After looking back on a season filled with highs and lows the only thing to do now is look forward to next season. Atlanta United will begin its year early, competing once again in the Concacaf Champions League. With all competing teams already decided we can begin to look at who Atlanta might draw when the names are picked on December 9.
A total of 16 teams representing eight nations will compete in the 12th edition of the tournament, four from the United States (LAFC, NYCFC, Atlanta United, Seattle Sounders), four from Mexico (Club América, Tigres UANL, Cruz Azul, León), one from Canada (Montreal Impact), two from Costa Rica (Saprissa, San Carlos), one from El Salvador (Alianza), one from Guatemala (Communicaciones), two from Honduras (Motagua, Olimpia), and one from Jamaica (Portmore United).
These teams will be separated into two pots and are unable to be drawn against a side from the same association, with León being the only exception. The closer the draw gets the more attention will be placed on the eight potential opponents Atlanta could find themselves playing against in the new year.
It could give the Five Stripes a better understanding of their competition and what the more favorable draw might be in considering how each side qualified for the tournament and where they stand in their respective leagues at the time of writing (Nov. 5).
León qualified for the tournament by finishing as runners-up in the Liga MX Clausura 2019. This will mark León’s 2nd appearance in the Champions League and first since the 2014-2015 season when the side failed to make it past the group stage. The side currently sits in sixth place with three more games to play in the Apertura 2019 tournament. The club has the second-best offense in the league having scored 32 in 16 matches.
One of six sides to qualify via the Concacaf League, San Carlos earned their spot by finishing 5th overall in the competition. This will mark the side’s first appearance in the Champions League. The Northern Bulls are currently fourth in the Costa Rican Primera División with one game left to play in the Apertura 2019. The side is tied for third most goals allowed, conceding 35 in 21 fixtures.
Staying in Costa Rica, the second club to qualify from the nation is Deportivo Saprissa. The side qualified via the Concacaf League as a finalist and will play the first leg of the final tomorrow against Motagua. Saprissa is currently second in the domestic league, which is the highest the side can finish as they are 12 points behind first place side Alajuelense with just two games left to play. Saprissa is experienced in the competition as this will mark their 9th appearance, even reaching the semifinals in 2011 where they lost to MLS side Real Salt Lake.
The other Concacaf League finalist will make its fifth appearance in the Champions League after reaching the final in their 3-0 victory over Alianza last Thursday. The side’s last appearance in the tournament was in 2018 when they lost to Club Tijuana in the first round. Motagua hasn’t been as lethal in league play as they sit third in Liga Nacional and are winless in three league games with two left to play.
This side is no stranger to the Champions League having appeared in the competition 11 times. The Lions have qualified for the tournament as one of the semifinalists in the Concacaf League. Olimpia was knocked out of the tournament by Saprissa who overcame a 2-0 defeat in the first leg to reach the final. Saprissa’s 4-1 victory was Olimpia’s first loss in nine matches in all competitions. The side is first in Liga Nacional with the defense being their biggest strength as they have conceded the fewest goals in the league, just 10 in 16 games.
El Salvador’s representing side qualified for the Champions League by finishing 4th overall in the Concacaf League. The side is currently first in the Salvadoran Primera División with five games left to play in the leagues Apertura 2019 tournament. The side has the best defense in the league, 13 goals conceded in 17 games, and is tied for most goals scored with 29. Alianza’s biggest weakness is their ability to play on the road. The side lost three of their four away games in the Concacaf League with the only victory being a 1-0 win in the preliminary round, which was also the only goal they scored while on the road in the tournament.
The Guatemalan club earned qualification to the Champions League by finishing 6th overall in the Concacaf League, losing out in the quarterfinals to Olimpia. This will mark their 6th appearance in the champions league and first since the 2015-16 season when they reached the quarterfinals. Comunicaciones is in first place with six games left to play in the Liga Nacional de Guatemala Apertura 2019. The club leads the league in goals scored and is tied with two other sides for fewest goals conceded, 15 from 16 matches.
Another side making its Champions League debut is Jamaican side Portmore United. The side qualified for the tournament by winning the 2019 Concacaf Caribbean Club Championships in May. The club has since struggled, currently sitting ninth in the National Premier League and hasn’t scored in three games heading into Sunday’s fixture against first place side Waterhouse. With a 3-2-5 record from 10 games, the side has conceded 12 goals in that time and are tied for the fewest goals scored with 7.
The draw to decide Round of 16 fixtures will be held on December 9th. One of these sides will surely come under the microscope once the fixtures are decided and Atlanta finds out exactly who they will be playing. No matter what team Atlanta is drawn against, the side will need to prepare accordingly having learned from the previous campaign not to underestimate any side.
Which team would you want Atlanta to play in the first round?
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A.D. San Carlos
Portmore United F.C.