Wednesday, April 2, 2008

International affairs

The Champions League quarterfinals will undoubtedly take the spotlight on Wednesday but there is plenty of international competition going on in the Western Hemisphere to captivate our attention as well.

Perhaps the best matchup this side of the Atlantic today is the America-River Plate Copa Libertadores match. Of course, America is struggling mightily right now but the two clubs have a rich history and legions of fans throughout the globe, and that always makes for an interesting affair.

America's league campaign is beyond abysmal. Las Aguilas have a 2-8-2 record and a league-low eight points. However, their Libertadores outlook is not quite as bleak. America has six points through four games; fellow Group 5 clubs Deportivo San Martin and Universidad Catolica also have six points but each club has played five games, while America has four matches played.

River Plate, meanwhile, already has a victory over America in this competition. Los millonarios beat America 2-1 in Buenos Aires and are on top of the group with nine points. A draw would see River through to the cup quarterfinals.

Meanwhile, MLS champions Houston will host Saprissa in the first game of the clubs' CONCACAF Champions Cup semifinal round. Houston needs a victory, probably a lopsided one, to have a shot of advancing to the final. Houston would do well to take a three-goal aggregate lead down to Costa Rica for the second and decisive match next week and not leave that game to chance.

Saprissa plays tough at home but on the road the club is vulnerable. Atlante beat Saprissa 2-1 in their leg in Mexico but scored two own goals and fell 3-0 in Costa Rica, in a match that featured some off-the-field incidents involving fans that ultimately cost Saprissa a fine.

While the venue will come more into play a week from now, today should be more about Houston taking advantage of the first leg. But given their match on the weekend against New England, Houston is already facing a tough challenge.

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