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CONCACAF Champions League

Shameful! The Houston Dynamo bow out of the CCL

Houston Dynamo v. Atlante

Houston Dynamo v. Atlante

– Photo by Katy Umana

In contemplating the Houston Dynamo’s performance on Tuesday night in Cancun, the only thing that pops into my head is Dusty Rhodes saying “Shameful!”. The Dynamo were the only MLS squad to make it out of the CONCACAF Champions League group-stage and into the quarter-finals. After giving up a 1-0 lead in the 82nd minute last Tuesday during the first leg of this tie, the Dynamo went down to Mexico needing a 1-0 win or a 2-2 draw, at the very least, in order to advance to the CCL semi-finals.

On Saturday, the Dynamo held a 70 minute practice game against the Montreal Impact, a match that was intense and aggressive on both sides of the ball. So intense that in the second half, while protesting the issuing of a red card to Roberto Brown, Montreal coach John Limniatis shoved Corey Ashe, causing both benches to clear. Order was restored and the Dynamo won the game 3-2. Brian Ching picked up a brace for the Dynamo and expressed his confidence going into the second leg of their tie with Atlante.

The concept of making history was on the minds of Dynamo fans as they anticipated Tuesday night’s match in Cancun. No MLS team has ever beaten an FMF team in a competitive match in Mexico. Last year the Houston Dynamo made history by getting a draw in Mexico City when they tied Pumas, 4-4. A victory in Cancun against Atlante, especially in light of the Dynamo performance in Mexico City, seemed within grasp. Atlante are newcomers to Cancun and their following, in an area of Mexico where baseball is more popular than soccer (as evidenced by the baseball style organ employed during Tuesday’s match), is small. Cancun is at sea level, easily accessible to American tourists, and lacking in the pollution that plagues Mexico City. Additionally, Atlante have been struggling in the 2009 Clausura and Tuesday’s CCL match marked Atlante’s 5th match since February 14th.

Unfortunately, the Houston Dynamo’s pre-season form was spotlighted on Tuesday as the collapsed offensively and defensively, limping away from Cancun without scoring a goal while giving up three goals. It was reminiscent of the Dynamo defeat at the hands of Red Bull New York in the first round of last year’s MLS playoffs, or more accurately, it was reminiscent of last year’s 6-1 defeat at the hands of Gamba Osaka in the 2008 Pan-Pacific Championship.

With Bobby Boswell being sidelined with flu like symptoms and Eddie Robinson out due to a knee injury, the Dynamo went into the match with a defensive handicap. Julius James, acquired in the trade that sent Dwayne de Rosario to Toronto late last year, will likely become an important part of the Dynamo defense, but like Bobby Boswell in last year’s PPC, James is still learning to mesh and communicate with his new backline, and Atlante exploited the resulting miscues to great effect.

For the past few weeks, it has been clear that the Houston Dynamo have to add some more offensive depth, but as they approach the start of the 2009 MLS season they find themselves in the unfortunate position of needing to shore up their defense. The left knee injury that kept Eddie Robinson out of Tuesday’s match was severe enough that Robinson underwent knee surgery on Wednesday and is out indefinitely.

The Dynamo went into half time with a 2 goal deficit thanks to goals by Fernando Navarro in the 23rd minute and Rafael Marquez Lugo in the 36th minute. Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear wanted his team to get more aggressive, so going into the second half he put Geoff Cameron and Corey Ashe on as substitutes. While these Dynamo substitutes played well, they were not able to sufficiently ignite the Dynamo offense. A goal from Giancarlo Maldonado at the end of the match just added insult to injury for a Dynamo side that was outplayed and outclassed, by an FMF side that is in mid-season form and took advantage of their opponent’s pre-season form.

During the CCL group stage, due to fixture congestion, the Dynamo took several gambles by fielding primarily reserve squads, and these gambles paid off as the Dynamo advanced into the CCL quarter-finals. During the group stage, Coach Kinnear was not afraid to hide his distaste for the tactics of several of the teams his side faced, and expressed his preference for SuperLiga. But going into Tuesday’s match, it was clear that Kinnear, who hates to lose, wanted the victory and wanted to move on to the semi-finals. Having seen and interacted with Dominic Kinnear after his Dynamo have lost important matches, I would hate to be one of the Dynamo players after Tuesday’s loss.

With the current CCL behind them, the Dynamo now focus their attention on hosting 2008 MLS Champions Columbus Crew on Saturday March 21st. Before that happens though, do not be surprised if the Dynamo step up efforts to sign Canadian defender Andre Hanait. The Dynamo’s offensive depth issues will likely be dealt with later this Spring, a common theme in Houston.

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  1. Lars

    March 6, 2009 at 9:34 am

    I pulled for all canadian and american teams in this tournament, Montreal was my team to cheer for, although I would have prefered TFC representing Canada.

    Battery, i understand your sentiments. I went and watched the Impact game at Stade Olympique and enjoyed every minute of it. I was crushed last night when they collapsed in the last 10 minutes, but not really surprised.

    I wasn’t surprised because as a Canadian I am used to either our Hockey teams underperforming in major international tournaments, or our soccer teams being hyped up and choking miserably. I stand by my typical choke artistry comment, to whoever marked it down. Canada needs a better development program.

  2. The Battery

    March 6, 2009 at 8:45 am

    Look for some of us, we’ve seen the Impact and Islanders regularly in person and have never seen MLS teams except the occasional Open Cup game. I am so offended by fans of NY, NE, CHI etc celebrating the Montreal loss and saying, take that USL.

    I have no connection at all to the Dynamo: they did not even have the decency to bring their full squad here last year, insulting the Open Cup in the process. Chivas or New England? They might as well play in Antarctica for me.

    I don’t care about the welfare of MLS. I’m for the American player. The team that’s left in this tournament has players I’ve met and known personally. Houston losing has no affect on me as a fan.

    Puerto Rico and Montreal are the teams I pulled for in this event. The Islanders are still standing while not a single team from the so-called top flight league in our country is still alive.

    I take pride in that.

  3. Lars

    March 5, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    Typical Canadian choke artistry in the game of futbol.

  4. Lars

    March 5, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    Terrible end to the game by the Impact.

    Defensive futbol, in both the pointy ball and round ball sense, fails miserably. You must go on the attack.

  5. Jonathan

    March 5, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    My blood runs ORANGE. I’m a die-hard Dynamo fans but this is definately not their best performance. It’s pretty hard for an MLS team to come from pre-season having just lost two anchor players like Dero and Nate Jaqua and play against teams in the middle of their season. I do believe they will get it together for the MLS season.

  6. Michael

    March 4, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    Good little summary here, I watched both games on FSC and have to agree that the Dynamo were shameful..mostly because I believe they were the better team. Usually MLS teams have to play physical and fight hard to break even with more skillful Mexican sides. But this time I thought the Dynamo played better all around soccer. Defensively though the Dynamo were pathetic. At least in the second game. The central defense never seemed well positioned and Waibel was terrible. How he allowed such an open header on the second goal was truly the most shameful moment of the match. I like Kamara, he’s skillful and a dangerous forward. Ching is so average its sad, sad that Bradley keeps starting him on the USMNT. Still I’d imagine the Dynamo will get it together for a quality MLS season. And I’m looking forward to the days when MLS will dominate CONCACAF club soccer.

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