What’s the balance between the differences and similarities heading into Leg #2 of the CONCACAF Champions Cup quarterfinal between the Houston Dynamo and Guatemala’s CSD Municipal? In other words, how much work do I have to do in order to update the information from the mess of a preview I compiled before the first leg?
Well, why not start with that first leg? Municipal proved a better team than I expected certainly. Even before pre-season conditioning and the altitude got the better of the Dynamo, the Guatemalans rather reliably menaced the Dynamo goal; I’d actually argue that, in spite of the increased general pressure, they looked better in the opening half…though, at the same time, they had their best chance early in the second (and I’m still thanking Gonzalo Romero for the nearly implausible shank). The Dynamo held fast in the end and even managed to send a fright or two into Municipal’s defense.
The absence of cards means we’ll be seeing the same players – though, with some players recovering (Brad Davis) and others settling in (Franco Caraccio), the Dynamo may get to mix things up a little. Those changes, however, shouldn’t amount to much: Davis can’t possibly be match-fit, which should limit his effectiveness (though I can’t see how he wouldn’t improve on Corey Ashe on crosses) and the same applies, if to a lesser degree, to Brian Mullan, the other regular starter. Stuart Holden and Patrick Ianni remain away on Olympic duty, a blow where Holden is concerned, but less of one with Ianni, given his performance with the U-23s. That Bobby Boswell, a player I wondered about ahead of the series, showed well in the first leg only helps a little more.
All that makes the change in altitude perhaps the greatest difference between legs one and two. How Guatemala City got so dang high I’ll never know, but tonight’s tie will be played much, much closer to sea level. That should help the Dynamo stay lively over the full 90. Moreover, seeing DC United win so impressively at home with one day’s less rest makes me think the Dynamo will have the legs to bring their A-Game intensity.
For what it’s worth, I think they’ll need it, especially offensively. Energetic as Municipal’s offense looked just under a week ago, they gave away little more than half-chances on defense; full credit to Chris Wondolowski for almost finding a way through – ditto for Ricardo Clark, though his long-range efforts offer a lower percentage for success. Referring again to DC’s second leg victory, I don’t think Houston can count on Municipal opening up the same way as Harbour View FC did; they’re too savvy for that.
Umm…I think that’s it. It feels a little half-assed, but nothing else is coming to me. Basically, I expect a tighter game tonight…though, it’s fair to point out I expected a tight game last night as well. Always keep a grain of salt handy, people…