17 June 2008

Yes, the Champions League Draw is Relatively Tough. Relatively.

The CONCACAF Champions League groups have been chosen, and neatly summarized by Mr. Bueno at Sideline Views. Over at MLSNet, it is summarized as "D.C. United has been given perhaps the toughest test of Major League Soccer's teams in the group stage..." And yes, the schedule contains some nasty fixtures. But, while it is a tough draw compared to some of the other groups, this is not an impossible mountain to climb.

Let's engage in premature expectation setting. Two of the four teams in United's group will advance, and let's assume the following:

  • Cruz Azul will qualify into the group.
  • The Honduran teams are pretty much interchangeable with El Salvador (though it will probably be more difficult to win in El Salvador)
  • United is playing in form closer to that of the last four games of this season than the first four games.
Given that scenario, I think that 11 points would easily be enough to get out of the group stage. I also think that United, in form, is probably at par with top Mexican teams, and Cruz Azul is one small step below that talent level. Checking the schedule, and assuming some not so fortunate results, and I think we can get
  • United : Saprissa = Draw
  • Honduras/El Salvador : United = Draw
  • United : Cruz Azul = Win
  • Saprissa : United = Loss
  • Cruz Azul : United = Loss
  • United : Honduras / El Salvador = Win
That's 8 points right there, which depending on other results still sees United though but most likely United would need a few more to make it up. Any places United could pick up three points? Sure, I think United should be expected to win against Saprissa at RFK, should have a decent shot at winning in Honduras, and could pick up a point in Mexico. If all went United's way, that's five more points right there. If all those results went our way, 13 points would probably be enough to win the group, as I don't see any team getting to 15 points easily at all. United could also drop some points against Cruz Azul at home and still see a path through.

It's also, I think, a very good thing that the first game is Saprissa at home. Before any yellow card peril is considered, that result will certainly shape the rest of the matches. A draw is not disastrous, a win would put United ahead of the game, and a loss makes things difficult, but at least clarifies the matter early enough to shape tactical considerations.

So all in all, I'm hopeful about this draw, and given that regardless of what has happened this season, this team was built to compete internationally, this is a competition we must expect our team to advance in.

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3 Comments:

At 17 June, 2008 14:06, Anonymous Jeremy said...

I am confident in the team again, but guardedly so. I feel that it is safe to hope that the offense will continue to develop and hopefully there will be no late season drop offs like there have been in past years.

However, without defense, I don't see us making it through the first round. The defense has definitely improved. I no longer expect a goal off of every set piece. However, unless the team manages a few clean sheets between now and September, my hope is severely limited.

 
At 18 June, 2008 12:09, Blogger The Northern Virginia Conservative said...

A win at home over Saprissa is a must if we even want to THINK about winning the Champions League. While we're on that subject, we need to win all three home games.

 
At 19 June, 2008 09:35, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Use the games as practice games , concentrate on mid-field creativity and develop a few good men for next year , this year is toast...........

 

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