Telefutura is claiming that this is a winner take all match so . If that’s the case Atlante is hanging on for dear life early in the second half. Chivas pilling on the pressure with everything on the line. I have to admit I am impressed by the Superliga rules. I like head to head in a competition like this trumping goal difference. If everyone plays everyone else and their are no draws, then why should goal difference matter. So as I read it Houston would win any three way tiebreaker on GD so they are automatically the group champion. Any result for Chivas means they win the group. If they lose Atlante holds the head to head advantage on them so Atlante advances. Confused? Don’t be, it’s what always happens in groups where one team is hardly competitive and each of the other three have beaten them. We’ve seen it in World Cups, Copa America’s Euros, etc.
Back to the match. Despite an excessive amount of chances, the Goats cannot find the back of the net and Atlante has now given up trying to find a second goal and is defending relentlessly. Not that the American public would understand, but how often in Baseball do you get drama like this down the stretch of a match? This is do or die for both clubs!
Ramon Morales is really spurning on the Guadalajara attack now. Chivas has so many chances and Atlante is hunkered down. Than a great counter attack forces Luis Michel to make a great save and concedes a corner. On the set piece, Gerardo Espinoza finishes the game off to make it 2-0. Minutes later after after Gonzalo Pineda hits the post again for Chivas, Atlante counters and almost scores if not for the heroism of Michel who for the second straight match in this competition is shook up. Arturo Munoz was simply trying to casually clean up a live ball after a Maldonado shot and Michel heroically sacrificed his body and looks seriously injured.
An injury like this is awful to see in the dying minutes of a thrilling match which has already been decided. Following the injury the life is sapped out of Chivas and they seem to be simply playing out stoppage time. A valiant effort by the Goats who for the second straight Superliga entered the final group match against a fellow Mexican competitor only needing a draw to advance and instead losing and being eliminated. Atlante comes back from losing the opener 4-0 and has advanced to the knock out stage of the 2008 Superliga.
Houston’s win over DC United has effectively eliminated Atlante from advancing unless the Cancun based side beats Chivas by five goals. Assuming that does not happen this match in front of a partisan Chivas crowd at Buck Shaw Stadium has taken on the feel of a pre season match which of course it is for these teams. However this game has been a thriller again owing itself to what in general is the better technical ability and tactical skill of Mexican players when compared to all but the very best of their American counterparts. As is the case with most matches between Mexican League teams, it’s very open and attacking oriented but not very physical. Defending as often is the case in both MLS and the Mexican League is sometimes very suspect, far below the standard of a top European league. Atlante scores a late first half goal and now needs only four more to advance. Beaten on the goal none other than Johnny Magallion whom I have referred to as the “Mexican Carlos Bocanegra” because his chief qualification for playing center back seems to be his ability in the air on set pieces, and like Bocanegra is generally a liability in open play. Score the goal Giancarlo Maldonado.
The way Atlante is playing and the announcers are speaking, maybe I’m wrong about goal difference determining who advances. Maybe its head to head. If that’s the case, and Houston has already effectively advanced, game on!
DC United makes a game of it with the fresh legs of Quavas Kirk whose constant injuries stopped the development of what at one time was one of the most promising attacking players in American Soccer. Kirk spurs DC forward to try and get something from the match, and Francis Doe scores a timely goal in the air. For a precious few minutes it seems like Houston is on the ropes, but after Kirk hits the post with a screamer, the life falls out of United as the Dynamo score a wonderful counter attacking goal by Stuart Holden who is headed to Palo Alto tomorrow to join the US Olympic Team. The rest of the match is spent by the Telefutura crew discussing the US Olympic Team, individual by individual and their chances in Beijing.
The tournament will mercifully end for DC United tonight. The improbable scenario of a four goal United victory combined with an Atlante loss is not worth discussing. But I would expect United to come out and show some fight today.
As the first half progresses it is obvious that Houston can name their scoreline tonight. As has been the case throughout the Superliga, the back line of the red and black is a couple steps slow and not reading the match at all. Rico Clark has put United out of its misery with an early goal, but the chances keep coming for Houston and in the cruelest form of punishment Bobby Boswell scores a goal against the man DC traded him for: the disinterested Zach Wells who fell asleep yet again. DC United lacks shape in the midfield with Fred trying to hold things together and has quite playing at the back altogether. The embarrassing performances don’t stop for United who seem to have mailed it on this tournament and will hope to get Santino Quaranta and Marcello Gallardo back as soon as possible.