CCL 2014-15: Group 4 Preview – DC United, Tauro FC & Waterhouse FC

The tournament had a different name and a different format - but Ben Olsen has won of these CONCACAF club title. (mlssoccer.com)

The tournament had a different name and a different format – but Ben Olsen and DC United have won a CONCACAF club title in the past. (mlssoccer.com)

Austin Fido continues his hunt for CCL upsets with a preview of the 2014-15 edition’s Group 4…

For a brief guide to how CONCACAF Champions League works, and a preview of this year’s Group 1, go here. And this link will take you to some friendly advice for MLS clubs competing in CCL.

OTF also has previews of Group 2 and Group 3.

But this post is about Group 4: the one featuring last year’s worst MLS team, DC United – now this year’s pre-tournament favorite to get the highest quarterfinal seed of any MLS club in CCL.

Let’s explore the method to the apparent madness of that statement…

Bulls and Fire? DC's CCL group is an animated  Chicago sports metaphor. (bitacoradeportiva.net)

Bulls, Fire and is that an eagle or a black hawk? This CCL group is a Chicago sports metaphor. (bitacoradeportiva.net)

Group 4: D.C. United, Tauro FC, Waterhouse FC

DCUnitedUS Open Cup winner, DC United was the first team from MLS to qualify for this tournament – and the worst. But the memory of last year’s epic awfulness has faded as the club’s 2014 iteration has gradually asserted itself as one of the better sides in MLS this year.

It is not an astonishing reversal: MLS is structured to allow teams to bounce back in this way; DC was the third-best team in the league and a playoff contender as recently as 2012. Nonetheless, after just 16 points in 2013, few would have predicted the club would be back to third in MLS by the 20th game of its 2014 season.

The relative success poses a positive problem for Ben Olsen: does he chase an MLS Eastern Conference title (and another CCL berth) with full vigor, or hold something back for the CCL group stage?

Almost certainly, he’ll opt to play his reserves in CCL – MLS teams tend to find it all but impossible to resist the urge for league glory, and are rarely criticized too heavily for any slip-ups in the regional tournament that may result.

Tauro_FCAnd Olsen will also have noted he’s been gifted arguably the easiest group in this year’s CCL. Tauro FC hasn’t been particularly good since it won the Panamanian Apertura in 2013 and qualified for this tournament.

Los Toros de Pedregal are regulars in CCL (this is their fifth appearance in seven editions of this format) but have never progressed beyond the group stage. They finished outside the playoff places in the 2014 Clausura, and have kicked off this season with one point and no goals from two games. (Their third game of the season is on 8/2, five days before they commence CCL action.)

The three Tauro players of greatest recent reputation – Panamanian internationals Carlos Rodríguez, Leonel Parris and Marcos Sánchez (himself a former DC United player) – are all long gone. There have been several new recruits acquired during the off season, but they are the likes of Cristian Lopez, a playmaker from the Colombian lower leagues, and Felix Gondola and Alejandro Velez, who were both part of Árabe Unido’s CCL squad last year.

In other words, there is no immediately apparent boost to the overall quality of the squad; an opinion supported by the team’s slow start to its domestic season.

Waterhouse_FCJamaica’s Waterhouse FC might have one of the best crests in world football, let alone CCL 2014-15.

Footballing rather than artistic merit, however, won it the Red Stripe Premier League regular season title last season, though it lost the playoff final to Montego Bay United.

Still, the team carried its league form to Haiti for the Caribbean Football Union Club Championship, winning all three of its group matches by a combined score of 10-1. Waterhouse advanced as one of the three group winners in the CFU tournament.

The problem for Waterhouse FC is similar to that faced by the Trinidadian representatives in last year’s CCL: a lack of competitive football. The Jamaican league wrapped up in May and isn’t expected to start again until September. So Waterhouse will have played most, if not all, of its CCL group games before it kicks off its domestic season.

The team features a few players who have appeared in recent Jamaica national team squads, most notably goalkeeper Richard McCallum, and midfielders Romario Campbell and Hughan Gray. But it is hard to rank a basically semi-pro team still in pre-season as anything other than makeweights in this group.

Jermaine Anderson (left) moved to El Salvador's CD Aguila last season, but Richard McCallum and Romario Campbell are still Waterhouse men. (jamaicaobserver.com)

Jermaine Anderson (left) moved to El Salvador’s CD Aguila last season, but Richard McCallum and Romario Campbell are still Waterhouse men. (jamaicaobserver.com)

Group 4 Upset Outlook: LOW

On paper, this is the best chance any MLS team has to collect maximum points from the group stage and a high seed for the knockout rounds. DC is flying in MLS; Tauro is off to a slow start in Panama; Waterhouse hasn’t started at all in Jamaica.

