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Crucial matches on tap for MLS representatives
by Ridge Mahoney, September 24th, 2013 12:49AM

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TAGS:  concacaf champions league, mls

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[CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Week 5] Of the three MLS teams involved in group play in the Concacaf Champions League this week, only Montreal has but a scant chance to advance.

The Galaxy (2-0-0) leads Group 8 and Houston (1-0-1) can take over the Group 1 lead by winning, but the Impact (1-2-0) needs a big victory in its Group 5 match against Guatemalan club Heredia Tuesday at Stade Saputo to keep its hopes alive.

Eight group winners advance to the quarterfinals, which will be played in February and March of next year. A final round of group games for some teams -- including the other two MLS entries, San Jose and Sporting Kansas City -- will be played next month.

MONTREAL IMPACT vs. HEREDIA (8 p.m. ET, Univision Deportes). The Impact led the MLS Eastern Conference for a while but has since struggled with inconsistency, and is coming into its final group game off a discouraging 3-0 home loss to Vancouver. In CCL play it has beaten San Jose, 1-0, lost by the same score away to Heredia, and suffered a 3-0 loss in San Jose last week.

Its only chance to reach the quarterfinals is to beat Heredia (2-0-0) impressively -- say by six goals -- to improve its current goal difference of minus-3, and then hope San Jose (1-2-0) also beats Heredia but narrowly. Those results would leave the teams tied with six points apiece, and three-team tiebreakers -- goal difference and then away goals -- would be used to separate them.

“[The players] know that the message is clear: We are going to win this game,” said coach Marco Schaellibaum told mlssoccer.com. “We have to go all in. We have a small chance and we’ll try everything to take it.”

Defender Hassoun Camara has scored Montreal’s only CCL goal. His header from a Hernan Bernardello free kick in the 16th minute downed the Quakes. Backup keeper Evan Bush stopped an Alan Gordon penalty kick to highlight a shutout performance.

The Impact has a crucial league match looming Saturday in Chicago so Schallibaum is expected to rest most of his starters. Montreal romped over Houston, 5-0, in a league match Aug. 24, and crushed Toronto FC, 6-0, in May during the Canadian qualifying tournament for this competition, so the firepower is certainly available.

HOUSTON DYNAMO vs. W CONNECTION FC (Wednesday, 8 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 2). Houston comes into its penultimate CCL group game in good form, having thrashed Chivas USA, 5-1, Saturday a week after edging past Philadelphia, 1-0, on the road.

Though it trails Arabe Unido (2-1-0) by two points, Houston can leapfrog into first place by beating W Connection, and then would need only a tie in the group finale next month in Panama to reach the quarterfinals. The Dynamo opened its CCL campaign last month by tying W Connection, 0-0, in Port of Spain, then beat Arabe Unido at home, 2-1, with a pair of goals by Cam Weaver.

That game produced seven cautions, four of them to Houston players, and this game could be rugged, since W Connection (0-2-1) cannot advance and has no reason to play cautiously. The Dynamo escaped in Port of Spain when striker Neil Benjamin squandered a pair of late chances, one of them coming back off the post, and it labored to break down a massed defense.

CARTAGINES vs. LOS ANGELES GALAXY (Wednesday, 10 p.m., Fox Soccer Plus). The Galaxy can wrap up Group 8 with a game to spare just by getting a tie at the Estadio Nacional in San Jose, Costa Rica. (Cartagines’ home stadium in Cartago was deemed substandard by Concacaf.)

Cartagines (1-1-1) heads into its final group game in second place and must win to keep its chances alive. Robbie Keane scored both goals as the Galaxy opened its CCL schedule Aug. 20 by beating Cartagines, 2-0, at StubHub Center, and Laurent Courtois tallied last week in a 1-0 defeat of Isidro Metapan.

Forward Randall Brenes came on as a late sub in Costa Rica’s 3-1 defeat of the USA in a Hexagonal qualifier Sept. 5. Pablo Herrera Barrantes and Andres Flores each scored twice in Cartagines’ 4-2 defeat of Isidro Metapan in the group opener Aug. 20.

Head coach Bruce Arena has used his squad’s depth to play a lot of backups in the team’s two CCL games to date, and will likely do so again after a draining 1-1 league match against Seattle Saturday night. Brian Rowe has been in goal for both shutouts and veteran midfielder Pablo Mastroeni – like Courtois, a midseason acquisition – has also started the CCL games.

“It’s going to be a completely different game, with different issues than we deal with on a week-to-week basis in MLS,” Mastroeni told lagalaxy.com. “Obviously very skillful individuals all over the field and playing at home is going to be a big plus for them. For us it’s really important to come out and start real bright and do what we can to impose ourselves on them.”

