CCL Preview: Dynamo, Sounders, Galaxy all set for quarterfinal action

CONCACAF Champions Legue Opening Ceremonies

Photo by ISIPhotos.com

BY DAN KARELL

Three Major League Soccer teams remain in the hunt for the CONCACAF Champions League title, as the tournament resumes in the Championship Round starting tonight.

Among the final eight teams fighting for a place in next winter’s Club World Championship is the Seattle Sounders, Houston Dynamo, and Los Angeles Galaxy. All three teams made it out of the group stage unbeaten, with only the fourth American representative, Real Salt Lake, failing to move on to the quarterfinals.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber stated this past weekend his desire to see an MLS team crowned champion of CONCACAF, and he’s gone another step to help the clubs, giving them the weekend off so they can concentrate on the international competition. Unlike last year’s edition of the tournament, none of the MLS sides will play each other in the quarterfinal stage, leaving the league with as good a chance as any to make 2013 the first season in the Champions League era to have an American winner.

All three teams though will have to face Central American sides that are already well into their league seasons, putting more pressure on the American squads to be fit and ready to play in a shorter amount of time.

Here is a closer look at this week’s action:

#7 HOUSTON DYNAMO vs. #2 SANTOS LAGUNA

TV: Tuesday, 8pm, Fox Soccer Channel/Galavision

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Houston Dynamo earned a place in the quarterfinals with a win and a draw against both Olimpia of Honduras, and FAS of El Salvador in Group 3, while Santos Laguna steamrolled through Group 1, defeating Toronto FC from MLS and Aguilla of El Salvador, scoring 13 goals and conceding just one in the four matches.

THE MATCHUP: Houston got their domestic campaign off to a strong start, with a 2-0 win over D.C. United that saw Ricardo Clark, Oscar Boniek Garcia, and Brad Davis put out performances worthy of acclaim. That being said, there is little chance the midfield trio will start on Tuesday night, when the Dynamo host Mexican side Santos Laguna in the first leg.

Newly minted player-coach Brian Ching should play a larger role in this match for Houston, after coming off the bench in the dying moments of their opening day victory. Ching’s experience could play a role in what may be a young Dynamo lineup when facing this Santos side that finished last season as the Champions League runner-up.

Santos could pose trouble to Dominic Kinnear’s side though, as their team sits in sixth place in Liga MX, and are coming off a confidence boosting win over Jaguares, where US National Team forward Herculez Gomez scored a couple of terrific goals. If Santos brings a mostly regular side, Houston could be embarrassed at home, depending on Kinnear’s selection.

#3 SEATTLE SOUNDERS vs. #6 TIGRES UANL

TV: Wednesday, 10:00pm, Fox Soccer Channel/Galavision

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Seattle Sounders went undefeated in Group 4, beating Marathon of Honduras and Caledonia AIA of Trinidad and Tobago, scoring 12 goals along the way. Tigres won Group 6, demolishing Alajuelense of Costa Rica and Real Esteli of Nicaragua at home, and drawing with the two teams on the road.

THE MATCHUP: Seattle Sounders were the lone MLS side remaining in the Champions League to lose their opening match. However, there’s a chance that the future is bright for this squad, and Wednesday night’s match in Mexico could be a chance to see more players in action.

The side lost designated player forward Fredy Montero to Colombian team Millonarios, and key defender Jeff Parke since the end of last year, but replacements in midfielder Shalrie Joseph and Djimi Traore could help lead the team to international glory, once fully fit. In addition, the bright start of homegrown signing DeAndre Yedlin gives Sigi Schmid another option to use, knowing that the youngster can probably take the grind that comes with playing twice a week.

Regardless, the Sounders could be in for a rough awakening when they visit Tigres. The Mexican side is currently in first place in Liga MX, and scored 12 goals in four matches in the last round of the Champions League. Tigres also have not lost at home since October of last year, an incredible stretch of games.

