Soccer  > General Soccer  > Cruz Azul tops Group A favorites
August 16, 2010, 05:46 PM
Twice halted from climbing the final step, is this the year Cruz Azul finally breaks through and wins the CONCACAF Champions League?

Los Cementeros, which lost to Mexican rivals Atlante and Pachuca in the finals of the first two installments, will first need to get out of the Group Stage, which isn't the easiest task in Group A.

Enrique Meza's men, who qualified as Mexican Apertura runners-up and crushed Panama's San Francisco 9-2 on aggregate in the Preliminary Round, are favorites to advance to the knockout stage.

But Cruz Azul, which is led by Mexican stalwart midfielder Gerardo Torrado, occasional El Tri defender Fausto Pinto and Argentine striker Emanuel Villa, will have plenty of competition.

There are two Major League Soccer teams in the group, including the defending champion Real Salt Lake, which is making its CONCACAF Champions League debut. After winning its first MLS Cup, Real Salt Lake is proving its success in November wasn't a fluke.

With U.S. internationals Kyle Beckerman and Robbie Findley, Canadian standout Will Johnson and Costa Rican national team veteran Alvaro Saborio, RSL is in second place in the Western Conference with the third best record in the league.

They'll face a familiar foe in Toronto FC, which defeated Motagua from Honduras in a Preliminary Round series 3-2 on aggregate. Chad Barrett was the hero of the aggregate series, scoring a pair of goals, including the clincher in Tegucigalpa. TFC, which sits in third place in the Eastern Conference, is led by Canadian internationals Dwayne De Rosario and Julian de Guzman and recently added Spanish striker Mista, who spent the last two years at Deportivo La Coruna in La Liga.

After Tauro and San Francisco lost in the Preliminary Round, Arabe Unido will carry the Panamanian flag in the Group Stage. The Apertura 2009 and Clausura 2010 winner, Arabe Unido is making its second consecutive Champions League appearance after being ousted in the quarterfinals by Cruz Azul last year.

Coached by Colombian Richard Parra, La Furia Colonense features a roster almost exclusively Panamanian, including national team regulars Orlando Rodriguez, Jose Calderon, Reinaldo Anderson and Luis Jaramillo.

Action in Group A begins Tuesday with Toronto hosting Cruz Azul, and a day later Real Salt Lake will be home against Arabe Unido. The group stage will consist of six rounds and will conclude in October. The top two teams in each of the four groups advance to the quarterfinals.


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