The question is not so much whether DC United can advance but whether it can get 12 points, a decent goal difference, and home advantage for the quarterfinals (at least).

A glance at recent history, however, does offer a cautionary tale. Last year, Houston Dynamo was in a group with a middling Panamanian team and a Caribbean club that was coming into CCL cold (Trinidad’s W Connection). And the Dynamo tripped up.

Houston dropped points on its trip to Trinidad, and despite the early indication that its reserves might not be able to get it done, stuck with the second-string for the final group stage game in Panama. Árabe Unido won the match and the group.

So despite the advantages of mid-season form, a relatively settled squad, and a couple of under-cooked opponents, Ben Olsen might want to put a little more into CCL than Dominic Kinner did last year.

Like Kinnear, he will be able to scout his opponents, who play each other in the opening game of the group. But, also like the Dynamo, DC United must travel to Panama for its final match.

Group 4 looks set up to be a shoot-out between Tauro and DC United. Both teams will play their matches against Waterhouse first. Both teams should expect to win those games. And then they will play each other in what looks a lot like a two-legged playoff for the quarterfinal.

DC is the runaway favorite to win the group. But the lesson of last year’s CCL should be clear to this year’s MLS teams: just getting out of the groups is not sufficient; a high seed and home advantage for the quarterfinal ought to be the priority for a team hoping to challenge Liga MX’s domination of the latter stages of the tournament.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

DC United: Michael Seaton

 (dcunited.com)

Back from Richmond in time to play in Kingston? (dcunited.com)

He’s played more games and scored more goals for his country than for DC United in MLS, but Seaton was only signed last year and turned 18 in May of this year.

The young Jamaican’s recent appearance on DC United’s bench suggests he may not necessarily spend the entire season on loan to Richmond Kickers in USL Pro. DC’s CCL schedule includes a trip to Jamaica, and if Olsen is going to play his reserves in CCL, the least he can do is let one of the region’s emerging internationals have a run at the league champions of his home country.

Tauro FC: José Luis Garcés

(concacaf.com)

Say what you like about CCL, it’s got to be better than prison (concacaf.com)

Tauro’s slump in the second half of last season was attributable to a lack of goal scoring, and several of the club’s new signings are attacking players. The well-traveled Garcés hasn’t really been prolific for almost a decade, and he’s had some issues since returning to Panama in 2011 – the sort of issues that result in jail time

But he’s an experienced forward, who has played for his country and for clubs in Uruguay, Bulgaria, Portugal and Saudia Arabia. Be it as mentor to Tauro’s young attacking players or as the man who scores the goals himself, he is the veteran presence up front the club is clearly hoping will get the team scoring again.

Waterhouse FC: Romario Campbell

(jamaicaobserver.com)

Every Champions League could use a Romario (jamaicaobserver.com)

His name would suggest his parents were, at the very least, football fans. The midfielder caught the eye of Winfried Schäfer last year, and the Reggae Boyz coach made special effort to improve the player’s fitness regimen. The national team manager has repeatedly criticized the standards of the domestic game for holding back player development.

Campbell is 24, featuring again in national team squads, and CCL should be an opportunity for him to advertise himself to bigger clubs than exist in Jamaica.

Group 4, Matchday 1: August 7 – Tauro vs. Waterhouse – 9:00 pm (Chicago time)

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OTF’s Austin Fido will get progressively more excited about CCL @canetop. Follow him.

7 thoughts on “CCL 2014-15: Group 4 Preview – DC United, Tauro FC & Waterhouse FC

  1. Pingback: CCL 2014-15: Group 5 Preview – Alpha United, Olimpia & Portland Timbers | OTF Soccer

  2. Another excellent review by Mr. Fido. Yet his first class analysis and writing skills seem wasted on such an apparently lowly exercise in futbol obscurity.

    I’ve noticed that every time I see an MLS team in this “tournament” I feel dirty and shamed – no matter the result. I’ve heard of guys that hit on their kid sister’s friends when she is not around – that kind of dirty. Just wrong to it – no matter the result.

    Consequently I now think the proper attitude toward this “tournament” is the one mentioned in the piece: “Send the ‘B’ team and don’t bother us – we have a real game to play this week.”

    I suspect that if I owned an MLS franchise I would petition the league to withdraw from sending any representatives at all.

    Furthermore, I would ask the USSF to force the NASL to provide two “championship” caliber squads (or some facsimile thereof) with the “honor” of going to some of these God forsaken localities to compete.

    Furthermore I would even have the MLS pick up the price tag for new kits for our NASL representatives as an inducement (or bribe) for taking on this particular chore.

