with the home side rescuing the match and quarterfinal hopes with an injury time equalizer from Mario Giovany Acevedo.
It has been a frustrating run for Municipal, which has just two points from four matches including a 2-2 draw against the Islanders on 1 October. But it still hasn’t been eliminated.
Municipal’s fortunes haven’t been much better in Guatemala either, with only one victory in four games – including a 1:0 loss to league leading Zelaju on Saturday – that has dropped the club to fourth place, one point out of sixth.