Current Standings (Points, WDL, GD)
Santos Laguna… 7… 2-1-0… +4
Columbus Crew… 6… 2-0-1… +3
Municipal… 2… 0-2-1… -1
Joe Public… 1… 0-1-2… -6
Out of season Joe Public is the only club that has lost at home, falling to Santos Laguna. However, Municipal has two draws at home against Joe Public and Santos Laguna. Columbus has kept itself in the shadow of the Santos Laguna with the only goal allowed occurring in the road loss against the Mexican giants.
Santos Laguna (Mexico): B+
The group phase began with a back-and-forth start against Joe Public in Trinidad, but Jose Cardenas added his third and fourth in the second half of the match to push a level contest beyond reach with Juan Enriquez capping it, 5-2, in the 90th. They followed it up with a narrow, 1-0, victory at home against Columbus on a 90th minute Jorge Estrada strike. The club has slipped since its domestic break for international play, dropping a league match, 5-2, before seeing a two-goal advantage in Guatemala against Municipal for a 2-2 draw. Current league record: 6-0-2.
Outlook – With a narrow lead in the group, Santos has a chance to lock up a Quarterfinal spot this week in Ohio. They wrap up the competition with home games against Joe Public and Muncipal, but with domestic league road matches against Morelia and Cruz Azul before the group finale, the next two matches are the most important. Projection: First. It has been a rough few weeks in league and CCL play. Riding a late dramatic win versus Necaxa this weekend, Santos should be able to edge Columbus. Even with a draw north of the border, the Mexican side will lock up the top spot at home against Joe Public before the Municipal match.
Columbus Crew (MLS): B
Emmanuel Ekpo’s score 14 minutes into the first match against Municipal held as the winner in the close contest. The next match was also decided by a single tally as the Crew nearly registered a surprising scoreless draw in Mexico only to see a last-minute tally spoil the outcome. Also busy with a US Open Cup run, Columbus won on the road against DC in the tournament semifinal during the first of the two-week CCL break. They returned to the international competition against the plucky Joe Public side that took the match to half scoreless, but Leandre Griffit, Jason Garey and Steven Lenhart gave the hosts the 3-0 win. Current league record: 13-5-7.
Outlook – Aside from the win against Joe Public, the Crew has lost the last two league matches at Los Angeles and at home against Seattle in a stunning four-goal shutout. The schedule ahead of them is tough, making the Santos match at home key in their CCL slate as they travel to New England and Municipal over the following week. Prior to the final group game in Trinidad, Columbus is on the road for three consecutive, beginning with the Open Cup Final in Seattle. Projection: Second. The Crew will have to rally to finish second although they are in the spot currently. With the importance of the next match, they will probably play to a draw in Crew Stadium against Santos before the daunting trip to Guatemala after playing in New England. In the end, the match in Trinidad will decide their fate as Municipal will probably be in second at the time by a point or two.
Municipal (Guatemala): C+
The Guatemalans can’t seem to get over the hump in the CCL despite playing well in domestic league play. They fell on a 14th minute goal on the road in the opener to Columbus. They then needed 77 minutes to break a stalemate at home against Joe Public courtesy of Mario Rodriguez only to see the 10-visitors visitors tie it up at the last minute. At home against Santos Laguna, they looked out of it down two, but rallied on a goal from Rodriguez and an 87th minute penalty from Carlos Castillo. Current league record: 6-1-2.
Outlook – Despite trailing by four points, Municipal are actually in position to contend for the second berth from the group as heavyweight Santos Laguna is the final opponent and they host second-place Columbus. Projection: Third. Municipal should win in the Caribbean in the next match and will likely top the visiting Crew, who will be tired from the busy slate, to move into second. It will rest on the final match in Mexico against Santos, who will have already clinched, giving them a chance. But winning in Mexico is extremely rare, giving the Crew the chance to reclaim second.
Joe Public (Trinidad & Tobago): D+
With their season finished well before the competition, the club has performed respectably, first advancing from the group phase and making each of the three matches thus far interesting. In the opener against Santos Laguna, it was back-and-forth and level at two apiece at the break as Makan Hislop and Yu Hoshide each notched equalizers. Eventually the Mexican giants pulled away for the 5-2 win. They then earned a stunning draw in Guatemala despite playing a man down due to an 80th minute Jevon Morris red, pulling level in the final moments via Micah Lewis. They battled the Crew to a scoreless draw for the first 45 before succumbing to three unanswered in the second half.
Outlook – The tournament is a difficult task for a club in offseason form, and with the tournament also taking breaks for the international calendar, finding a rhythm is also trying. Projection: Fourth. A home match against Municipal could provide life, but will most likely shut the door. Regardless, with the next match in Mexico, they will be all but finished, making the closing match against Columbus a chance to play for pride at home and potentially spoil the Crew’s chance of advancing.