-Photo by Katy Umana
The quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League kicked off last night and the Houston Dynamo hosted Atlante in front of a crowd of 10, 203 at Robertson Stadium in Houston, Texas. Defender Bobby Boswell scored the first goal of the night giving the Dynamo the lead in the 34th minute. The Dynamo managed to hold onto the lead and looked to be headed to Cancun with a home win, but with 8 minutes left in the match Gabriel Pereyra scored the equalizer for Atlante.
While Atlante is in the middle of 2009 Clausura, this was the first competitive match for the Dynamo since late November of 2008, when the beat CD Luis Angel Firpo, 1-0, to advance to the CCL Quarterfinals. Going into Tuesday night’s match, Dynamo Coach, Dominic Kinnear, had indicated he was satisfied with the number of preseason friendlies the Dynamo have played since starting camp at the start of this month, and he felt his squad was ready to take on a struggling Atlante team, though he downplayed the possibility of the Mexican side’s league struggles would carry over into the CCL.
Knowing the history of MLS success, or lack thereof, playing Mexican clubs in Mexico, the Dynamo went on the attack, keeping the bulk of first half action on Atlante’s side of the field, while Atlante bunkered down, looking for the nil – nil draw, but not failing to take advantage of occasional counterattack. The Dynamo’s aggressive play finally paid off in the 34th minute when Boswell headed the ball into the goal from 12 yards out. The Dynamo managed to maintain their one goal lead heading into halftime.
Despite being down by a goal, during the early stages of the second half, the Potros seemed content with losing the match by a goal, and put little pressure on the Dynamo defense, which showed some weakness as Julius James got his first start with the Dynamo’s back line. As the minutes ticked away, Atlante took advantage of their midseason form and turned up the heat on a slowing El Naranja. Finally, in the 82nd minute, Atlante took advantage of confusion by the Houston side that had expected a goal kick instead of a corner and the congestion in front of the goal, and Pereyra’s momentum got the ball into the back of the net. The Dynamo pushed to get another goal, but to no avail.
Referee Neal Brizan, from Trinidad & Tobago, deserves special mention as a somewhat shocking 42 fouls, including 8 yellow cards, were called during the match. It seems that Brizan was familiar with the recent history of this competition and took pains to control the match, and while he managed to thwart time wasting tactics, he also managed to disrupt the rhythm of the game to the detriment of the Dynamo.
Following the match, Stuart Holden, who is stepping into the spot once controlled by Dwayne DeRosario and still mourning the loss of his father, acknowledged that he is going to have to be more selfish in the future and take more shots when the opportunities arise. Holden had a couple shooting opportunities in the match, but chose to pass the ball to teammates, whom he believed had better shooting opportunities, but who did not take advantage of those passes. Meanwhile, Coach Kinnear indicated that while he was disappointed in giving up the lead late in the match, he believes that his team can secure a victory in Mexico next week and advance to the CCL Semifinals.
Despite being suspended for earning a red card during the group stage, Atlante’s coach, Jose Guadalupe Cruz, was present in the stadium and addressed the press following the match. While proud that his squad faired better in this match when compared to last summer’s 4 – nil loss to the Dynamo in the 2009 SuperLiga, Cruz indicated that the Dynamo are still one of the toughest MLS sides to face and should not be taken lightly next week, even when Atlante hosts the Dynamo. When reminded of the MLS history in Mexico, Cruz’s telling response was that history does not play the games.
When the two teams meet on Tuesday March 3, 2009 at 9:00 p.m. central time in Cancun, Eddie Robinson will be available for the Dynamo and goalkeeper Federico Vilar will be available for Atlante. But before the second leg of this CCL Quarterfinal tie, on Saturday, the Dynamo will host the Montreal Impact, fresh off of tonight’s victory over Santos Laguna in the CCL, in a friendly at Robertson Stadium.