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Deck cleared for regional duty
by Paul Kennedy, March 4th, 2013 11:06PM

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[CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE] MLS has cleared the deck for its three entrants in the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals. Houston, Seattle and Los Angeles all received byes for the second week of MLS play, giving them the weekend off between the first and second legs.

History is not their side. All three teams lost in their only previous appearances in the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals, and no MLS team has won a quarterfinal except against another MLS club.

Houston and Seattle must face two of the northern giants of Mexican soccer -- 2012 Concacaf Champions League runner-up Santos with Hercules Gomez and Liga MX leader Tigres with Jose Torres, respectively -- while the Galaxy would appear to be in better shape against Costa Rica's Herediano, a team in turmoil following a chance in coaches two weeks ago.

QUARTERFINALS, FIRST LEG:
Tuesday, March 5
Houston Dynamo vs. Santos, Fox Soccer, Galavision 8 pm ET
Wednesday, March 6

Xelaju vs. Monterrey, Galavision 8 pm ET
Tigres vs. Seattle Sounders, Fox Soccer, Galavision 10 pm ET
Thursday, March 7
Herediano vs. LA Galaxy, Fox Soccer, Univision Deportes 8 pm ET

HOUSTON-SANTOS. The Dynamo opened MLS play with a 2-0 win over D.C. United.  Ricardo Clark showed no ill effects of the knee problems that bothered him in preseason and had a tremendous game against D.C. United.

Calen Carr
and offseason acquisition Omar Cummings are out, so Dominic Kinnear started Englishman Giles Barnes, nominally a wide midfielder, alongside Will Bruin up front.

The Dynamo lost in the quarterfinals four years ago to Atlante of Mexico, 4-1, on aggregate.

Santos' American connection: Gomez had two goals and one assist in Santos' 3-1 win at Jaguares on Friday night. He has started all nine games under new coach Pedro Caixinha in the Torneo Clausura after starting just seven of 17 games in last fall's championship.

He was one of the stars for Santos with six goals in six games when it reached the 2012 Concacaf Champions League final, and his goal gave Santos a 1-0 win over Toronto FC that clinched its quarterfinal berth last fall.

American teen Benji Joya also started for Santos in the Toronto FC game, but he hasn't played for Santos since joining the U.S. U-20 national team on its run to second place at the 2013 Concacaf Under-20 Championship.

TIGRES-SEATTLE. The Sounders head to Monterrey after falling to Montreal, 1-0, at home in their MLS opener.

Osvaldo Alonso and Marc Burch were suspended, while Adam Johansson, Patrick Ianni and David Estrada are injured.

Since loaning Fredy Montero to Millonarios, Seattle has been searching for a partner for Eddie Johnson up front, and it thinks it has found that player in Nigerian Obafemi Martins, but it has up until now been unable to secure his transfer from Levante in Spain.

The Sounders, who were blown out by Santos, 6-1, in the second leg last year's quarterfinals after winning, 2-1, at home, will face Mexico's hottest teams in Tigres, unbeaten after nine games with six wins and three ties.

Tigres coach Ricardo Ferretti says the Concachampions, as the tournament is called in Mexico, is a club priority this year, and he plans on fielding his best team. The only player out is leading scorer Emanuel Villa, sidelined for 4-5 weeks with a hamstring strain.

Tigres' American connection: Torres moved from Pachuca, where he played seven seasons, to Tigres in January and stepped right into the starting lineup.

A thigh injury kept him out of the first two games of the Torneo Clausura but he started every game since then.

HEREDIANO-LOS ANGELES. The Galaxy didn't skip a beat and hammered the Chicago Fire, 4-0, on Sunday in its first game since the move of David Beckham to Paris St. Germain and Landon Donovan's decision to go on sabbatical.

The Galaxy scrapped plans to travel abroad in December, which meant the players got the break they didn't before the 2012 season, which began badly on the MLS and in the Concacaf Champions League, where Los Angeles fell to Toronto FC, 4-3, on aggregate in last year's quarterfinals.

The MLS champs looked very refreshed in their win over Chicago and are at full strength except for Donovan, defender Tommy Meyer and rookie forward Gyasi Zardes, who are injured.

Such is the Galaxy's depth Leonardo has taken over in the middle beside Omar Gonzalez, A.J. DeLaGarza has moved to right back and Sean Franklin has taken over at right back. Brazilian Marcelo Sarvas, who played in Costa Rica for Alajuelense, has replaced Beckham in midfield.

The Galaxy, who welcome back Jose Villarreal from U-20 duty, will take a charter flight to Costa Rica on Tuesday for Thursday's game against Herediano.

Marvin Solano took over as coach for Mauricio Solis two weeks ago as Herediano has fallen off the pace for the Torneo de Verano. A 2-1 win at San Carlos gave it three wins in four games since Solano took over and pushed "El Team" back over the .500 mark, but it is tied for third place, 11 points behind leader Cartagines, after 10 games.

Starting goalie Daniel Cambronero and defender Pablo Salazar played for Costa Rica at the 2013 Copa Centroamericana the Ticos won, but no Herediano player is currently part of Costa Rica's Hexagonal team.



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