After two matches by each team in Group B of the CONCACAF Champions League, the Colorado Rapids lead Group B with four points from two matches. This is an unlikely scenario, given the fact that Mexican teams traditionally dominate this competition. However, Santos Laguna have struggled domestically and in the CCL this season. The "smaller clubs" Isidro Metapán and Real España have shown from the start that they are taking this tournament seriously and will most likely fight to the death to reach the knockout rounds of the tournament.
Colorado can thank Jeff Larentowicz for his goal in Honduras that would eventually share the spoils with Real España at Estadio Francisco Morazán. The "ginger ninja" has been solid in central midfield this season and also played in both CONCACAF matches as well. He was recently rewarded with a call-up to the United States National Team by USA head coach Jürgen Klinsmann.
Group B has proven to be a tight affair so far, with Colorado on top with 4 points and +1 on goal differential. Isidro Metapán are in second with three points and +1 on GD. Santos Laguna also have 3 points but are -1 on GD and Real España are in last place with a mere point and -1 on GD. Please note that goal differential is the tiebreaker should there be equal points between teams.
The opening fixtures saw Colorado Rapids defeat Metapán 3-2 at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in a match that had drama from start to finish. Mac Kandji proved to be the hero as the Senegal forward scored two goals. Santos Laguna opened their campaign with a hard-earned 3-2 win in Mexico at Estadio Corona over Real España. When Colorado earned a 1-1 draw with Real España, Santos Laguna suffered a shock 2-0 defeat at Estadio Jorge Calero Suárez in El Salvador to Isidro Metapán.
It is true that many Mexican teams rest a lot of their starters for these CONCACAF matches. Mexican clubs have dominated the competition but also do not want to risk dropping points in the Mexican League. In Mexico, there are two seasons in one year: an apertura, and a clausura. These literally mean "opening" and "closing." A season in Mexico features 17 matches, since there are 18 clubs in the top division. Then there are the Mexican playoffs, In which the top 8 clubs qualify.
Santos Laguna are currently 11th in the Mexican Apertura Table, with a record of 2-2-2. Colorado Rapids are currently 4th in the Western Conference Standings of MLS. However, they are only two points ahead of Real Salt Lake, and the Utah club has four games in hand over the Rapids. The Eastern Conference has struggled this season but the Rapids are still looking to lock up a playoff spot in the crowded Western Conference.
While MLS clubs are starting to have more depth in their squads, Rapids head coach Gary Smith will likely be forced to rest regulars like Pablo Mastroeni, Omar Cummings, Marvell Wynne, Brian Mullan, Drew Moor, and Matt Pickens. However, the next CONCACAF match for Colorado will be against Santos Laguna on September 13th at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. This is a crucial home game and could go a long way in determining Colorado's hunt for a place in the knockout round. One should expect to see a lot of starters in this match against Santos Laguna.
Group B has proved so far that it is one of the toughest groups in the 2011-2012 edition of the CONCACAF Champions League. Mexican clubs do not go down easily, while MLS clubs are undefeated so far against Mexican and Central American opposition. If Colorado can take maximum points at home from Santos Laguna, they could possibly be in the driver's seat for the remainder of the group stage. Dick's Sporting Goods Park will be the place to be on Tuesday, September 13th.