This is the first group preview as we approach the kickoff to the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League on August 5. For comprehensive CONCACAF Champions League coverage, bookmark this page.
Pachuca | HOW QUALIFIED: 2014 Clausura Runners-up | PREVIOUS BEST: Winners (2010)
Municipal | HOW QUALIFIED: Runners-up with best aggregate record in in 2013-14 season | PREVIOUS BEST: Group Stage (Most Recent: 2012)
Real Espana | HOW QUALIFIED: 2013 Apertura Champions | PREVIOUS BEST: Group Stage (Most Recent: 2011)
DAVID AND GOLIATH
Pachuca come into the CONCACAF Champions League, but not as high as they could have been after earning a place in the 2014 Clausura finals in Liga MX behind star striker Enner Valencia. The problem is that Valencia no longer plays for Pachuca, having transferred to West Ham United in the English Premier League following the World Cup.
Despite that blow, Pachuca should be the overwhelming favorite to get out of Group 1 and move on to the knockout rounds. The club takes the CCL seriously, as evidenced by their previous appearances in the competition. They won the 2009-10 CCL and won the previous incarnation of the tournament, the CONCACAF Champions' Cup, in 2007 and 2008.
The two other teams in the group are Municipal from Guatemala and Real España from Honduras. Both have failed to get out of the group in recent CCL appearances, so each will look to finally break through against a somewhat-weakened Mexican giant.
Pachuca should still cruise to the knockout rounds, but in each of the last two years there has been one Liga MX knocked out in the group stage. Will that happen in Group 1?
|August 6 | 8 PM||Pachuca||Real Espana||Estadio Hidalgo|
|August 21 | 10 PM||Real Espana||Municipal||Estadio Francisco Morazan|
|August 27 | 10 PM||Municipal||Pachuca||Estadio Mateo Flores|
|September 17 | 10 PM||Municipal||Real Espana||Estadio Mateo Flores|
|September 24 | 8 PM||Pachuca||Municipal||Estadio Hidalgo|
|October 22 | 10 PM||Real Espana||Pachuca||Estadio Francisco Morazan|
Jurgen Damm, M, Pachuca: The 21-year-old winger burst onto the scene after transferring to Pachuca last year. He was a regular starter, scoring three goals over the 2013-14 season. His play even caught the eye of an English Premier League team, as Chelsea made a rumored bid that was rejected by Pachuca.
The departure of Valencia could be a huge issue for Pachuca. His replacement, Ariel Nahuelpán, is more of a journeymen striker who has played for eight different teams since 2007. The scoring may have to come from Damm and another young attacker, this one even less experienced. Hirving Lozano made his Liga MX debut in February as an 18-year-old and ended up with 16 appearances in the Clausura (including playoffs). He scored in the final against Leon and will be counted to score more if Pachuca hope to advance.
The two non-Mexican teams both feature former MLS strikers, one more high profile than the other. Carlos Ruiz, the ninth all-time leading scorer in MLS, currently plays for Municipal, the club where he started his career. "El Pescadito" scored 88 goals over nine MLS seasons. Former Houston Dynamo striker and World Cup goalscorer Carlo Costly plays for Real España after stints in Greece and China.
US national teamer and 2010 World Cup veteran Jose Torres played for Pachuca from 2006 to 2012. Torres has registered more than 25 caps for the USMNT and was a member of the US team that won the 2013 Gold Cup. While with los Tuzos, he won three continental titles and one Liga MX title.