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Crew, United face Mexican opposition
by Ridge Mahoney, August 26th, 2009 7AM
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[CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE] He missed out on the most recent Mexico-USA showdown at Azteca Stadium, so defender Frankie Hejduk is perhaps even more eager than usual for the assignment handed to him and his Columbus teammates Wednesday.

"We want to represent ourselves, represent the Crew and MLS the best we can," said Hejduk to mlsnet.com about playing in Mexico City against Cruz Azul (10 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer Channel) in the Concacaf Champions' League. "That's means going down there and fighting for each other. We want to win cups. That's what we're all about now."

Also facing Mexican opposition is D.C. United, which has won more domestic and international cups than any other MLS team. United hosts Toluca at RFK Stadium on Wednesday (8 p.m., Fox Soccer Channel) after opening play in Group C last week with a tough 3-1 loss to Marathon of Honduras in San Pedro Sula.

Cruz Azul, which eliminated USL-1 Puerto Rico Islanders in the semifinals of the 2008-09 competition before losing to Atlante in the final, opened group play at home last week by beating Deportivo Saprissa of Costa Rica, 2-0. Christian Riveros and backup Joel Hiqui scored for Cruz Azul as head coach Enrique Meza used many of his reserves.

It is 2-3 in league play and has already lost twice at the Estadio Azul, including a 3-2 loss to Mexico City rival Club America last weekend. Its roster includes Mexican internationals Fausto Pinto and Gerrado Torrado, who played for Mexico against the USA in the Gold Cup final last month. Torrado also played in the Hexagonal match at Azteca that Mexico won, 2-1.

Columbus beat Puerto Rico, 2-0, in its CCL Group B opener last week with goals by Steven Lenhart and Robbie Rogers after nearly an hour of scoreless play. It hasn't played since that game eight days ago but jumps right back into league action this weekend against New York.

Toluca comes to RFK in great form on both the domestic and international fronts. It leads Group 1 with four wins in five games after thumping Santos Laguna, 3-0, last weekend, and defeated San Juan Jabloteh of Trinidad & Tobago, 1-0, on the road in its CCL opener. It has scored 12 goals in league play and Nestor Calderon leads the team in scoring with five.

United tied the Galaxy, 0-0, at RFK Saturday and needs to improve its recent showings against Mexican team to advance in this competition. In the 2008-09 CCL, United lost twice to Cruz Azul in group play. In the Concacaf Champions Cup, it has had some success. It lost, 5-0, to UNAM after tying, 1-1, in the home leg in the 2005 semifinals; in the semis two years ago, it tied Guadalajara, 1-1, at home before losing the second leg, 2-1; and in April of 2008 beat Pachuca, 2-1, at home in the semifinals but lost out on aggregate, 3-2.

"We take pride in what we do here," D.C. United midfielder Ben Olsen said to concacaf.com. "They're a good team - Mexican teams have been very good in this competition. It's going to be tough to get a result, but why not? We can do it."

The third MLS entrant in the 2009-10 CCL, Houston, also plays Wednesday against the co-leader in Group A. The Dynamo opened the tournament with a 1-0 victory over Salvadoran club Isidro Metapan last week, and plays on the road against Panamanian club Arabe Unido, which stunned Pachuca, 4-1, in its opener.

Pachuca, with U.S. midfielder Jose Francisco Torres going the full 90, bounced back Tuesday night to thrash Isidro Metapan, 5-0, at Estadio Hildago to temporarily knot three teams atop the Group A standings. Deportivo Saprissa rallied to beat Puerto Rico Islanders, 3-1, at Estadio Ricardo Saprissa.

 



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