CONCACAF Champions League: DC United get their chance to repeat history | Group 4 Preview

Fabian Espindola, DC United

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USA TODAY Sports Images

This is the Group 4 preview as the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League gets underway on Aug. 5-7. For comprehensive CONCACAF Champions League coverage, bookmark this page.


D.C. United (USA) | HOW QUALIFIED: 2013 US Open Cup Champions | PREVIOUS BEST: Group Stage (Most Recent: 2009-10); Winners, 1998 CONCACAF Champions' Cup

Tauro FC (PAN) | HOW QUALIFIED: 2013 Apertura Champions | PREVIOUS BEST: Group Stage (Most Recent: 2012-13)

Waterhouse FC (JAM) | HOW QUALIFIED: 2014 CFU Club Championship Group 2 winners | PREVIOUS BEST: First appearance in current format


DAVID AND GOLIATH

D.C. United are the clear favorites on paper, and one of only two MLS teams to have captured a North American title, when they won the 1998 CONCACAF Champions' Cup. They should be able to roll past Waterhouse, though the Houston Dynamo's near-loss to Trinidadian side W Connection last year should serve as a cautionary tale for trips to the Caribbean. Tauro FC should pose a bigger challenge for D.C., but perhaps not as much as some of the other Central American teams in this year's competition.

SCHEDULE

Date/Time (ET) Home Away Venue
August 7 | 10 PM Tauro FC Waterhouse FC Estadio Rommel Fernández
August 20 | 8 PM D.C. United Waterhouse FC RFK Stadium
August 28 | 8 PM Waterhouse FC Tauro FC Independence Park
September 16 | 8 PM Waterhouse FC D.C. United RFK Stadium
September 24 | 8 PM D.C. United Tauro FC RFK Stadium
October 23 | 10 PM Tauro FC D.C. United Estadio Rommel Fernández

STAR POWER

Fabián Espíndola, D.C. United: Few, if any, players on the D.C. roster are as suited to the rigors of continental competition as Espindola, a veteran of three CCL campaigns with Real Salt Lake, including their run to the 2010-11 final, and the first goalscorer in Copa Libertadores history for his previous club, Venezuela's Deportivo Anzoátegui. Though recently injured, he will be back for United prior to the start of their CCL campaign and figures to be a key player should they make a deep run in the tournament, considering his strong pre-injury form (seven goals, eight assists in 15 appearances).

Luis Moreno, Tauro FC: If Tauro are to shock D.C. United, they will need to do it on the back of a strong defensive effort, which is where Moreno comes in. A 33-year-old center back with extensive experience playing in his native Panama and in Colombia, he also captains the team.

Curiously, he was the subject of controversy while playing in Colombia when he kicked an injured owl – an opposing team's unofficial mascot – that had landed on the field during a game. The owl later died as a result of shock from the incident, and Moreno was handed a two-match ban, fine, and made to perform community service at a local zoo.

X-FACTOR

D.C. have been given a pretty favorable schedule with this draw. They have an early home game against Waterhouse, the surest bet for three points in this group, then play out the final three games of the group, leaving their fate very much in their own hands.

What amounts to a home-and-away series with Tauro will be critical, though, and D.C. will have to be wary of suffering a similar outcome as last year's Houston Dynamo, who lost a farcical 1-0 game on a final-day trip to Panama against Árabe Unido. United can avoid a similar outcome by taking care of business early

MLS/US CONNECTIONS

Former D.C. United midfielder Marcos Sánchez is currently owned by Tauro FC, but on loan at Venezuela's Deportivo Táchira … Left back Carlos Rodríguez (FC Dallas) and forward Ricardo Phillips (New England Revolution) are two more former MLS players who have also played for Tauro … Onandi Lowe, former Kansas City forward, played for Waterhouse and is the father of Seattle Sounders rookie defender Damion Lowe.

CAN D.C. UNITED WIN IT ALL?

When D.C. qualified for this edition of the CCL despite a historically bad season, no one gave them a chance against some of North America’s best. Things can change a lot in a year, though, and United are now riding high in the Eastern Conference. With a core of veteran players, many of whom have experience in this competition, getting out of the group stage should be the minimum expectation.

And though the knockout rounds are a different proposition entirely, United have done a good job of building out their roster – so long as they have a stable offseason, a deep run and another chance at history should be a realistic goal.