Thursday, September 29, 2011
Alajuela win sets up decisive finales
By Scott French
Alajuelense won its game Thursday night in the CONCACAF Champions League, surging to a three-point lead over the Galaxy and Morelia in Group A.
The Costa Rican champions' odds of reaching next year's knockout stage: not good.
The CCL's “group of death” has followed form throughout, and if next month's group finales continue the process, it's the Galaxy and Morelia which will be moving on to the quarterfinals.
Alajuela (4-1-0) edged visiting Motagua, 1-0, on Jonathan McDonald's first-half header and will need only a draw in its Oct. 18 showdown at Morelia to advance. The Galaxy moves on with a win Oct. 20 at Morelia, no matter what happens two days earlier.
The Galaxy (3-2-0), Morelia (3-2-0) and Alajuela have won every home game, and the Monarcas and La Liga won their games at Honduran champion Motagua (0-5-0). Morelia will be heavily favored to beat Alajuela, and the Galaxy might find the going easy in Honduras, with their foe focusing on domestic matters.
Motagua is one of just two of the 16 teams in the group stage that have been eliminated from contention -- Costa Rica's Herediano is the other.
Morelia could have clinched a quarterfinal berth with a draw Wednesday night at Home Depot Center, but Juninho scored from a corner kick in second-half stoppage to give the Galaxy a 2-1 victory. Had Juninho not scored -- or if it had been called back because Todd Dunivant, who wasn't active in the play, was in an offside position, Alajuelense's victory would have eliminated L.A.
If the Galaxy and Morelia win their final matches, all three leaders will have 12 points. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head results, and all three would be 2-2-0 in games among the three.
The Galaxy would advance with a plus-one goal difference, Morelia would get through on even or positive difference (depending on the scoreline against Alajuela), and Alajuelense would be eliminated with negative difference. L.A. would win the group if Morelia wins by one goal, overall goal difference -- which favors Morelia now -- would decide the group victor if Morelia wins by two, and Morelia would be No. 1 with a three-goal-or-better triumph.
Alajuela would win the group with a victory on Oct. 18, and then Galaxy would need only a draw at Motagua to finish second.
The Seattle Sounders and Mexico's Santos Laguna have clinched quarterfinal berths. A dozen teams are in the running for the last six spots.
1. Alajuelense (Costa Rica) 4-1-0 (7-4) 12 points
2. Morelia (Mexico) 3-2-0 (9-4) 9
3. Galaxy 3-2-0 (7-4) 9
4. Motagua (Honduras) 0-5-0 (2-13) 0
Tuesday, Oct. 18
Alajuelense at Morelia (Morelia, Mexico), 5 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 20
Galaxy at Motagua (Tegucigalpa, Honduras), 7 p.m.