Landon Donovan, who missed the Seattle game with an ankle injury, will be traveling to Costa Rica.

CCL WEEK 5: Schedule
Tuesday, September 24
Cruz Azul (MEX) vs. Valencia (HAI)
Montreal Impact vs. Heredia (GUA)
Olimpia (HON) vs. Real Esteli (NCA)
Wednesday, September 25
Houston Dynamo vs. DIRECTV W Connection (TRI)
Cartagines (CRC) vs. LA Galaxy
Comunicaciones (GUA) vs. Caledonia AIA (TRI)
Thursday, September 26
Alajuelense (CRC) vs. Sporting San Miguelito (PAN)
Tijuana (MEX) vs. Victoria (HON)
---------------------------------------------------------------------
CCL STANDINGS:
Group 1: Arabe Unido 6 points; Houston Dynamo 4; DirecTV W Connection 1.
Group 2: Sporting Kansas City 7 points; Olimpia 3; Real Esteli 1.
Group 3: Cruz Azul, Herediano 6 points; Valencia 0.
Group 4: Club America 6 points; Sporting San Miguelito, Alajuelense 3.
Group 5: Heredia 6 points; San Jose Earthquakes, Montreal Impact 3.
Group 6: Toluca 9 points, Comunicaciones 3; Caledonia AIA 0.
Group 7: Tijuana 7 points; Luis Angel Firpo 4; Victoria 0.
Group 8: LA Galaxy 6 points; Cartagines 4; Isidro Metapan 1.
---------------------------------------------------------------------
CCL WEEK 4: Results
Thursday, September 19
DIRECTV W Connection (TRI) 0 Arabe Unido (PAN) 2
Luis Angel Firpo (SLV) vs. Victoria (HON)
Wednesday, September 18
LA Galaxy 1 Isidro Metapan (SLV) 0
Caledonia AIA (TRI) 1 Toluca (MEX) 5
Herediano (CRC) 4 Valencia FC (HAI) 2
Tuesday, September 17
Sporting Kansas City 1 Real Esteli (NCA) 1
San Jose Earthquakes 3 Montreal Impact 0
Club America (MEX) 3 Sporting San Miguelito (PAN) 0

CCL WEEK 3, Results:
Thursday, August 29
Caledonia AIA (TRI) 0 Comunicaciones (GUA) 3
Alajuelense (CRC) 1 Club America (MEX) 0
Wednesday, August 28
Valencia (HAI) 1 Cruz Azul (MEX) 2
Heredia (GUA) 1 San Jose Earthquakes 0
Tijuana (MEX) 1 Luis Angel Firpo (SLV) 0
Tuesday, August 27
Houston Dynamo 2 Arabe Unido (PAN) 1
Olimpia (HON) 0 Sporting Kansas City 2
Cartagines (CRC) 0 Isidro Metapan (SLV) 0

CCL WEEK 2: Results
Thursday, August 22
Cruz Azul (MEX) 3 Herediano (CRC) 0
Comunicaciones (GUA) 1 Toluca (MEX) 2
Sporting San Miguelito (PAN) 1 Alajuelense (CRC) 0
Wednesday, August 21
Heredia (GUA) 1 Montreal Impact 0
Real Esteli (NCA) 0 Olimpia (HON) 1
Tuesday, August 20
DIRECTV W Connection (TRI) 0 Houston Dynamo 0
LA Galaxy 2 Cartagines (CRC) 0
Victoria (HON)  2 Tijuana (MEX) 3

CCL WEEK 1: Results
Thursday, August 8
Valencia FC (HAI) 1 Herediano (CRC) 6
Isidro Metapan (SLV) 2 Cartagines (CRC) 4
Arabe Unido (PAN) 3 DIRECTV W Connection (TRI) 1
Wednesday, August 7
Montreal Impact 1 San Jose Earthquakes 0
Sporting San Miguelito (PAN) 0 Club America (MEX) 1
Real Esteli (NCA) 0 Sporting Kansas City 2
Tuesday, August 6
Toluca (MEX) 3 Caledonia AIA (TRI) 1
Luis Angel Firpo (SLV) 0 Tijuana (MEX) 0
---------------------------------------------------------------------
CCL WEEK 6: Schedule
Tuesday, October 22
Club America (MEX) vs. Alajuelense (CRC)
Herediano (CRC) vs. Cruz Azul (MEX)
Wednesday, October 23
Sporting Kansas City vs. Olimpia (HON)
Toluca FC (MEX) vs. Comunicaciones (GUA)
San Jose Earthquakes vs. Heredia (GUA)
Victoria (HON) vs. Luis Angel Firpo (SLV)
Thursday, October 24
Arabe Unido (PAN) vs. Houston Dynamo
Isidro Metapan (SLV) vs. LA Galaxy


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