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Houston and United need home wins
by Ridge Mahoney, September 30th, 2009 7AM
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[CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE] The tasks for Houston and D.C. United are vastly different though both are playing at home Wednesday night in the group play of the regional championship.While tricky, United's match against Trinidadian club San Juan Jabloteh (8 p.m., Fox Soccer Channel) is nothing like the Dynamo's date with Mexican powerhouse Pachuca (10 p.m., FSC, Galavision). The Tuzos are in second place in Group A with nine points, two more than Houston and one less than Arabe Unido of Panama, which took over the group lead by battering Isidro Metapan, 6-0, on Tuesday.

Pachuca topped Houston, 2-0, in Mexico two weeks ago but Houston has toughed it out at home. It beat Pachuca in Champions' Cup play two years ago, 2-0, and repeated that feat by the same score in last year's semifinals. The teams played a 2-2 tie in the 2007 Champions' Cup semis that Pachuca won on penalty kicks.

Houston finishes group play against pointless Isidro Metapan, but that game is in El Salvador. The Dynamo opened group play with a narrow 1-0 win Aug. 18 at home. Pachuca hosts Arabe Unido in its finale.

Coach Dominic Kinnear relishes pitting his players against Mexican teams, and has special regard for Pachuca, which features U.S. midfielder Jose Francisco Torres on a deep and talented roster. "I just like the way they play," says Kinnear. "They have a lot of skillful players and they move well as a team and move the ball well, too. They try to play the game the way it should be played, in my opinion."

Pachuca suffered a 4-0 loss to Santos in league play over the weekend but has won three straight CCL matches after being shocked by Arabe Unido, 4-1, in its opener. "Everybody knows the Pachuca-Dynamo rivalry is one of the better ones as far as MLS-Mexican First Division goes," said Dynamo midfielder Stuart Holden. "It's two good teams competing and trying to win."

Defender Paul Aguilar, who has scored three CCL goals, and forward Juan Carlos Cacho were named to the Mexican national team for its friendly Wednesday against Colombia. Ulises Mendívil is among the tournament's top scorers with seven goals. For Houston, Mexican striker Luis Angel Landin is cup-tied and midfielder Danny Cruz is with the U.S. under-20 team.

D.C. lost its first two CCL games but takes on San Juan Jabloteh riding a two-match winning streak. With six points from the four matches, it is tied for second place with Honduran club Marathon, which will host its match with group leader Toluca as scheduled in San Pedro Sula on Thursday. Political unrest has disrupted travel and operations in the country and reports surfaced that the game might be postponed or moved, but Toluca officials confirmed Tuesday on the club's Web site that the team will travel to Honduras Wednesday.

Marathon arrived in D.C. last week exhausted from a long trip that took them through Guatemala by bus to catch a flight to the U.S., and United took advantage with a 3-0 victory, nine days after it revived its CCL campaign by beating San Juan Jabloteh, 1-0, in Port of Spain with a Christian Gomez goal.

"We know the importance of this game, especially after winning against Marathon, and we need the three points," said D.C. attacker Chris Pontius. "They're dangerous up top. They have some speed up top -- maybe not the most disciplined team, but I think that's something we can take advantage of."

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