Friday, August 27

Coming Up Around CONCACAF

Thus far, it has been a good week for home clubs as they went 6-1-1 in Champions League action and the two USSF Division-2 hosts came away with a win and a draw in midweek contests.

The action around CONCACAF this week continues with a light night Friday. Panama will be the hot spot with two of the four contests with a third in Mexico while rivals Montreal and Rochester square off in USSF Division-2.

All but one MLS contest falls on Saturday, which features the USL Second Division Championship between longtime rivals Richmond and Charleston at Blackbaud Stadium. Two MLS matches feature Top 15 sides in the TSB Power Rankings as Columbus hosts Dallas and Real Salt Lake visits Toronto. Fresh off their Champions League victory, Puerto Rico travels to Carolina in Saturday’s lone fixture in USSF-D2. South of the border, two match-ups of Top 10 clubs in the TSB Rankings meet. Tigres is on the road against Cruz Azul and Chivas Guadalajara hosts Pumas.

Two of the top three sides in USSF-D2 go toe-to-toe Sunday as Austin visits Vancouver. Leading scorer of the Clausura Herculez Gomez travels to face his former side as Pachuca meets Puebla in an interesting showdown Sunday.

FAS returns to action in El Salvador Sunday on the road against third-place Aguila with the coach vowing to make changes after the club’s 4-1 CCL defeat in Puerto Rico and winless (0-1-3) start to the league campaign. Sunday will also mark the first league game for Perez Zeledon under the interim management of Alexander Madrigal after Monday’s removal of Rafael Bautista.

The ‘weekend’s’ action wraps up with a couple extra games on Monday with one each in USSF-D2 and Costa Rica.

Xinabajul performing well despite serious financial issues

Xinabajul of Liga Nacional in Guatemala posted a 2-0 victory over powerhouse and Champions League side Municipal last Sunday. It was the club’s third consecutive win after dropping the losses for the two fixtures, good enough to climb into a tie for third in the league despite having significant financial issues.

Things, however, may be hitting a tipping point in the wrong direction as the team’s current leading scorer Gilberto Cesar Alegria departed the club Thursday, citing that he left the team due to the economic problems at the club,. Management met with him, to discuss plans on paying what they owe him, after he said farewell to his teammates at a morning training session.

The club reportedly paid the players 25 percent of the salaries they were due for the month of July on Monday. Players were upset at the amount received and allegedly questioned the attendance report, and the subsequent revenue made, for the match against Municipal.

The club expects to pay the remainder of the salaries upon receipt of the money due from sponsors in the coming days, but have been delaying payments since initially agreeing to pay them a percentage of the salary owed in the first few days of the month.

The club came into the season in debt and in search of new financial support. The situation resulted in the club having to forfeit its opening match July 24 against Marquense (deemed a 3-0 loss) as it had not met its obligations with the league at the time, including processing player registration and paying the applicable fees. It was facing removal from Liga Nacional, but has since named a new president and executive board.

The team has steadily declined since its promotion to the league for the 2008-09 campaign, opening with a sixth place finish in the 2008 Apertura and subsequently finishing seventh, eighth and, in the Clausura this past spring, 11th. It has a combined season record of 24-25-31 (W-D-L) during the four Liga Nacional Apertura/Clausura sessions.

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Tuesday, August 24

TSB's Top Five for USL-2 MVP

It is awards season as the championship game approaches for the USL Second Division Saturday. TSB takes a look at who the top five contenders for the award should be and who, ultimately, the voting will turn out in favor of.

TSB's MVP Rankings

5 – Tom Heinemann (Charleston): His debut to the professional flight last year when the Battery were in the USL First Division saw a minimal amount of time as he only played 621 minutes with a pair of goals. In his second season he proved a critical component as part of a two-man attack, finishing tied for first in assists (5) as well as third in both goals (7) and points (10) as the club won the regular season title.

4 – Hunter Gilstrap (Pittsburgh): After a rough USL-1 season in Cleveland a year ago, Gilstrap became a leader for the Riverhounds defensively, allowing seven fewer goals than they did in 2009. Gilstrap may have only been the league leader in minutes played tied with Brian Levey at 1,620, but he played a key role in the club’s turnaround, finishing second in goals against average (1.00), tied for second in shutouts (6) and third in wins (7). The Riverhounds finished tied with Richmond for the best defense, allowing 20 goals.

Power Rankings: Shakeup at the Top

Surprise defeats cost Santos Laguna and Cruz Azul two of the top three spots in the TSB’s CONCACAF Pro Club Power Rankings this week, although they did not slip far. Champions League played a role for several clubs as 16 teams began the Group Phase last week.

Former table-topper Santos Laguna drubbed out-of-season Joe Public, 5-2, in the Champions League only to suffer a 1-0 loss to the tough Tigres defense in league play. Cruz Azul, previously third, had the opposite experience, falling on the road, 2-1, to Toronto in the CCL and rebounding to top Jaguares away, 3-2. Their drops to third and fifth, respectively, allowed Monterrey and FC Dallas to move upward along with Tigres making a steep jump eight spots to fourth.

Among the big movers on the week were Marathon and DC United. Marathon posted a 2-1 win over the Seattle Sounders in the CCL, the only Central American win on the week, and followed it up with a 1-0 league victory against Motagua, climbing from 45th to 22nd. DC moved from 81 to 56 by ending their lengthy slump with a 2-0 victory against Philadelphia, pulling themselves back up toward the back of the pack of MLS sides in the table.

With Rochester adding two more wins to extend its streak to six consecutive wins, the Rhinos moved up to round out the top 40. Newly-promoted Necaxa of Honduras is not far back at 42 after winning its third straight to open the campaign. FAS of El Salvador was set to make a major leap up the list with a scoreless draw against Toluca in the CCL only to see it stunted by a 2-1 league loss to Isidro Metapan as they went from 85 to 73.

USL Second Division Semifinal winners Richmond moved up the list six spots to 64 with their championship showdown set for Saturday against Charleston, which finds itself at 52 following an idle week.

Previously unranked clubs Limon (CRC), Atletico Chiriqui (PAN), Once Municipal (SLV) and Suchitepequez (GUA) moved into the Top 100, knocking out Penarol La Mesilla (GUA), Atletico Veraguense (PAN), Universidad San Carlos (GUA), Universidad de Costa Rica (CRC).

North America Round-Up

The CONCACAF Champions League participants from the North American-based leagues started the week off well as the Group Stage of the tournament began. MLS clubs won three of four, Mexican sides were unbeaten in three with two wins, and Puerto Rico played to a draw for an overall record of five wins, two draws and pair of losses. Professional postseason action began in the United States with the USL Second Division Semifinal between Richmond and Pittsburgh.

Monday, August 23

Central America Round-Up

The week started off roughly for the Central American club. Collectively, they only saw one victory out of six contests in the opening week of CONCACAF Champions League group play. Marathon of Honduras was the lone winner, edging visiting Seattle, 2-1, while the other five earned two draws and suffered three defeats against North American opposition. Olimpia rallied for a 1-1 draw in Puerto Rico and FAS registered a stunning scoreless draw against visiting Toluca. Saprissa fell in Mexico to Monterrey, 2-1, and MLS hosts Columbus and Real Salt Lake downed Municipal, 1-0, and Arabe Unido, 2-1, in their respective matches.