PREVIEW – The 2020 Concacaf Champions League knockout rounds kick off this week. Five MLS teams and four Liga MX teams are featured in the CCL Round of 16. With CCL Fever season coming and American Soccer fans eager to see which MLS team can challenge to win this tournament, we take a look at every MLS team’s CCL Round of 16 match up.
CCL Round of 16 Preview: Five MLS Teams Begin Season This Week
This article was a combined article written by various staff members of Last Word on Soccer.
Atlanta United FC vs F.C. Motagua
By Daniel Sperry
Atlanta United struggled from the outset of their first-ever CCL action in 2019, and with their current roster in as much flux as there is, don’t be surprised if they struggle. They start on the road, at Motagua, which is a big club from Honduras.
However, this isn’t one of those Central American sides full of players you’d recognize from Gold Cups and CCL past. It’s a team of a lot of unknowns. Only one player has experienced for the Honduran national team in the squad, and few have much experience outside of Honduras period. While that says a bit about the overall quality of Motagua, they’re certainly not a side to underestimate. Atlanta’s goal should be to come out of Honduras unscathed and at least even or within striking distance of Motagua.
After that, Atlanta United *should* be able to handle Motagua at home. Maybe by the second leg, they can get some of their new signings the proper visas to join the team. Until then, Atlanta is going to be thin to start the season. And while it may not affect the outcome of the first series, it will certainly affect them further down the road.
Club León vs Los Angeles FC
By Trebor Tracy
LAFC waste no time in getting the full Champion’s League experience. They make their CCL debut against Liga MX powerhouse, León. While LAFC wrapped up their preseason a week ago, León are currently in the middle of their Clasura campaign. Winners of three of their last five, this team will be in mid-season form. However, while this may be their first competitive match of the season, LAFC are a team ready to be let off leash.
With several players spending the last couple of months away on International duty, fitness won’t be a problem for Los Angeles. The biggest question going into this round will be defensively. After recently parting ways with both their starting goalkeeper Tyler Miller, and starting CB, Walker Zimmerman, the focus will be on LAFC’s ability to keep out goals. León have scored 11 goals over their last five matches, and will look to take advantage of a back-line that has yet to play a competitive match together.
However, León will be missing starting LB Yairo Moreno due to injury. Opening the door for Carlos Vela and company to exploit the left side of the León defense. Expect a fair amount of goals in this round. LAFC advance on aggregate 6-4.
Deportivo Saprissa vs Montreal Impact
By Jeremy Trudelle
After suffering yet another defeat in preseason at the hands of the almighty Tampa Bay Rowdies, it’s with little confidence that Montreal Impact is heading to San Juan de Tibàs, Costa Rica to face the local leaders; Deportivo Saprissa.
Even after 5 preseason games, there is very little things we know for sure about the Impact, not even the starting lineup and tactical formation. Will Henry want to go with a defensive mindset and so use a 4-4-2 diamond formation to compete with the very dense and technically skilled midfield of the Costa Rican side? Or will he prefer to try to score more goals by using Montreal’s typical 4-3-3 with one holding midfielder (the captain Samuel Piette)?
For me, we’ll see an Impact very compact defensively at least for the first half, to absorb the pressure. So, they will play with a diamond in midfield with 4 midfielders that will give a lot of energy in defense. To name them, Samuel Piette, Saphir Taider, Shamit Shome and Steeven Saba.
Will those four be able to contain Saprissa’s attack? Will the anemic offense be able to get a crucial goal away from home? Will Rod Fanni be able to lead the defense to a first clean sheet of the season? We’ll know by 10 p.m. Wednesday night.
A.D. San Carlos vs New York City FC
By Matt Pollard
New York City FC will play their first ever Concacaf Champions League match again A.D. San Carlos. San Carlos are not one of the Costa Rican’ regulars in this competition. In that, this matchup should favor NYCFC even though both teams are new to CCL.
The roster has changed very little from last year for first year manager Ronny Deila. The club will ironically be playing their home second leg at Red Bull Arena.
This match is pretty straight forward by MLS vs. non-Liga MX teams standards: Go away and get a result of any kind then let the attacking talent against a weaker opposition dominate at home. The only player on San Carlos with significant experience in this tournament is 37-year-old former RSL striker Alvaro Saborio. NYCFC on paper should have at least the top four players on the field talent wise.
Get a draw on the road and a multi-goal win at RBA should be the minimum expectation, even with a first year head coach and a new style of play.
C.D. Olimpia vs Seattle Sounders FC
By Rachael Kriger
Right now, the Sounders are figuring out who their starters are going to be. Leerdam, Nicolás Lodeiro, Jordan Morris and plenty of the returners from last year are a lock to start. With Smith gone, left back has been opened back up for Nouhou Tolo to take the reins. But, the Sounders have also experimented with slotting Jordy Delem and Joevin Jones in the position, who are both midfielders.
Delem made a case for himself with a strong 2019 campaign to become a starter. The Martinique native made 17 starts in 23 of his appearances, recording one assist and 1,439 minutes of action.
Seattle has a history of starting slow and finishing strong. For a team that has made the playoffs every year of their existence in MLS, you would think consistency should be in the Sounders blood. However, that’s been one of the club’s biggest issues. Now, Seattle needs to start their CCL campaign strong, with no faltering. CD Olimpia isn’t a household name club, but the Honduran side is physical and tough. Seattle needs to match that if they’re going to have a chance against guys like Ever Alvarado, Deybi Flores and Jonathan Paz.
Seattle and Olimpia will kick off on Thursday at Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. That match will begin at 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. EST.