by Dan Barkley

CONCACAF Champions League Preliminary Round, First Leg.

Time: Tuesday, July 27, 10pm EST.

Location: Home Depot Center, Los Angeles

Media: FSC/Audio at

Tuesday sees two MLS teams begin their CCL campaigns. The Galaxy get a fairly familiar opponent in Division II side Puerto Rico Islanders. In recent years, the Islanders have fielded a strong side, finish on top of the USL-1 table in 2008 and third place in 2009, while finishing second and third in the playoffs, respectively. Even more impressive has been their play in the CCL. In 2008 they made it to the semifinal before losing to Cruz Azul, a match that needed penalties to be decided. Their run also included a victory over another Mexican side, Santos Laguna. In the 2009 CCL, they beat Toronto FC before finishing last in their group, although they did draw both Cruz Azul and the Columbus Crew in Puerto Rico. This year, the Islanders sit fifth in the USL Conference and eighth overall in Division II.

The Islanders are what many would hope from MLS clubs; they've had solid domestic seasons while taking the CCL very seriously. In fact, their semifinals appearance is better than any MLS showing in the past two years. They have played very well at home during the tournament, and have unarguably punched above their weight.

The Galaxy have slowed a bit after their blistering start to the season, but at this point they still have to be the favorites for the title (depending on what becomes of the Landon situation). They showed during the build up for the World Cup that they are one of the deepest teams in the league as well. They certainly have the talent to beat the Islanders, though there are some notable factors to consider.

How seriously will Bruce Arena take this game? He recently complained about the US Open Cup after LA's loss to Seattle. He has paid lip service to the CCL in the build up to the All-Star Game, but it remains to be seen what type of side will be fielded Tuesday. The All-Star Game on the following day also complicates things. We'll leave complaints about MLS scheduling aside, but with four Galaxy players in the All-Star Game, it will at least play into Arena's decisions.

For those of us who want to see a strong MLS showing in the CCL, LA is integral. We know they have all the talent to handle the Islanders. MLS sides were 5-0 against Division 2 sides in the US Open Cup this year, including one win from the Galaxy, who didn't play many first team players in their 2-0 win over AC St. Louis. All of this is very encouraging, and aside from the Islanders good form in the CCL, this shouldn't provide too much challenge for the Galaxy. I predict a win in the first leg before LA is held in Puerto Rico and advances without having to tax their stars too heavily.
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