Houston v. Pachuca Primer

With the "other" semifinal of the CONCACAF Champions' Cup taking place tonight, some previews are appearing in expected places. MLSnet.com, of course, turned in a basic preview, but the key detail I found in there was state of the weather. (For the record, it sounds very pleasant.)

The Houston Chronicle one-upped, or rather two-upped the official site with a trio of previews: one on the players' mindset heading into the game; another on the notion of Houston "flying the flag" for Major League Soccer (which that bastard Troy Perkins dropped in the Guadalajara mud...I'm kidding!; don't kill me!); and a third that compares both clubs in payroll and top-flight status - after which it declares them not so much different - and also stands as the first place I read about Pachuca charging no admission to the game. Damn. That's cool.

Those were good, but the best item I read all day came from Glenn Davis - and, for the record, out of the Chronicle. Davis, you see, did some scouting on Pachuca and gives the readers, who will become viewers tonight (FSC, 6:30 p.m. where I am), something to look for on the other side of the ball. So, yeah, between the scouting and tactical talk, Davis' turned in the best piece of the day, this one.

He wasn't alone - for instance, Sideline Views and LA Soccer News turned in pieces that touch on tactics - and I'm going to join in here with big-picture strategery of my own:

Nearly everyone worries about the first 20 minutes or so, while I'm more preoccupied with the final 20. That's not to say I don't think Pachuca won't jump on Houston from the starting whistle - they probably will and, what's more, their recent performances (5-0 over Veracruz) suggest they're good for it. But I also think I saw DC's legs desert them toward the end of Tuesday's game and suspect the same will happen to Houston. As such, if I were coaching Houston, I'd have my team attack when they have the ball and press when they don't over the opening 45 minutes. The idea is to build on the goal differential or, failing that, keep Pachuca buried in their end and anxious about the result. And, to borrow a good idea from (I think) Davis, I'd line up in a 4-5-1, with Brian Ching alone up top.

Keep the subs handy for the second half and make all of them defensive in nature, though not necessarily outright defenders; if you're feeling jiggy or have only a one-goal lead, sub Paul Dalglish for Ching at the half to use as a quick-hit counter option. But, overall, the idea is to force Pachuca to come at you and make them feel rushed.

Anyway, that's what I'd do. And, again, I don't say this but once or twice a year, but here it is: Go Houston!


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