CCCo8: Houston 3-1 Municipal – Hey, Houston, It’s Corey Ashe Night!

Not much to say about that one – and I’m trying to be more brief, generally – but the Houston Dynamo did Major League Soccer (MLS) proud in the other CONCACAF Champions Cup quarterfinal. And I’m happy to report that Corey Ashe, my personal liability for the first leg, turned in the man-of-the-match performance that made it possible.

Who can say what happened between last week and tonight’s game? Did Dynamo coach, Dominic Kinnear, force Ashe to work on his crosses again and again and again, until he could send on to the six in his sleep? Probably not. After all, the best balls Ashe played skimmed close to the ground, much like the one he fired at Chris Wondolowski for the Dynamo’s third goal. Ashe also earned the penalty that put the Dynamo up 2-0, “soft” as it was (yeah, I’m sayin’ it: the severity of the contact doesn’t really matter does it? I mean, isn’t about a foul in the penalty area in the end?).

Not surprisingly, Dwayne DeRosario garnered his share of the credit as well. Between his opportunistic (and, possibly, illegal) goal that essentially started the second half and his cool conversion of the PK Ashe created, “DeRo” decided the game and settled his teammates. His finishing touch? The cross-field ball to Ashe that set up the Wondo goal.” Game, set, match, Houston.

Another big star on the night: Pat Onstad, who saved, by my count, two dead-certain goals. The first one of them, a point-blank stuff on CSD Municipal’s Mario Rodriguez, could very well have defined the series. I mean, what might have been had Municipal scored the first goal? A team possessed of that kind of savvy could surely have killed this game dead. But Onstad stoned him inside the six – as well as keeping the Dynamo’s clean-sheet on several opportunities before and after.

The main take-away from all this: damn good game. It’s a shame that CCC games can’t all be like this: great, lively crowd, quick, hard-fought, even-uncompromising play from both clubs until 2/3 into the proceedings. After that, Municipal seemed to feel the weight of the score and, even as they pressed and earned a penalty of their own, they didn’t appear nearly as alive and menacing as they did in the first.

So, that’s to MLS clubs in the semifinals. They passed the audition; good stuff. Now, they just have to get past the Mexican clubs…or the Costa Rican one. Whatever happens, the fun begins next week.

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CCC08: Dynamo v. Municipal, A Modest Preview

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. Continue reading

CCC08 Quarterfinals Wrap: Correctives, Additions from Around the Web

I posted my usual ramblers on the CONCACAF Champions Cup quarterfinals involving Major League Soccer (MLS) clubs down the page (Harbour View v. DC and Municipal v. Houston). In my usual rounds around the Web, however, I found plenty more thoughts on all this – the majority of them coming from DC-related sites (hey, Houston fans, where are you guys?). A few of those disagreed with my copy to varying degrees, so I thought I’d pass on those to give all y’all another perspective. That way, we all get smarter (and they get plugged!). There is also one area of broad agreement that I’ll flag as well.

May as well start with Houston, ’cause they didn’t get as many. Well, actually, may as well plug Jeff Carlisle’s quarterfinals review for ESPN.com. He turned in his usual quality stuff on both games, but took a harder line on DC’s draw; his singling out of DC’s flank defending as “shaky” also bears noting; after all, that could be why Harbour View did so well down the flanks, right? WVHooligan also combined both games in one post and, while he didn’t think much of either team’s performance, he took a dimmer view of Houston’s game. So, who’s right? Got me. You figure it out. Continue reading

CCC08: Municipal v. Houston – Stay Frosty, Creamsicles

In spite of the fact I’m going to skip a preview for tonight’s CONCACAF Champions Cup (CCC) quarterfinal between CD Saprissa and FC Atlante, credit last night’s quarterfinal between CSD Municipal and the Houston Dynamo for compelling me to watch it…probably in the wee hours of tomorrow.

Getting back to the game, I posted a loosey-goosey perspective on last night’s goalless draw, but wanted to follow up with some talking point here.  To reiterate just a little, it seems Houston brought a little luck with them to Guatemala; the Municipal really took it to them and really should have put away at least one.  A roll-out of the reasons they didn’t,  plus a lot more, comes below.

– To begin, my general ignorance of their team leaves me feeling I’m doing to the Guatemalans.  They played a good game from front-to-back and I wish I could credit the players by name.  This is something I generally hate about watching teams with whom I’m unfamiliar (and why I’m becoming so MLS-monogamous).  That said, Mario Rodriguez buzzed like a mad bee, causing the Dynamo headaches all night; I remember hearing Israel Silva’s name plenty, as well as Gonzalo Romero.  With Freddy Garcia, who didn’t stand out as much for me, they led the Municipal attack better than ably.

– Though it bears noting that it was Romero who conspired to miss a goal that a blind, one-legged man could have put away.

– This also occasioned the best commentating moment of the match.  FSC commentator Christopher Sullivan exclaimed “impossiblé” on watching the replays and, for reasons beyond knowing, decided to mention this means “impossible.”  FSC’s play-by-play guy, Max Bretos, clearly unable to resist, chimed in with “Is that what it means?”  A cheap-shot to be sure, but what can you do when Sullivan leads with that big chin?

– Yeah, I like the broadcast team.  I know that’s a lonely view, but they make me laugh.  OK, back to the game. Continue reading

CCC08: Two Draws Tonight – MLS Shakes Off the Rust

Some quick thoughts on both of tonight’s CONCACAF Champions Cup quarterfinals come below. I’ll offer more detailed thoughts on the game tomorrow, but figured I’d get something up while the memory is still fresh. I invite anyone who cares to to drop their thoughts in the comments below.

Harbour View FC 1-1 DC United
This one stumbled out of the blocks; more than just the general start-stop, it seemed fair to wonder around the fifteenth minute if DC would lose too many players to complete the game. But they settled down before long and, until their legs ran out late in the second half, the MLS club enjoyed the better of the play. When DC snuck a goal off a slop-scramble at the (very) end of the first half, it was as much as they deserved. Even so, a lot of the game – too much, even – took place in the middle third. For their part, Harbour View worked the ball down the flanks pretty well – and they’ve got some damned speedy players out there – but too many of those moves ended with crosses to the top of the 18, which left all DC’s defenders behind the ball. Harbour View’s equalizer came with another slop-fest, this one at the (very) end of the second half and off a corner in front of DC’s goal. A fitting end, as I see it.

CSD Municipal 0-0 Houston Dynamo
What…a…friggin’…game. True, this one died with Houston’s legs – though, to their credit, the Dynamo managed a super-late rally – but to that point, this game was a pants-in-the-air affair. Municipal started better and, by the end, had the better chances; actually, it’s fair to say they should have won it when Gonzalo Romero broke free on Pat Onstad inside the 6, but – impossiblé! – he pulled a certain goal wide. Municipal ran Houston ragged for much of the second half, launching chance after chance toward goal.  Houston had it’s share of misses going the other way, even in the second half. For what it’s worth, I’d call the first half even, but the second half – that was just about all Municipal. Good game and, better yet, it promises more to come. By that I mean, if you can’t see Municipal stealing this series in Houston, you’re not looking hard enough.

Well, good night overall – though the nightcap definitely had something on the opener. Both MLS clubs control their fate – and that’s a good thing. But there’s 90 minutes of work left to do. All for now.