CONCACAF: Respect; 2nd-Leg Strategery

I've been sitting on a concept for a while, specifically the notion that Major League Soccer (MLS) clubs can gain respect through international club competitions. A post over on Soccer y Futbol just under a week ago touched on this grand idea of "respect," and they dismissed it, correctly as I see it, as irrelevant and manufacture, the latter at least to some degree.

The relative success of MLS clubs in the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions' Cup got me thinking that events had reached a point where kicking around the concept in my head made sense. So, I went ahead and sent it over to Write On Sports and they were good enough to post it. In broad terms, MLS clubs will earn respect when they win, win, and win again. That might not even work, but I'll tell you what won't gain us any sporting slaps on the behind: continually griping about the conditions and timing of the CONCACAF Champions Cup, whether it's venues or the fact MLS clubs are in their preseason. And I know this is deadly tempting: I know I made plenty out of that God-awful field in Puntarenas. But the point is, you have the conditions you have and you adapt to them, not gripe about them.

But in the end, it's only the "W's" that ultimately matter - and the more you get, the more respect; put another way, it's not something you ask for, but something you earn. In any case, I elaborate on this in the article, so I'll shut up about it now.

On a related note, I do a fair review of the first legs in the article, but very little on how I see the MLS delegation - e.g. DC United and the Houston Dynamo - playing the return legs in Mexico. Yeah, those games are a ways off, but seeing as we'll all be preoccupied with the U.S. National Team by the tend of the week, we may as well get the thinking about this out of the way.

Game-Plan for Houston
If either team had a greater need to carry a cushion into the second leg, it's Houston; playing at nearly 8,000 feet certainly complicates this tie. The question is, do they try the ol' bunker-and-counter, knowing the Pachuca will be running at them, or do they try a push a possession game up the field - e.g. moving the ball up the field, but dropping it back to keep Pachuca chasing? While I'm dubious as tow whether Houston has the skill to pull this off, the latter would look a lot like how Chivas played against DC: retain possession near midfield and dump in the occasional ball to keep Pachuca honest. My guess is that Houston will go for a bunker-and-counter and, this being a results-oriented affair, I suppose I can't blame them. But I think the "Chivas" game plan would work better for them.

The biggest question mark, though: what to do if Ricardo Clark can't play the second leg? Houston fans will know this better than me: is it time for Chris Wondolowski's debut? Time to move Kelly Gray into the d-mid slot (though his passing for much of last Thursday hardly justified it)? What's the adjustment here?

Whatever they do, I think Houston's focus should be in killing this game, as opposed to winning it.

Game-Plan for DC
I didn't realize "tricky" was spelled "carrying a tie into a return leg in Guadalajara" till I started thinking about this game. It's clear that DC needs a win and, therefore, it would seem they'd have to take the game to Chivas at some point. The question is how early and for how long?

My first impulse tells me DC should come out swinging hard. See if you can throw Chivas off their game - I know; easier said than done - for 20 minutes or so. Maybe the disruption will carry over deeper into the game and keep Chivas wary...crap, I don't know. And for the obvious reason: Chivas sneaking in an early goal on a counter would make DC chase the game - opening the MLS club to more counters as the game, and their players, wear on. In the end, that possibility is too risky for my tastes.

The more I think about it, the more I'm inclined to think DC just needs to go to Guadalajara and operate on Plan A - e.g. the way they'd play any other game of the season. You adjust for a player here or there, of course, but otherwise DC should just play there game....only better than they did at home. Play a patient game, looking for openings, and making them where you can, but, otherwise, keeping shape and poise are the watchwords. A stretch, I know, but I can't see a departure from their game working for them against a Chivas squad, backed by a hostile crowd at altitude.

Well, that's all I've got. Back to the season previews tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

"Whatever they do, I think Houston's focus should be in killing this game, as opposed to winning it."

If there was ever any doubt that you are a Revs fans the statement above removes all of it.

The Manly Ferry said...


That's a pretty good jab. I have no rebuttal to offer; only embarrassment.

Still, do you think Houston can win that game given everything if they don't play it somewhat safe? That's a serious question, by the way. Just 'cause I can't certainly doesn't mean it isn't possible.

John said...

Off topic, but you might enjoy this read about your other other other favorite futbol team:

John said...

whoops the linky got cut off. I'll just mail it to you.