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Efficient Atlante eliminates Houston
by Ridge Mahoney, March 4th, 2009 7AM



[CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE] One team had the polish and poise to turn opportunities into goals while blotting out its opponent at critical moments, and the other team didn't. Atlante downed Houston, 3-0, Tuesday in the second leg of their Concacaf Champions League quarterfinal to win the series, 4-1, on aggregate while eliminating the last MLS team alive in the competition.

Just about everything the Dynamo needed to do well in order to advance, it did poorly. Bad marking offered Atlante clear-cut shots on all three of its goals, and while some approach work created openings, either the final pass or the shot itself nullified the opportunity. Houston failed to shut down 19-year-old winger Fernando Navarro, who scored the first goal and set up the second to put Houston down, 2-0, at halftime, while its own attackers furnished plenty of energy but lacked sharpness. Forward Kei Kamara struggled through an especially tough 45 minutes before being replaced and seldom clicked with partner Brian Ching.

Houston coach Dominic Kinnear didn't defender Eddie Robinson, suspended for the first leg, available because of injury, and Bobby Boswell also missed the game, because of illness. Julius James and Craig Waibel, normally a right back, were paired in central defense, with captain Wade Barrett at left back and veteran Richard Mulrooney on the right corner. Geoff Cameron came into the back line at halftime  in a tactical shift to get Houston back in the game. But regardless of personnel or formation, seldom did Houston display the resiliency typical of its MLS defensive work.

Navarro glided  behind Barrett to collect a long kick from keeper Federico Vilar and fire a shot over Houston goalie Pat Onstad in the 23rd minute; on the second goal, Waibel was left stranded in the 36th minute as Navarro's cross from the right easily cleared his leap for Rafael Marquez Lugo to head firmly into the net; and in the final minute Mulrooney was caught ball-watching as Giancarlo Maldonado chested a down a chip from Luis Gabriel Rey -- who had twisted past Corey Ashe after receiving a throw-in -- to smash a shot over Onstad and off the underside of the crossbar.

Houston resumes its MLS preseason schedule Saturday against the USL Austin Aztex.

WEDNESDAY DOUBLE-DIP. A second-leg Concacaf Champions' League doubleheader kicks off at 8 p.m. ET (Fox Soccer Channel, TeleFutura) as Honduran club Marathon hosts Puerto Rico Islanders (USL-1) in the second leg with Puerto Rico leading the series, 2-1.

Nicholas Addlery and Kendall Jagdeosingh scored seven minutes apart in the second half after Marathon had taken a 1-0 lead in the 41st minute on a goal by Jerry Palacios. With the away goal, Marathon can advance with a 1-0 win in regulation as well as a tie.

In a meeting of Mexico City rivals at Estadio Olímpico Universitario, UNAM hosts Cruz Azul (aggregate: 0-1) at 10 p.m. ET (FSC, Telefutura) with Los Cementeros leading from the first leg thanks to Jaime Lozano's goal on a bending free kick in the fifth minute.

SUDDEN IMPACT. The quarterfinal round ends Thursday in Torreon, Mexico, where Santos Laguna will try to turn around a 2-0 first-leg deficit against the Montreal Impact 10:00 pm ET (FSC, Galavision). A team-record crowd of 55,571 in the Montreal Olympic Stadium watched Eduardo Sebrango score both goals.

By advancing, Montreal can set up a semifinal rematch with Atlante, which beat the Impact, 2-1, and tied it, 0-0, during the group phase.

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