[CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE]Several MLS teams, not just coach-less newcomer Seattle Sounders FC, are in tricky situations as they prepare for the expansion draft Wednesday, but only Houston is also getting ready to play a competitive match.
The Dynamo host Salvadoran club Luis Angel Firpo (2-1-2, 8 points) at Robertson Stadium in the Concacaf Champions League Group B finale (Wednesday, 8 pm ET, Fox Soccer Channel), and Coach Dominic Kinnear knows his team could take the field with players headed elsewhere, either directly through the draft or via trades yet to be announced.
"If we win Wednesday we'll be the only MLS team to advance to the next round, which I know all the guys take pride in," says Kinnear, noting that Chivas USA and New England stumbled in the preliminary round, and D.C. United didn't get out of Group A. "We've pushed ourselves through this tournament along with all the other games we've played and we want to have a positive result.
"I've addressed the situation with the guys and I think they'll all be focused on this match."
Veterans Richard Mulrooney, Pat Onstad, and Craig Waibel are among those on the non-protected list. Striker Nate Jaqua is expected to wind up in Seattle and each team can only lose one player via the draft, but trades could be pending. For players who will be in option years of their contracts next year, teams must have notified MLS by Monday which options are to be picked up.
Columbus management is negotiating a new deal with Coach Sigi Schmid, whose contract expires Sunday. Seattle is interested in his services, but also has Preki and John Spencer on its list of possibles, and has interviewed Revs' assistant coach Paul Mariner.
Houston hasn't played a match since that stunning 3-0 loss to New York in the Western Conference semifinal second leg Nov. 9. "The first thing we did was give them a week off," says Kinnear. "Let's be honest, that [playoff] exit was more stunning to us than it was to anyone else, and it took a lot out of us, especially mentally."
Originally scheduled to be played Sept. 17, the match was postponed following meetings by city and government officials concerned about widespread damage inflicted by Hurricane Ike. Robertson Stadium sustained only superficial damage but street lamps and signals at intersections in many parts of the city were inoperable, and all available enforcement and repair personnel were committed elsewhere.
In the teams' first meeting Oct. 28, Kinnear fielded most of the players from the Dynamo reserve team, which had just won the MLS Reserve Division title, and Stuart Holden scored in the 16th minute for a 1-0 lead. Edgar Leguizamon equalized with just three minutes left to earn Firpo a 1-1 tie.
Firpo is sixth in the 10-team Salvadoran league and has won only one of its last four games, but needs only a tie to advance along with group leader UNAM.
"For us it's important to get through to the next round of this CONCACAF league," Onstad said. "It's one of our goals, and unfortunately it is the only one left that we have to play for."