The latest edition of the CONCACAF Champions League kicked off with a flurry of surprise results. The competition, whose two-legged final is scheduled for April next year, is the dream of every elite club in the North, Central American and Caribbean Zone and offers a coveted berth at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2009.
Who could have predicted that MLS Eastern Conference leaders New England Revolution would be quelled on their visit to Joe Public of Trinidad? And fewer still would have envisaged the humble Puerto Rican Islanders coming away with a priceless draw from their trip to Costa Rican heavyweights Alajuelense. FIFA.com brings you the lowdown on these results and the best of the action from the preliminary round first-leg matches.
Cruz Azul cut loose, Pumas postponed
One place where a surprise was conspicuous in its absence was the Estadio Azul in Mexico City. There, home side Cruz Azul showed no mercy in putting six goals without reply past recently crowned Belize champions Hankook Verdes. Leading the way for Los Cementeros was up-and-coming young striker Javier Orozco, who helped himself to a hat-trick, while midfield creator Edgar Andrade (2) and experienced international Gerardo Torrado also got in on the act.
The competition's other Mexican representatives, UNAM Pumas, will have to wait before leaping into action. Los Felinos were due to face Caribbean champions Harbour View of Jamaica, only for Hurricane Gustav to force the game to be cancelled. Next Thursday's away leg in Mexico will now decide the series winner.
US duo on the brink
For the two sides from Mexico's northern neighbours the United States, their first-leg ties were a chastening experience. New England Revolution, flying high in MLS, were turned over 2-1 by Trinidad's Joe Public at the islanders' Marvin Lee stadium in Macoya, while Panamanian league runners-up Tauro FC stunned Chivas USA 2-0. The results leave both Stars and Stripes representatives needing a win in next week's return matches on US soil.
Perhaps the most surprising result was that of newcomers the Puerto Rico Islanders away to Costa Rican stalwarts Alajuelense. Very few fancied a favourable result for the Islanders, who play their football in the lower leagues of the USA, at the fortress-like Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto, but a Osei Telesford strike on 64 minutes was sufficient to cancel out an earlier Argenis Fernandez effort for the hosts.
Canucks start strong
The day's remaining games were more even affairs. In Montreal, Impact were unable to translate their dominance into goals and only managed a 1-0 win over Nicaraguan champions, Real Esteli. Guatemala's Jalapa posted a similar scoreline when they welcomed the new Panamanian champions, San Francisco, while El Salvador's Metapan and Marathon of Honduras played out a 2-2 draw.
And so, with the exception of the Cruz Azul-Hankook Verdes tie, the preliminary round match-ups of this year's CONCACAF Champions League look wide open. Will the surprises continue or shall the favourites come through when the teams renew hostilities in the return legs? All will be revealed next week.