Clubs ea­ger to get crack­ing af­ter glitzy SCCL draw in Mi­ami

Daily Observer (Jamaica) - - SPORT - — Sean Wil­liams

Fol­low­ing Mon­day evening’s glitzy draw event of the Sco­tia­bank Con­ca­caf Cham­pi­ons league (SCCL), clubs are al­ready ea­ger to get crack­ing.

The draw for the Round of 16, which was con­ducted live at the stu­dios of Con­ca­caf me­dia part­ner Univi­sion in Mi­ami, was to de­ter­mine the match-up for the first set of matches to start on Fe­bru­ary 19, next year, in the home-and-away knock­out tour­na­ment.

Caribbean cham­pi­ons, the Dominican Repub­lic’s Atletico Pan­toja, were drawn to face ei­ther New York Red Bulls or Port­land Tim­ber of Ma­jor League Soc­cer.

Fol­low­ing the 2018 Ma­jor League Soc­cer play-offs slated for to­mor­row, the po­si­tions of the Us-based MLS qual­i­fied teams for the SCCL will be fi­nalised.

Mean­while, Toronto FC, who lost in last year’s fi­nal in a dra­matic penalty shootout to Mex­ico’s CD Guadala­jara (pop­u­larly called Chivas), are de­ter­mined to go one bet­ter this year.

“We threw ev­ery­thing into it last year, we wanted to win it, we cer­tainly felt like we had a chance to win it and I think we’re go­ing to ap­proach it the same way again this year,” said As­sis­tant Coach Robin Fraser, who at­tended Mon­day’s draw.

“I think there are things that we’ll take away from last year that we’ll con­tinue to do and I think we’ll make ad­just­ments based on dif­fer­ent things, var­i­ous con­di­tions,” he added.

Fraser and his club are hun­gry for a slice of his­tory as no US Ma­jor League team has ever won the SCCL.

“This is some­thing that no MLS team has ever done be­fore and I think that’s some­thing that all the MLS teams in­volved are try­ing to be­come the first to do it,” noted Fraser.

The Canada club has been drawn to face Panama’s In­de­pen­di­ente, and manag­ing di­rec­tor of the Pana­ma­nian League Daniel Fer­nan­dez has high hopes of a good show­ing.

“This (qual­i­fy­ing for SCCL) is an in­di­ca­tion that our league is get­ting stronger… I think that In­de­pen­di­ente has been do­ing a very good job, so I ex­pect them to demon­strate their ca­pac­ity to sur­pass this chal­lenge and go to the sec­ond round, so let’s see what hap­pens,” he told the Ja­maica ob­server.

US Ma­jor League out­fit, Hous­ton Dy­namo, who have been out of the SCCL since 2013/14, is rel­ish­ing their re­turn.

“We had a goal this year of want­ing to win MLS Cup and the US Open Cup and we were for­tu­nate enough to win the Open Cup, which has us back in the Cham­pi­ons League.

““We are very ex­cited and we are al­ready pre­par­ing for it in terms of where the team needs to be and get­ting ready for that first game,” said as­sis­tant coach Davy Ar­naud.

Hous­ton will face Gu­atemala’s Guas­ta­toya in their Round of 16 tie and the Cen­tral Amer­i­can out­fit is de­lighted to be play­ing in a pres­ti­gious tour­na­ment as the SCCL.

“Af­ter the sus­pen­sion of Gu­atemala (by Fifa), we are very proud to be at this com­pe­ti­tion, and we hope to have a good play… thank God we are at a place where we are in in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion,” noted club ex­ec­u­tive of Guas­ta­toya Jahiro Ot­zoy.

Mean­while, Con­ca­caf gen­eral sec­re­tary Philippe Mog­gio un­der­lined the im­por­tance of the SCCL in the fed­er­a­tion’s club foot­ball port­fo­lio.

“This com­pe­ti­tion is very im­por­tant be­cause it is the top club com­pe­ti­tion in the re­gion… ev­ery club in Con­ca­caf as­pires to com­pete in it as it al­lows the op­por­tu­nity to go to the Fifa Club World Cup, the op­por­tu­nity to be Con­ca­caf cham­pion, so there is a lot at stake in this great com­pe­ti­tion,” he said.

“What’s more im­por­tant is that there is an en­tire plat­form for club com­pe­ti­tion in our re­gion, and that is not only the Cham­pi­ons League, it is also the Con­ca­caf League which gives the op­por­tu­nity for more Caribbean teams to com­pete.

“We also have the Caribbean Club Cham­pi­onship, which is a spe­cific com­pe­ti­tion for the Caribbean, plus the Caribbean Club Shield where more am­a­teur teams can com­pete, ob­vi­ously push­ing to be­come more pro­fes­sional… so we have de­vel­oped a sys­tem of com­pe­ti­tions that we be­lieve will help club com­pe­ti­tion in the re­gion to de­velop,” Mog­gio added.

Mon­day’s SCCL draw was con­ducted by Con­ca­caf’s Chief Foot­ball Of­fi­cer Manolo Zu­biria and for­mer Con­ca­caf stars, Mex­ico’s Moises Munoz and Panama’s Blas Perez.

Round of 16 match-ups Marathon (Hon­duras) vs San­tos La­guna (Mex­ico)

Pan­toja (Dom Rep) vs Red Bulls or Tim­bers (USA)

Saprissa (Costa Rica) vs UANL (Mex­ico)

Guas­ta­toya (Gu­atemala) vs Hous­ton Dy­namo (USA)

Sport­ing Kansas City (USA) vs Toluca (Mex­ico))

In­de­pen­di­ente (Panama) vs Toronto FC (Canada)

Here­di­ano (Costa Rica) vs At­lanta United FC (USA)

Alianza (El Sal­vador) vs Mon­ter­rey (Mex­ico)

(Photo: Con­ca­caf Me­dia)

Con­ca­caf’s Chief Foot­ball Of­fi­cer Manolo Zu­biria (left) and for­mer Panama striker Blas Perez par­tic­i­pate in the draw of the Sco­tia­bank Con­ca­caf Cham­pi­ons League at Univi­sion stu­dios in Mi­ami on Mon­day.

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