The CONCACAF Champions League draw wasn't as exotic as some of us had hoped. Drawn into group 3, the New York Red Bulls were matched up with Salvadorian side CD FAS and a familiar face in the Montreal Impact.
The draw was good for the team -- having Montreal in the group really cuts down on travel, and it helps the Impact are terrible -- but maybe not the most exciting for those of us looking forward to jaunts across Central America and the Caribbean.
But thankfully, the Red Bulls start their Champions League campaign tonight with some variety, with CD FAS making the trip north to the friendly confines of Red Bull Arena. Assuming most of us don't follow Salvadorian soccer, tonight's game begs the question, just who the hell are CD FAS?
Start with the basics: the Santa Ana-based club was founded in 1947 and plays in 15,000-seat Estadio Oscar Alberto Quiteno, named after an FAS goalkeeper who passed away during a 1964 friendly against Costa Rican side Orion FC. Best I can tell, Quieno was knocked unconscious during play and died in the hospital that night.
They've also, apparently, won the Salvadorian Primera Division 17 times and the Champions League once, way back in 1979. In it's modern format, FAS has made appearances in the 2010-11 and 2012-13 tournaments.
They got into this year's iteration of the event as the playoff finalist with the best record over the course of El Salvador's two-part Apetura/Clausura season.
Four games into this season, though, and FAS hasn't found it's 2013-14 form. As it stands, they're 1-1-2, good for five points and seventh place out of 10 clubs. Add two losses to the Impact -- one where a shorthanded side fell 1-0 in Quebec, and another that saw FAS launch a comeback, only to come up short -- and the Tigers (CONCACAF's website tells me that's their nickname) have done more losing than winning this year.
But that first Champions League game was a bit of a farce. FAS had visa problems, which kept out its head coach and a good chunk of its roster. Still, FAS, with only three subs and their sporting director patrolling the technical area, only lost 1-0. Though, if the highlights are to be believed, Montreal did most of the attacking.
The second leg down in El Salvador, it was a different story. Montreal kept scoring, with two in the first 10 minutes. FAS was able to bring things level with a penalty in the 50th minute, but the Impact would take back the lead 10 minutes later. The Impact would go down a man with a late red card, but FAS wouldn't capitalize.
This is it for FAS. They need a win to stay alive, but their last two games are, arguably, against the group's best team. Like the Red Bulls, they could use the points and they have a game against sixth-place UES on Saturday. It doesn't seem as if the visa problems have followed the team to the U.S., so Head Coach Efrain Antonio Burgos should have a full squad at his disposal.
That means players like defenders Xavier Garcia and Alexander Mendoza, both of who have played in every FAS game this season and scored a goal each in the leauge. Other players to watch are midfielder Nestor Renderos, strikers Marcio Teruel and Jorge Moran, who accounted for the two goals against the Impact, and midfielder Elder Figueroa, who has featured heavily in both the league and Champions League.
On the Red Bulls end, it appears Ryan Meara will get the start in goal, his first since the Open Cup debacle against the Cosmos earlier this summer. As for the 10 in front of him, it "will be mix of some reserves and starters." Excluded that mix will be Bobby Convey -- who hasn't been in training -- or Kosuke Kimura, who's nursing a hamstring injury.