In case you didn’t know, the CONCACAF Champions League was founded in 1962. The league includes 16 teams total from North America (Mexico, USA & Canada), the Caribbean, and Central America.
This year our very own Portland Timbers are heading one of the most impressive brackets we have seen in years. After a definite win against Marathon (Honduras) during the Round of 16, we can all agree the Portland Timbers are not “playing” around!
However, as much as this win has positioned the Portland Timbers into the first leg of the quarterfinals, it is not without some challenges ahead. They will be playing against the well-established Mexican Club – Las Aguilas del America.
As I looked at the bracket and thought of the importance of this game, I have to admit I knew I would need some help to give our readers an idea of what the Portland Timbers are about to face in tonight’s match.
Figuring out who to call on to help me with this piece was a no-brainer. There is not one person in this world that knows more about soccer than my very own father, Efren! To give you a little bit of history, my father is an avid soccer fan. He grew up playing in the streets of Hidalgo, Mexico, as millions of kids do around the world. However, unlike most kids, his love for soccer did not stop there.
In 1973 my father was selected to compete in the Mexican version of the well-known game show, “The 64,000 Question.” The topic? World Soccer History nonetheless.
The questions ranged from everything from player’s names to exact minute and second goals were scored. My father at that time was a full-time baker, husband, and father of six, and somehow he made time to study and get ready to compete.
He competed and reached the final stage of the game show. Once again, I knew if I wanted a clear picture of all of this, I had to ask him to help me out.
Now, mind you, as a Portlander and MLS fan, I know who the Portland Timbers are. As a lifetime soccer follower, I know who Las Aguilas del America is too.
But again, as a Portlander, I have admired the Timbers game from the sidelines, through interviews as well as from the comfort of a local Portland Pub with my fellow fans who, without a doubt, are known for being “hardcore.” Make no mistake, in Portland, we love soccer, and we love our Timbers very much!
With that said, the smart move here is to know who Las Aguilas del America Club is. And that’s where my father comes in. Having spent most of his life in Mexico City, the home of Las Aguilas del America Club, he is joining me to give you an insight into what tonight’s match will be about.
Efren: “Where to start… Well, America has been 7 times CONCACAF Champion. To talk about soccer in the Americas, you have to talk about “Las Aguilas, no doubt! Throughout the years, they have kept a level of soccer that its only point of existence is to win. They are owned by the number one Mexican TV Network “Televisa” so money and support is no problem. They recruit from all over the world. They are the star in the Mexican Soccer League.”
OSN: “What does that mean in terms of CONCACAF and their game against the Portland Timbers?”
Efren: “Well, while certain parts of the world will hardly pay attention to this tournament, its value it’s big. The winner of this tournament will automatically qualify for the quarter-finals of the FIFA Club World Cup. So if you are a World Soccer fan, you know this tournament matters big time!
In years past, the USA League was considered “basic” per se. It is a younger league, and the sport in the country is fairly young. I guess you could say they are a kid next to Las Aguilas del America Club.
With that said, though, the MLS has come a long way. Slowly but surely, they have caught up to countries that play soccer a lot. So while Las Aguilas del America have a lot of history and experience on their side, the Timbers aren’t rookies anymore. I dare say, they will make Las Aguilas run big time!”
OSN: “How is that?”
Efren: “Well, for starters, for those of us who have watched soccer for more than 50 years, I can tell you, we saw this day coming 20 years ago. The MLS has been investing in their game for a while now. Some of us have even dared to say that one day they would displace those countries who have been playing longer than they have.
Because the truth is that the MLS has been recruiting players from all over the world for some time now, the Timbers have some pretty good names in their roster, no doubt. I have personally gone to professional soccer games in Latin America and the USA for decades, and I can tell you this, the US has caught up, and the Timbers are proof of that!”
OSN: “Well, as a Timbers fan, I can attest to that! Having said that, what can we expect Las Aguilas to bring to the field tonight? What should the Timbers look out for during this match?”
Efren: The first thing is going to be their fans! Las Aguilas del America has a huge following! They are loyal, and their fans die for their team, no doubt!”
OSN: Now now… remember who you are talking to! Have you heard of The Timbers Army? I dare say there is no fan base as strong as them anywhere in the world!
Efren: Well, yeah, but have you seen Las Aguilas fans? I have seen both! I am telling you that is one of their strengths, the commitment they have for their fan base. Second, as I said before, they are backed by the main TV Network in Mexico. Money is not an issue. They have recruited worldwide and carry names such as Giovanni Santos and their goalie Memo Ochoa (to name a few), both with World Cup experience under their belts. The Timbers will not be playing just any team tonight. They will be playing the best of the best!
OSN: Ok, how would you go into this game if you were Coach Savarese?
Efren: The formula is simple. You have to control the ball. Tighten your defense and keep your eyes wide open at all times so you can spot Las Aguilas’ mistakes. I do not think there will be many, but there will be moments that if the Timbers position themselves well, they WILL score. That is the one thing I can tell you if the Timbers can keep their eyes on the prize and take advantage of the weak moments, they can break Las Aguilas’ defense.
If this had been 20 years ago, I would be automatically given this game to Las Aguilas del America, but this is a different league. I know who the Timbers are. I know who the MSL is. They have a chance, but they will have to work very hard not to miss it because I guarantee you, Las Aguilas del America will not give many chances as the Timbers might think they will have.
Another thing is the Timbers should not expect to get free passes with injuries or tired players. Las Aguilas del America has a solid bench. They don’t have second-class players on their bench; they have the same quality as their starter lineup. An injury will do nothing to do them. Again, this club invests big, and it shows in the number of wins they get.
OSN: What does the Timbers have going on for them?
Efren: The Timbers have the spark of a chance at making history. Las Aguilas del America might underestimate them. But the fact is that the historical Mx. vs. USA rivalry will fire them up. This will be an excellent game, one of those that you must watch!
OSN: I agree! What is your score prediction for this game?
Efren: Again, it can go either way, but if we solely go by the data, maybe a 2-1 win by Las Aguilas del America but considering that they are playing in Portland, I’d venture to predict it will be a tie!
OSN: I am going to root for the tie for sure! Thanks Dad!
Needless to say, the pressure for the Timbers is on! Will the home advantage give them the edge to take the win? Or will the historical investment by Las Aguilas del America Club pay off once more? I guess we will have to wait and see how it all goes down, but make no mistake, this is one of the games to watch in this year’s CONCACAF Championship Cup!