By Jack Bell
Two teams from the minor league United Soccer Leagues First Division — the Puerto Rico Islanders and the Montreal Impact — remain unbeaten in the inaugural Concacaf Champions League.
And while the supposedly inferior mammals of North American soccer continue to surprise (probably even themselves), the two teams from Major League Soccer playing in the group stage — D.C. United and two-time defending champions Houston Dynamo — have only 1 point (and no goals) between them after three games.
In a deluge in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, on Wednesday night, the Islanders beat the champions of the 2008 Mexican Clausura, Santos Laguna, 3-1, on goals by Osei Telesford , Noah Delgado and Edwin Miranda. The Islanders, the regular-season champions in the U.S.L. First Division, now have 6 points, 3 ahead of Santos, after two rounds of round-robin group play. Both Puerto Rico victories have come at home and the club will face a test on the road at CD Municipal of Guatemala on Wednesday, Oct. 1.
Montreal, which finished third this season in the U.S.L. First Division, played to a 0-0 tie with visiting Atlante of Mexico, the 2007 Apertura winners, at Stade Saputo on Wednesday night. Montreal, like Puerto Rico, has played both of its games at home and will be away to CD Olimpia of Honduras next Wednesday in Tegucigalpa.
The top two teams from each of the four, four-team groups will advance to the quarterfinals, which will be played in February.
Overall, U.S.L. First Division teams have a 5-0-3 record in the competition’s preliminary and group stages. By contrast, M.L.S. teams are 0-5-2 in games played by Chivas USA and New England, which were both eliminated in the preliminary round, and D.C. United and Houston.
The current situation cannot be going over well at M.L.S. HQ in Manhattan, where the league’s mandarins have long (and correctly) said that M.L.S. teams need to participate and do well in regional club competitions. But with crowded schedules, limited rosters and other issues, M.L.S. teams have fared incredibly poorly.
After two games in Group A, D.C. United has two losses, no goals, no points and probably no hope of advancing past the group stage. D.C. has allowed four goals in two games, most recently in a 2-0 loss at CD Marathon in San Pedro Sula on Wednesday night. Houston also returned to action on Tuesday, playing to a 0-0 draw against San Francisco F.C. in Panama. Up next for the Dynamo with be a difficult match in Mexico against UNAM Pumas on Tuesday.