by Marc Serber
Tomorrow, Ecuador’s LDU Quito will host Universidad de Chile in the first leg of the 2011 Copa Bridgestone Sudamericana final.
LDU Quito is known as the Rey de Copas or King of the Cups and will no doubt have experience on its side heading into the first leg. Since 2008, the capital club has hoisted the Copa Libertadores (2008), the Copa Sudamericana (2009), and the Recopa Sudamericana (the equivalent to the UEFA Super Cup) in both 2009 and 2010. After making it to the semifinals in last year’s Copa Sud, the majority of the side has played in at least one if not all of these finals.
With that said, some of LDU’s most prominent figures will miss the match through injury. Among those sidelined is Ecuadorian legend and former Aston Villa and Reading man, Ulises de la Cruz and MVP of the 2008 Copa Libertadores, Patricio Urrutia.
Despite being shorthanded, LDU can still call on a host of talented players. World Cup veteran Neicer Reasco, Argentine Ezequiel Gonzalez and joint top scorer in the Copa Sud, Hernan Barcos are just some of the prominent names that will all feature.
On top of a very talented squad that has been in this position before, LDU will also have the altitude of Quito on its side in the first leg. This gives the Ecuadorians the opportunity to establish a sizable lead before the tie shifts from the epicenter of Ecuador to Chile’s central hub.
Universidad de Chile comes into its first ever international final riding a 32 game unbeaten streak. La U was recently dubbed The Barcelona of South America. While any such comparisons to one of the best teams to ever grace the planet may seem a bit grandiose, there are certain similarities.
La U plays a fluid 4-3-3 system in which they are constantly pressuring the ball and winning it high up the pitch. Their movement and passing is graceful, and they hit on the counter better than any side in South America.
Just like Barcelona, even with a two or three goal lead, you will often find all ten field players pushed into the offensive half in the final moments of a contest.
Leading the line for the Chilean side is Eduardo Vargas. The 22-year-old is joint leading scorer in the tournament with Barcos and has hit a further 15 goals in domestic play. Many believe that Vargas is playing his last few games in a U de Chile shirt with the likes of Chelsea and other top European clubs ready to pony up somewhere between 10-12 million pounds to take the striker across the Atlantic. While U de Chile would love to hold on to their prize asset, the side brought him from Cobreloa for around $700,000 meaning the time might be right to cash in on what would be a shrewd piece of business.
For now, however, all eyes are focused on whether he or Barcos will win the Golden Boot while helping their team lift the final piece of silverware given out by CONMEBOL in 2011.
The stage is set for what will be a very intriguing 180 minutes with a huge promise of offering South American soccer at its best. The first leg will be played at LDU’s Estadio Casablanca. This reminds me of one of the most famous quotes from that epic film which is very apt for this occasion. If you don’t watch this final, “you’ll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.”
*** The 1st leg will be on Fox Deportes at 7:00 P.M. EST. The match can also be heard in English through the SAP option.
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