March 14, 2007

A glance at the CONCACAF Champions Cup semi-finals

Both MLS teams have made the semi-finals of the Champions Cup this year, for the first time since the 2000 edition of the tournament. They will be facing the stiffest competition possible this time around, going up against the top two teams in the Mexican league this season in Pachuca and Chivas.

I'm sure my Mexicano experts will be able to chime in with more info on Pachuca and Chivas, but let me give you the gringo POV. Pachuca has been at or near the top of the league for the last several years. They won the Copa Sudamericana last year, becoming the first non-South American team to win one of their club tournaments. They are currently on top of their group in the league. Houston coach Dominic Kinnear is worried about left winger Andrés Chitiva and forward Juan Carlos Cacho. Pachuca is coming into this match off a 1-0 win over Morelia on the weekend.

Houston survived a gritty quarterfinal with Puntarenas to get this far. Their defense has looked strong in the early going of their season, but the offense is not clicking yet at all. They should be getting Brian Ching back from the start this time, his entry into the second leg against Puntarenas sparked the series winning goal. However, the Dynamo's talisman, Dwayne De Rosario will be starting this game on the bench due to a hamstring pull. It's supposed to be a wet night in Houston tonight, it'll be interesting to see how that plays into the match.

TONIGHT'S PREDICTION: Houston 0, Pachuca 1

Chivas lone loss of their Clausura came at the hands of Pachuca, but they've overcome that to take top spot overall in the league (on goal differential over Pachuca). While they stumbled in the opening leg of their quarterfinal with W Connection, they took care of business in the home leg in Guadalajara to advance. Chivas has other recent international successes as well, reaching the semis of the Copa Libertadores. Guadalajara won the Mexican Apertura, vanquishing their rivals América, but come into this game off a flat draw with Pumas. We'll see if Omar Bravo can improve on his recent form, and if he can get support from Bofo Bautista and Ramon Morales.

DC United is playing about as stongly as you could expect considering the MLS regular season hasn't started yet. They put the most goals on the board in the quarterfinal round, putting seven past Olimpia. Newly signed Luciano Emilio looks to be the real deal, scoring three in the series. MLS MVP Christian Gomez matched that, with three of his own. United continued to roll in a friendly against Honduran side Motagua on Friday, winning 4-2 off more goals from Gomez and Emilio. The newly formed Magic Triangle of Jaime Moreno, Emilio, and Gomez will have to be in fine form against Chivas. Goalkeeper Troy Perkins is expected to play after leaving the second Olimpia match early with a quad pull.


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