Weeks ago, I'd decided to write about the CONCACAF Champions Cup in my weekly Press-Enterprise column on March 11. Well, that came and went and I ended up not writing anything. As it turned out, the Olympic qualifying tournament took a lot of the attention out there and continues to do so.
But we cannot ignore the CONCACAF Champions Cup. The tournament is on its last legs as it will be replaced by the CONCACAF Champions League. And whether or not your opinion is favorable of the tournament or not, it's there and it will be played.
Houston and DC are the MLS participants, and each side has a different task at hand. Houston visits Guatemalan side Municipal while DC heads to Jamaica to play Harbour View FC.
Ridge Mahoney writing for SI.com gives an overview here while Bernardo Fallas of the Houston Chronicle looks at Houston's chance for redemption and John Haydon of the Washington Times writes about the new-look United squad.
Now, of the two games I think Houston has the tougher match. Playing in Guatemala could be a challenge because of the conditions of the field and the potential hostile atmosphere in the stands. However, this is pretty much the same Houston team that went down to Costa Rica and Mexico for matches a year ago and while the results did not go Dynamo's way the experience was invaluable.
On top of that, several of the players know exactly what it's like to play Municipal in Guatemala. In 2003, San Jose met Municipal in this tournament. Brian Ching scored a goal in Guatemala but Municipal won the match 4-2 and despite losing 2-1 at San Jose ousted the MLS club in the process. Municipal fared better against San Jose than they did against Chicago. In 2002, Chicago won in Guatemala by 1-0 on a goal by Dema Kovalenko and the Fire claimed the series on a 3-0 aggregate.
D.C. meanwhile also went down to games in Central America and Mexico but this team underwent more changes than Houston. Still, D.C. should be more than capable of putting away Harbour View. D.C. met this same Jamaican club in 2005 and won both legs by the same 2-1 score. Alecko Eskandarian and Josh Gros scored the goals in Jamaica for the then-defending champs.
Of course, many Houston and DC fans might already be thinking about the next round and possible matchups against Mexican sides Pachuca and Atlante, but Municpal and Harbour View come first, and there are no guarantees of anything for MLS clubs playing on the road in potentially difficult circumstances.