FC Dallas (FCD) begins play in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) knock-out rounds when they face Panamanian side FC Tauro in Panama City on Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m. CST. The return leg of the series will be played in Frisco on Wednesday, February 28.
Updated February 21 with a link to an mlssoccer.com preview that includes projected starting lineups
This tournament will be the 10th edition under its current name and the 53rd version of the regional (North/Central America and the Caribbean) club competition organized by CONCACAF. The winner will qualify as the region’s representative at the FIFA Club World Cup to be played in the United Arab Emirates in December. The team that knocked FC Dallas out of the competition last year and ultimately were CCL champions, Mexico’s C.F. Pachuca, did not qualify to participate this year.
The CCL tournament went through a major restructuring for the 2017-2018 competition. In previous years all clubs participated in group stage matches in the fall, with the group stage winners advancing to the knock-out rounds in the winter/spring of the next year. In the structure of the current tournament, fifteen of the participants are automatic qualifiers to the knock-out rounds based on their domestic play. The final team is Honduran side Olimpia, the winners of last fall’s CONCACAF League, a qualifying tournament played only among Central American and Caribbean CONCACAF sides. As a result, no MLS teams from the United States and Canada, including FCD, were involved in the group stage round last fall. In addition to FC Dallas, other 2018 MLS CCL participants are Seattle Sounders, New York Red Bulls, Colorado Rapids and Toronto FC (as the Canadian champion).
FC Dallas will be looking to improve upon their 2016/17 results, when they were painfully eliminated at the semifinal stage in Mexico by Pachuca on a late goal during the second-leg. A two-legged 5-2 aggregate victory over another Panamanian club, Arabe Unido, allowed FCD to advance to the semifinals last year.
Seeding for the tournament was based on a complicated formula which created a CONCACAF Club Index. Teams were assigned Round of 16 slots based on the on-field performance of the teams that have occupied the respective qualifying slots they occupy in the previous five editions of the competition. Based on this draw, FC Dallas knows that if they win the series against FC Tauro, they will advance to play the winner of the match between Costa Rica’s Saprissa and Mexico’s Club America in the quarterfinal round in March. The tournament semifinal and final two-legged series will be played in April.
As is always the case in this tournament, FC Dallas faces a competitive disadvantage in the opening round based on the fact that their opponents have been playing regular season matches since January, whereas the MLS sides are still in preseason. FC Tauro is off to a slow start this season (2-4-1-10 points) in the Panamanian league and sits in sixth place 7 points behind current leaders Arabe Unido. Tauro defeated Chorillo F.C. 2-1 at home last Saturday. FC Dallas midfielder Kellyn Acosta, who starred in the 2017 competition, is nursing a groin injury and is questionable to play Wednesday. The temperature is projected to be clear, humid and roughly 70 degrees at game time.
There is no cable TV English language coverage of the CCL this year. The English language broadcast rights were just picked up by Verizon’s go90 streaming platform which is free of charge in the U.S. It will also be streamed on Univision Deportes
FC Tauro and FC Dallas have a history in the CCL. In 2011 Tauro drew 1-1 in the first group stage fixture and then ran up a 5-1 lead before finishing a 5-3 victory in the home fixture.
One thing to remember….last year FC Dallas did not have Mauro Diaz during their CCL run. This year he is healthy and looks like he is ready to resume his difference maker role.
No MLS club has ever won the Champions League. As the league continues to improve, especially with the impact of Targeted Acquisition spending now being felt on 2018 rosters, will this be the year?
Image credit: mlssoccer.com
Historical background information credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2018_CONCACAF_Champions_League