It’s here folks! The 2017 CONCACAF Champions League knockout phase is upon us. We’re going to break down all of the match-ups and attempt to predict the four who make it into the semi-finals.
CONCACAF Champions League: Quarterfinals Preview
New York Red Bulls vs. Vancouver Whitecaps
An all MLS matchup might not be something that most die-hard MLS followers wanted. After all it guarantees one MLS team will be eliminated after this round. On the flip side, it also guarantees an MLS team in the semi-finals. Last year we had four Liga MX teams against four MLS squads and we all know how that worked out.
The biggest thing here is that one of these teams advances. Red Bulls likely won’t change their approach and style of play from 2016, but we could definitely see a new look RBNY with the absence of Dax McCarty, controversially traded away this offseason. Vancouver hasn’t changed much outside of adding Freddy Montero and Yordy Reyna. The question there will be how does Montero fit in, and will he be ready for the first leg?
In light of the way things went in the MLS Playoffs, I’d give the upper-hand to the team who plays at home first. Last year in the MLS Playoffs the team who started the two leg series at home only was knocked out once.
Given that RBNY are returning a lot of their team, and are familiar with the replacements, I’ll predict an RBNY semi-final appearance, and a 4-2 aggregate win.
FC Dallas vs. Arabe Unido FC
FC Dallas are back, and frankly better than ever. It’s crazy how they can lose Fabian Castillo and Mauro Diaz, and win the Supporter’s Shield and US Open Cup in spite of that. The additions of Javier Morales, Roland Lamah, and Cristian Colman make this team even scarier, and deep. Is it crazy of me to say they resemble a strong Liga MX roster? We can decide that another day. But this FC Dallas team should scare the you know what out of most. As for their opponent?
Arabe Unido hail from Colón, Panama. They boast an entire roster of Panamanians, including former FC Dallas, and Vancouver Whitecaps frontman, Blás Perez. While that’s quite funny and amusing, he won’t see the field as he is already cup-tied with Vancouver from the knockout stage. Arabe Unido won Group D by beating Liga MX staple club, Monterrey both times, and going unbeaten in the four games of the group stage.
I think this will be much closer than most thing. Arabe Unido is going to be extremely physical and do their best to suppress FC Dallas’ attack that way. We’ll see what happens, but I think this will be really close. If Dallas can get a good sized win at home in the first leg, they should be able to advance. If it’s an open tie going into the second leg in Panama, that would likely spell trouble for FC Dallas.
My Prediction? 4-3 Aggregate Win for FC Dallas
Deportivo Saprissa vs. Pachuca
This will be a good matchup, as Saprissa are a very difficult squad to break down, especially at home. They advanced out of Group A, which included Portland Timbers. Saprissa is a tough, physical, and athletic squad that will definitely provide a good test for Pachuca.
Pachuca features a face many Americans will recognize, Omar Gonzalez. Along with that, they have a heavy South American influence into their side, mixed with some extremely talented homegrown players. One player to watch from them is young star winger, Hirving Lozano. Overall, this should be a good matchup, but the quality in Pachuca’s side hint at a semi-final appearance for them.
Prediction: 5-3 Aggregate Win for Pachuca
Tigres UANL vs. Pumas UNAM
If you saw the 2015 Liga MX Apertura Final between these two, you understand how big of a matchup this is in the quarterfinals. It’s going to be entertaining, and these two teams are quite keen on getting one over on the other. Tigres boasts the famed “Tuca” Ferretti at the helm of the club, combined with World Cup Scorer, Copa America Golden Boot Winner, and 32 time goal scorer for Chile, Eduardo Vargas. Add in international experience all over the back line, and Andre-Pierre Gignac’s prolific goal scoring up front, Tigres are a scary squad for any to come up against.
Pumas on the other hand are a well coached team, with no real star player. They are currently sitting in seventh place in LIGA MX. Their manager is former Mexican star, Francisco Palencia. Palencia scored 137 goals in his career after playing all over the Mexican league, and then into Chivas USA. He also bagged 12 goals in 80 caps for the Mexican National Team. They are disciplined and can be extremely dangerous.
Currently, Tigres have been having some issues down in Liga MX, but their star-power, coupled with the importance of this tournament should help them prevail over UNAM.
My prediction? 6-5 Aggregate win for Tigres.