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Houston deals with congested schedule
by Ridge Mahoney, August 19th, 2009 7AM



[CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE] When it comes to playing international games in the final one-third of the MLS season, Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear is as ambitious as he is realistic.

"We're used to it now, so we don't complain, we just shrug our shoulders," said Kinner in regards to the six games in the next two months Houston will play in Group A of the Concacaf Champions League, which commences for the Dynamo Wednesday (9 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer Channel) at Robertson Stadium.

"Now you just have to hope the places you go to aren't too bad. Luckily, we escaped going to Honduras, because that place is kind of crazy right now. We have to go to Panama (Arabe Unido), Pachuca (Mexico), and El Salvador, but I don't think our group is as tough as D.C.'s , that's for sure."

(Speaking of Honduras, that's where D.C. opened its CCL schedule Tuesday night, conceding two late goals - including a penalty kick -- in a 3-1 loss to Marathon in San Pedro Sula.)

Metapan isn't expected to produce the toughest challenge, yet it is the defending Salvadoran champion and has a few Salvadoran national-team players, including Alexander Escobar, who played two of three matches this summer in the Gold Cup.

"We have some video on them from when they played Firpo last year," said Kinnear to "This is a good team with a lot of national team players. These guys were the champs of El Salvador and for them to come out on top of Firpo, we know they are going to be a difficult team."

Metapan came to the United States last year for a chilly preseason friendly in Columbus. In temperatures just above freezing, the eventual MLS champion beat the Salvadorans, 1-0.

In 19 competitive matches against foreign teams it has played since 2007 in SuperLiga and the Concacaf club competitions, Houston has won eight, lost five, and tied six in regulation and overtime. It also lost the 2007 SuperLiga final on penalties to Pachuca, 4-3, after a 2-2 tie.

It played Luis Angel Firpo, the top Salvadoran club, in the inaugural edition of the CCL last year and came away with four points by tying, 1-1, on the road and winning, 1-0, at Robertson in a game postponed until late November because of Hurricane Ike.

The experience gained from trips to Mexico and Central America and a genuine commitment to international competitions deals Houston a relatively strong hand despite the added burdens of travel, fatigue and possible injuries.

"When you start playing in the international tournaments, is that you have to keep your head a little bit more," said midfielder Brad Davis to "The games definitely get a little bit more physical."


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