by Dan Barkley

CONCACAF Champions League Preliminary Round, First Leg.

Time: Tuesday, July 27, 8pm EST.

Location: BMO Field, Toronto

Media: FSC/ Streamed at

The first of two MLS teams beginning their CCL campaigns Tuesday, Toronto, takes on C.D. Motagua. Motagua is the third team to qualify from Honduras for this year's CCL, and have been the third best side in Honduras for the past few years, behind Marathón and cross town rivals Olimpia. Their most recent showings in the CCL (and the previous incarnations, the CONCACAF Champions' Cup and Giants' Cup) include three previous appearances this decade. In 2001, they went out in the first round of Giants Cup, and in 2003 they went out to the Galaxy in the first round. In 2008, they first made a very impressive run in the Central American Cup winning seven out of eight games and drawing the other, to become the top seed out of Central America. They then lost to Pachuca, going out 1-0 on aggregate, but they did draw 35,000+ fans to their home leg. This does not seem to be an isolated event, and we will touch on the atmosphere in Honduras's capital city more when we preview the second leg.

It would be impossible to talk about Motagua's roster without mentioning Amado Guevara's return to Toronto. The former MLS most valuable player played the 2008 and 2009 seasons with Toronto FC, so I am interested to see how he is received by the home crowd. Preki seems to have something against Guevara, but as far as I remember he was popular among the fans. Along with Guevara, both starting fullbacks for the national side are wtih Motagua, Sergio Mendoza and Emilio Izaguirre. They spent most of the World Cup being torched by Spain and Chile before sitting in their last game; it is hard to hold that against them as Chile proved to have one of the most dynamic attacks in the tournament, and Spain had just come off their embarrassing defeat to Switzerland. Motagua striker Georgie Welcome came on as a substitute in all three games, and played well against Spain, though Spain had let up with a 2-0 lead when he entered.

Toronto has one previous appearance in the CCL, crashing out against Puerto Rico Islanders last year in the prelims. They sit in position for the first playoff berth in their history and have played very well at home. Recent home form has taken a dip, however, as they've given away some points with late goals conceded to Dallas and Philadelphia.

Honduran sides have done well in the past couple Champions' Leagues, with Marathón making the quarterfinals each of the past two seasons. However, Motagua does not seem to be on that level. While Toronto had an awful start to the season, they've certainly improved since, and I think they will handle this game at home. We also can't forget that they are only in their preseason, and Toronto is probably just reaching their peak form. The second leg will be more interesting, if the Motagua fans can create that hostile environment; along with the long travel, that will be a dangerous game for the Reds.

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