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CONCACAF Champions Cup

Saprissa Misses the Mark Against Houston

Perhaps the critics of my recent posts did have a valid point: the standard of MLS is improving ever so slightly. Saprissa the MLS slayer was brought to its knees by a very lively and strong Houston Dynamo side at Robertson Stadium, and I for one could not be happier for the message this potentially sends about the improving standard of the league.

Saprissa is a club I  strongly believe would win MLS if they were in the US domestic league. The 2005 CONCACAF Champions who beat Pumas in the finals (Pumas had defeated DC United 5-0 in Mexico City in the semifinal second leg), and lost in the 2004 final looked more skillful but several steps slower than Houston on the night. Saprissa has won their last three ties against MLS Clubs in the competition (2006 vs the LA Galaxy, 2005 vs Kansas City and 2004 vs Chicago), and quite frankly looked far superior to the MLS sides in each tie.

I tipped  Saprissa at the beginning of the competition on the American Soccer Show to win this event, but based on tonight’s flow of play I see Houston having a shot to pull off a major upset next week. The Dynamo remain an underdog going to San Jose but clearly demonstrated they can play a high quality, possession oriented game against what is perceived as a more skillful side and create chances. If Houston can create similar chances in next week’s away leg, they could sneak an improbable victory, a victory which will hasten the arrival of MLS once again as serious player on the CONCACAF stage after several years of false starts and missed opportunities. Keep in mind since the last MLS finalist, the Galaxy in 2000, three Costa Rican teams, and nine Mexican teams have made the finals. No Honduran or American team has made the final since the 2000 final between Olimpia and Los Angeles.

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  1. bandeeto

    April 3, 2008 at 8:51 pm

    Houston is definately the underdog going to costa rica. Not to say that Saprissa is a better side. Houston is the better team, by a long shot, at home. It’s not just that Houston was faster. They were MUCH more tactical, if not more technical. Time and time again I watched Houston patiently and convincingly break down a Saprissa defence, which had 11 men drop into the defensive third. Especially in the second half. This game could easily have been 2 or 3-0 in Houstons favor. It’s a shame Ching couldn’t convert that sitter late in the second half.

    Having said that, I believe that Saprissa’s home field advantage will shift the balance to their favor.

  2. Ray

    April 3, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    Honestly Houston may have gotten a result last night but they have virtually no chance of getting a result down in Costa Rica.

    With regards to DC United, I think they have a shot if Moreno is healthy and Gallardo can give them a bit more to steal that series. I’d say a 30% shot. Houston has maybe a 5% chance.

  3. Berlin

    April 3, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    Saprissa has a solid squad. The Dynamo are going to be hard pressed to get points in a hostile environment like San Jose. Particularly with Ching firing blanks and none of the other Dynamo forwards threatening consistently. Perhaps the real problem with MLS teams playing abroad is that they aren’t used to playing in front of large hostile crowds like you see in other countries. Houston has a rabid fan base and consistent attracts a good crowd, but no team in MLS has fans like the Ticos.

  4. bzygo

    April 3, 2008 at 8:07 am

    It was a good match, one of those entertaining 0-0 matches that nonsoccer fan needs to see to understand. Onstad did a great job in the first half, defending the Saprissa attack. Second half Saprissa just parked the bus and all the bodies behind the ball made it hard for the Dynamo attack to move swiftly. Unfortunately, the Dynamo didn’t get one of those lucky bounces/rebounds that can happen in the congestion. I know the Dynamo wanted to score in this game, but a 0-0 draw is nothing to sneeze at, now lets see how they do at Saprissa’s imposing stadium.

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