#4 LOS ANGELES GALAXY vs. #5 HEREDIANO

TV: Thursday, 8:00pm, Fox Soccer Channel/Univision Deportes Network

HOW THEY GOT HERE: The Galaxy had a relatively easy road to the quarterfinal round in Group 5, dispatching the Puerto Rico Islanders in impressive fashion, and earning a win and a draw against Isidro Matapan of Honduras. Herediano knocked out MLS side Real Salt Lake and Panamanian side Tauro FC in Group 2 to earn a place in the quarterfinals.

THE MATCHUP: If there’s one match-up that is the most intriguing, it’s got to be this one. The reigning MLS Champions are without two of their key players from last season, in David Beckham and Landon Donovan. Donovan could be back by the next round, assuming Los Angeles makes it, but in the mean time, Robbie Keane, or Sunday’s hat-trick hero Mike Magee will have to lead the line against the Costa Rican squad.

Luckily for manager Bruce Arena, his team, has an abundance of riches throughout the squad, especially up top. Homegrown talents Jack McBean and Jose Villareal are both likely to start, with the former having scored three goals in the group stage of the Champions League last fall, and the latter starring for the US U-20’s in the recent CONCACAF U-20 Championship. Tommy Meyer and Bryan Gaul can slot in on defense. And Hector Jiminez and Michael Stephens can work the middle of the park, and make it their own.

Herediano are struggling so far in their young domestic season in Costa Rica, but they have come on as of late, with two straight wins, and four matches unbeaten.

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What do you think of these matches? What do you think are the chances an MLS team makes it to the finals? Do you see any of the teams using more of their veterans in the competition?

Share your thoughts below.

This entry was posted in CONCACAF Champions League, Featured, MLS- Houston Dynamo, MLS- LA Galaxy, MLS- Seattle Sounders. Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to CCL Preview: Dynamo, Sounders, Galaxy all set for quarterfinal action

  1. Benny Dargle says:

    Arena has already said he will put his best team out there, so I’m not sure the prediction of McBean, Villareal, Meyer, Gaul, and Jiminez starting is likely (although someone will replace Clark from Sunday’s lineup since he is ruled out having played in the CCL for Houston). Plus, Meyer has suffered from a hamstring pull and only recently returned to training.

    • Gnarls says:

      I haven’t heard/read any such statement from Arena, but it makes sense since the Gs have the weekend off. My guess is we’ll see a combo of regular starting XI guys and the better reserves.
      Villareal–McBean
      Stephens-Juninho-Sarvas-Jimenez
      Gaul-AJ-Gonzo-Franklin

      Or something completely different…

  2. bottlcaps says:

    Herediano have several players on their Costa Rican National Team that will face the US on March 22. In addition, like the Galaxy’s Villarreal, Herediano had two players who started for the CR U-20 team in their defeat to the US.

    What will be interesting is who Arena sends to CR for the first leg. In the group stage, Arena chose to use his Western Division winning reserve squad to beat teams on the road. Not having an MLS match the following weekend, gives Arena the luxury of sending the first team.

    The Galaxy also have the problem of the mid-week restrictions on crowd size and parking at the HDC. The return leg at home is on a Wednesday night, and being on a College campus (Cal State Dominques Hills), the Galaxy, by contractual agreement, have a limit on parking and crowd so as not to disturb student classes at night.
    I think of all the MLS sides left, the Galaxy have had the easiest draw, and I would be really, really surprised if they did not advance to the semis.

  3. Travis says:

    Seattle fan here but wish for the best for all MLS teams in this competition. If the sounders can avoid getting blown out down there it could make the return interesting. I am not sure they are in for a “rough awakening”, they played in Mexico during the last knockout stage and got beat up. They should know what to expect, they’ve also won in Mexico before

  4. Hogatroge says:

    Everyone’s expecting Dom to deploy the B team, but I’m at least hoping for the A- squad.

    Realistically, Boswell or Taylor have gotta play simply due to lack of depth. Normally, Bobby does this sort of thing, but Taylor’s been playing WCQ matches during the offseason so I’d give him the nod.

    Ideally, if Houston gets a decent result at home, the A team would make an appearance away. That said, If the reserves eke out a win, I think Dom probably plays them play again in Torreon.

