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CCL Team Preview: Houston to draw on past experiences

Andre Hainault in CCL play against Pachuca

Photo Credit: 
Getty Images

CCL Team-By-Team Previews

Toronto FC | Real Salt Lake | Houston Dynamo | Seattle Sounders FC | LA Galaxy

 

It’s been two years since the Houston Dynamo have participated in the CONCACAF Champions League, but they finally secured their spot this time around as MLS Cup 2011 runners-up. While they may not be at their dominant best from a few years ago, the summer months have shown a steadier, more consistent Houston side inspired by Designated Player Boniek García. Houston's draw is by no means simple, but if they can keep up their consistent recent play, they should be in good shape.

Best Showing: Quarterfinals (2008-09, Champions League), Semifinals  (2007, 2008, Champions Cup)

Memorable Moments:

  • The Dynamo were a force to be reckonend with in the old CONCACAF Champions' Cup, reaching the semifinals of both the 2007 and 2008 editions and following that up with a quarterfinal appearance in the inaugural CONCACAF Champions League campaign in 2008-09.
     
  • Houston first opened their eyes to Mexican football in the 2007 Champions' Cup and forced Mexico to look right back. Though they were eventually elimianted by Pachuca, the series was easily the Dynamo's most memorable in continental play. Houston took a 2-0 first-leg lead down to Mexico thanks to Brian Ching and Chris Wondolowski, and took Pachuca all the way to extra time in in the Estadio Hidalgo before a 105th-minute penalty proved their downfall in a 5-4 aggregate defeat.

Who will they face?

Olimpia: The reigning Honduran champions have won their domestic title a total of 25 times and have enjoyed considerable success on the international level. Los Leones were the only Honduran team to win the old Champions' Cup, coming out triumphant in 1972 and 1988 while also finishing as runners-up in 1985 and 2000.

While talented midfielder García is gone — now a Designated Player for Houston — the team still has plenty of tools to keep the Dynamo at bay. Striker Roger Rojas only has four seasons with the team and has scored 43 goals in all competitions. Houston's forwards will also have to contend with Noel Valladares, the veteran goalkeeper and Honduras' No. 1 during their 2010 World Cup and named best goalkeeper of the 2011 Gold Cup.

Olimpia are one of three teams to qualify for all five editions of the Champions League since the tournament was revamped, and reached the quarterfinals in 2010-11. Their consistency in the tournament should serve as a warning sign for other teams in the group.

CD FAS: This tournament marks the Salvadoran team's first Champions League participation, but they do have history with the previous incarnation of the tournament, winning the Champions' Cup in 1979. FAS have won 17 Salvadoran titles and have been runners-up 14 times.

Los Tigres are led by striker William Reyes, who has scored more than 100 goals for the Santa Ana-based side. FAS are captained by left back Marvin González, who has played for the club all but one year of his career and collected 83 caps for El Salvador.

Can they win it all?

Classic slow starters in league play, Houston are again on a steady rise. Will Bruin, the team's top scorer, should be able to put some more of his magic into the back of the net this tournament. Captain and forward Brian Ching has loads of experience playing in hostile environments, both in CCL play and with the US national team, and that should work to the team's advantage. And García's intimate knowledge of his former team — not to mention his international experience — should be crucial as Houston look to earn a spot in the quarterfinals.