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11/30 9:20pm
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CONCACAF Champions League: Will Leon find success in new competition? | Group 7 Preview

This is the Group 7 preview as we approach the kickoff of the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League on August 5. For comprehensive CONCACAF Champions League coverage, bookmark this page.


León (MEX) | HOW THEY QUALIFIED: 2013 Apertura champions, 2014 Clausura champions | PREVIOUS BEST: Never competed in current format; 1993 CONCACAF Champions' Cup runners-up

Isidro Metapán (SLV) | HOW THEY QUALIFIED: 2013 Apertura champions, 2014 Clausura champions | PREVIOUS BEST: Quarterfinals (2011-12)

Belmopan Bandits (BLZ) | HOW THEY QUALIFIED: 2013-14 Opening Season champions, 2014 Closing Season champions | PREVIOUS BEST: Never competed in current format

CS Herediano (CRC) | HOW THEY QUALIFIED: Most cumulative points in 2013 Invierno and 2014 Verano seasons | PREVIOUS BEST: Quarterfinals (2012-13)

Editor's Note: Since the time of writing, Belmopan Bandits have been removed from the 2014-15 CCL and replaced by Herediano.


DAVID AND GOLIATH

Reigning Liga MX champions Club León figure to be the favorites in Group 7, as they face El Salvador’s Isidro Metapán and Belizean entrant Belmopan Bandits.

The Bandits are the first team from Belize to play in the CCL since 2008-09, while Metapán will attempt to erase the last place showing in the group stage in last year’s CCL. León, in their first CCL tournament in the current format, may be new to the competition itself, but they are battle-hardened after winning back-to-back Liga MX titles and reaching the knockout stage of the 2014 Copa Libertadores.

Can the other two teams catch a confident León off guard?

Date/Time (ET) Home Away Venue
August 5 | 10 PM Isidro Metapan León Estadio Cuscatlán
August 21 | 10 PM Herediano Isidro Metapan Estadio Eladio Rosabal Cordero
August 27 | 8 PM León Herediano Estadio León
September 18 | 10 PM Isidro Metapan Herediano Estadio Cuscatlán
September 24 | 10 PM Herediano León Estadio Eladio Rosabal Cordero
October 23 | 8 PM León Isidro Metapan Estadio León

STAR POWER

Carlos “Gullit” Peña, Leon: The heartbeat of this Leon team, Peña (right, on the ball) is a tricky midfielder with a penchant for crashing the box at the right time. And with Luis Montes out with a broken leg suffered prior to the  World Cup, fellow Mexican international Peña will likely pick up the slack for the group favorites.

Nico Muñoz, Isidro Metapán: The Panamanian striker has made a habit of scoring in the CCL the last two tournaments, sharing the Golden Boot in 2012-13 and coming in second in scoring in 2013-14, largely behind his four-goal performance against the LA Galaxy last year in group play (below). Expect Muñoz to be in the reckoning for the Golden Boot once again.

X-FACTOR

Although expectations are that Belmopan will be making up the numbers, if they can grab any points against their opponents, it could ultimately swing the group. This is especially true if León or Isidro Metapán send reserve sides to Belize to play the Bandits, something that could ultimately haunt them if Belmopan can grab a result at home.

MLS/US CONNECTIONS

One connection Portland won't have to deal with is former New York Red Bulls Designated Player -- León have sold their captain Rafa Márquez to Italian Serie A club Hellas Verona … León goalkeeper William Yarbrough was born in Mexico to American parents, previously sparking speculation he could one day join the US national team …. Former Belmopan Bandits striker Deon McCaulay – co-leading scorer in 2014 World Cup qualifying across all confederations alongside Luis Suárez and Robin van Persie – now plays for the Atlanta Silverbacks of the NASL and has previously been on trial with the Portland Timbers and Columbus Crew.