    • Edwin in LA says:

      No excuse for fielding a weak team for Dom, he’s not that deep at all on D and up top….and it’s the beginning of the season risk a little against a very good Santos team…..and maybe meet Tigres or Seattle in the Semis….the Tigres match up if it happens would be a SELLOUT although there would be some Tigres fans lol like half the stadium maybe lol

  5. 2tone says:

    Villarreal is still carrying that ankle injury. I don’t know if he will even play in the game. He was visibly limping during that game against Mexico, and clearly he couldn’t explode off of that ankle.

  6. martin says:

    I’m watching Houston vs Santos. So far it has been a microcosm of Mls vs liga mx. Houston was inches from scoring, then soon after they can even kick the ball right.

  7. Corp Exec. says:

    “Tigres also have not lost at home since October of last year, an incredible stretch of games.”

    I’m going bullish on the Sounders chances of a result even more now.

  8. A says:

    Time wasting with 30 minutes left already. Pathetic.

    Keeper has the ball in his six, about to place it down for a goal kick and then throws the ball away and runs to beyond the corner flag to get a second ball.

  9. martin says:

    Tally Hall is AWFUL!

  10. A says:

    A lunge into the side of a guy’s leg–yards from the ball–from behind–in retaliation for losing the ball and then he starts shoving the referee and other players out of the way to harass the guy he hurt?

    Only in CONCACAF matches can you get away with that and stay in the game.

  11. JoeSchmoe says:

    Only in Concacaf can you intentionaly put your cleat through someone’s leg off ball in retaliation for losing the ball and then push the referee and not be asked to head to the locker room.

    • A says:

      I know, right?

      And it wasn’t even just the official–it was his teammates holding him back and Houston players. If you did that in the EPL a brawl would break out.

  12. A says:

    So well done by Brad D! Goallllll!

  13. Joamiq says:

    Congrats Dynamo! Terrific and well deserved goal!

  14. beachbum says:

    Davis!!! Get another one Dynamo!!!!

  15. martin says:

    Driver… should’ve been 2-0.

    • Old School says:

      Yea, not the most graceful of moments.

    • Edwin in LA says:

      Ball was behind him whoever that was should have set himself faster to either put the ball in front of Driver or shoot the left post. Oh well, that could really have been sweet for Houston!

  16. Guero says:

    Well done, Dynamo! Typically scrappy and efficient. Not to quibble over geography, Dan Karell, but Mexico is in North America, not Central America.

    • martin says:

      Central America is not central America, it is North America.

      • Edwin in LA says:

        lol since when? Central America (From Guatemala to Panama) has always been Central America….when you address letters there you always write C.A. for Central America…..maybe to some it isn’t here in the states but it’s like how here in the US South America is considered another continent but yet in many other parts of the world it isn’t…..and they don’t get me started about how some people here in the US call Oceania Australia as a continent….sorry but this is more proof that geography tends to be horrible for lots of US Citizens/residents

        • Hogatroge says:

          Unfortunately Edwin, you’re simply wrong.

          Geographically & geologically, Central America is part of North America. Fact.

          Culturally, they’re very different. But guess what… so is Quebec compared to Ontario. So is France compared to Germany. There’s no questioning the relative continental locations of those nations.

          FYI, you don’t really need to put a continent (or geographic region) on a letter. I’m pretty sure “Tegucigalpa, M.D.C., Honduras” will get it where you want it to go without getting misdirected to Tegucigalpa, Ohio.

          • Edwin in LA says:

            Again…maybe in the states, but I’ve lived and studied abroad and this is simply not the case!

      • AtléticoUnionCity says:

        Taking it a step further, many outside the U.S. consider Central America is part of America – the entire landmass that we in the U.S. divide into north & south.

  17. martin says:

    Central America is not a continent. Just like the Caribbean isn’t either. But then again Hawaii is the US but not in North America. 20+ countries in North America.

    • Edwin in LA says:

      It’s not signifying that it is a continent….it’s simply the name for the section of the Americas continent….did you know Central America at one point was a nation before they all moved towards independence??? In the very early post Spanish Colonies days?