HOUSTON vs. PACHUCA
Tuesday, 10 p.m. ET, TeleFutura, mlsnet.com
[SUPERLIGA PREVIEW] The roles have reversed, somewhat, since Houston and Pachuca met in a riveting CONCACAF Champions Cup semifinal five months ago.
Houston hosts Pachuca Tuesday night in the semifinals of the SuperLiga. This time around, the Dynamo is the team in the midst of its regular season. Yet it has lost its last two league games by 1-0 scores after running through its SuperLiga first-round group against D.C. United, Club America, and Morelia unbeaten.
Pachuca started off slowly in the SuperLiga with a loss and a tie before knocking off Mexican rival Guadalajara to finish second in Group B. It opened the Mexican Apertura season by blasting Morelia, 3-1, and UAG 4-1, despite the summer departure of lethal scorer Luis Angel Landin.
Christian Gimenez, who scored a hat trick in a 5-2 Pachuca overtime win that eliminated Houston, 5-4, on aggregate in the CONCACAF semifinals, scored the late penalty kick that enabled Pachuca to tie Dallas and sent over the free kick that Rafael Marquez Lugo headed home for the winner against Guadalajara. Some spectacular goalkeeping from Miguel Calero thwarted Guadalajara down the stretch as Pachuca held on.
Juan Carlos Cacho has already scored three goals in league play, and Andreas Chitiva, Marquez Lugo and Damian Alvarez have hit the net as well.
Real Salt Lake ended Houston's 11-game league unbeaten streak on a defensive miscue, and Colorado scored via an own goal byDwayne DeRosario, of all people, so bad luck can partially be blamed for the defeats. Yet two straight shutouts is reminiscent of the team's offensive struggles at the start of the MLS season; after scoring six goals in four CONCACAF games, it tallied just one in its first four league matches.
Since facing Pachuca in the CONCACAF semis, Coach Dominic Kinnear has deepened his squad by acquiring Richard Mulrooney, Joseph Ngwenya and Nate Jaqua, and he has given defender Pat Ianniand midfielder Stuart Holden considerable playing time. Holden and Mulrooney played every minute of the SuperLiga group matches. That depth will be tested this week.
Houston also has plays a critical league match at home Sunday against FC Dallas, which has taken over first place in the Western Conference.