    No adverting would be allowed on the kits (of course) and only gaudy, poor fitting, color clashing kits would be a prerequisite. I believe the NASL already requires this of all it’s members so we only would have to pay to rip off the corporate whore logos. What a bargain!

    The American art community could also be enticed to participate by holding a national contest for an appropriate logo for each of our reps. Again the NASL does this already but the current contest rules would have to be expanded as they are limited to color blind, visually handicapped and/or long term unemployed advertising executives.

    I am sure Mr. Fido will agree – if we all work together – we can make things better. Maybe one day (I’m dreamin’ big here folks) we may be able to entice a large corporate sponsor (like Folger’s or Hill’s Brothers) to pay us millions to change the name of the whole tournament to the CON-DECAF tournament and trophy.

    Yes, the more I think about it – the more I like my idea. The NASL is the perfect partner for this tournament. The ugly logos, the lack of color coordinated kits, the poorly attended matches with appropriately poorly lit pitches and the amateurish presentation all scream (at least to me): NASL!!

    Excuse me but all this tournament talk is making me feel dirty again. I have to go take a shower now.

  3. Say it ain’t so, Coach!

    You know I love CCL with an entirely age-appropriate passion. The region and each of its member states needs a tournament to channel the best of its various leagues into competition with each other. It’s the essence of the sport: is my team better than your team?

    We lose that and we start down the road of three or four misshapen superclubs lumbering around the world, taking turns to let each other win and telling us we should be happy cos this is the best the sport will ever be.

    No! The best sport can ever be is when – like last year’s CCL – we get a bunch of amped-up Panamanian teenagers taking it to a team of better paid, more experienced professionals and making ’em sweat and squeal at the sheer insolence of having their noses tweaked by a bunch of meddling, play-acting kids.

    And we remember the beauty of the game is it’s just 22 guys and a ball. And maybe, just maybe, that kid from Colon, or Cartago, or Colorado, is better than anyone realized.

    One day, we’ll get the CCL we want: more evenly matched teams from the start, and the sense that everyone involved thinks its a worthwhile tournament.

    Sure, right now it’s too often lopsided and skewed by the fact no one takes it all that seriously until the end. And all the teams that don’t make it to the end just make out they didn’t care in the first place, like sullen teenagers badmouthing a party they weren’t invited to.

    Don’t quit on CCL! It will get…well, you know I certainly can’t make any promises. Maybe we can meet halfway until things even out and it becomes a more open competition?

    Let’s petition MLS for tasteful, color-coordinated, sponsor-free, CCL-exclusive kits.

    That CON-DECAF idea is inspired. That should happen – maybe as a b-grade tournament for the teams knocked out in the first round. Whatever it takes just to make that name a real thing that people say and write.

    Don’t turn your back, Coach! CCL needs you.

  4. I think I understand the concept of the whole tournament thing. But I have to agree with coach Bob. There is no point to competition if your “A” team beats my “B” team. What does that prove?

    Besides the present gaudy and not ready for prime-time presentation is needlessly long and drawn out.

    I would suggest that Mr. Fido be placed in charge of developing a better tournament concept and finding appropriate corporate donors for the Con-DECAF cup.

    Yes I also agree with Mr. Fido – the DECAF cup is an inspired idea whose time has come!

    • If my “A” team beats your “B” team, it suggests to me you should have sent your “A” team. This is one of my pet peeves with MLS in the tournament: sending reserves, losing or getting into sub-optimal situations in the knockout rounds, and then complaining it’s too hard to compete just doesn’t compute for me.

      Liga MX sides cruise a little bit, but not as much as some would like to believe – and they simply have a much higher quality of reserve than any MLS teams. And the rest of the region is trying as best it can – despite the disadvantage of not only being generally weaker, but having to wade into groups against better equipped MLS and Liga MX opponents without much playing time under their belts.

      Not sure I have many better ideas for how to improve the tournament concept right now – but I am wholeheartedly in support of CON-DECAF. Mr. Suarez has coined a term that needs a wider audience.

  5. Mr. Fido please do not get preoccupied with what I think. I’m glad you are so motivated and involved with this tournament. Someone needs to bring these tournaments and/or events into the public arena.

    So keep at it and I will continue to follow and try to get more educated … but some things are just harder than others.

    Besides I have enough grief just following the Fire …

    • It’s the nature of respect, sir – one gets preoccupied with the opinions of those one has respect for.

      Thanks for the encouragement. Our little CCL is deeply flawed in many ways, but it’s ours and hopefully it starts to improve itself as more pay attention to it and give thought to how it can be advanced.

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