CF Pachuca vs. FC Dallas
2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League Semifinals, 2nd Leg
Estadi Hidalgo – Pachuca, Mexico
Tuesday, April 4 – 10 pm ET
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FCD are carrying a slim advantage thanks to their 2-1 win at Toyota Stadium in last month’s first leg of this home-and-away, aggregate-goals series. So a draw or victory this week will see them through to the CCL final, as would a one-goal loss in which FCD score two or more goals. But with Pachuca having nabbed an away goal in Leg 1, a 1-0 win for the home side or any Tuzos win by more than a one-goal margin will sink Dallas.
A 2-1 Pachuca victory on Tuesday would leave the two sides deadlocked on both aggregate and away goals, triggering a 30-minute extra time period. If that doesn’t decide it, a penalty-kick shootout will be required.
Beyond last month’s clash, these two teams met once before, in the group stage of the 2007 SuperLiga, the since-defunct tournament pitting MLS and Liga MX sides. That occasion ended 1-1 in Frisco, Texas, with Carlos Ruiz and Christian Gimenez the scorers.
MLS teams have won just twice and taken eight draws from 47 all-time competitive matches on Mexican soil to date.
The North Texans won two trophies last year (Supporters’ Shield and US Open Cup) and have raced out of the gate this season with an undefeated start to league play and a confident dismembering of Panamanian side Arabe Unido in the CCL quarterfinals. Now, after rescheduling the visit to Colorado originally planned for last weekend, FCD have traveled to Mexico a full week early in order to acclimate to Pachuca’s extreme altitude, where thinner air forces the respiratory system to work harder.
At 7,843 feet above sea level, Estadio Hidalgo sits some 50 percent higher than the loftiest venue in MLS, the Rapids’ mile-high home at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Dallas coach Oscar Pareja & Co. hope that several days of carefully-calibrated workouts in nearby Puebla will have their team sharp and ready, while blunting Pachuca’s home-field advantage. A date with destiny awaits.
“It’s massive, not only for the club, but also for individuals,” FCD defender Walker Zimmerman told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s a high-profile game, a chance to move on to a final in international competition, which is something that we’ve never done as a club in Dallas. So we’re looking to make history this week.”
- Suspended: None
- Int’l Duty: None
- Injury Report: Mauro Diaz (torn Achilles tendon) – OUT; Ryan Hollingshead (neck) – OUT; Anibal Chala (sports hernia) – OUT
Projected starting XI (4-4-2): Chris Seitz – Maynor Figueroa, Matt Hedges, Walker Zimmerman, Hernan Grana – Roland Lamah, Carlos Gruezo, Kellyn Acosta, Michael Barrios – Maxi Urruti, Cristian Colman
Notes: Pareja has used his squad’s depth while juggling CCL with the early stages of the league campaign, though the postponement of the Colorado trip has eased that task this week … FCD traveled to Mexico last Wednesday and held two days of two-a-day sessions to speed the adaptation process to the oxygen-deprived atmosphere of the Sierra Madre Oriental … Veteran midfielder Javier Morales has the most CCL experience of anyone on the roster, and scored a key goal in Mexico in Real Salt Lake’s 2010-11 CCL final clash with Monterrey … Matt Hedges, Hernan Grana and Carlos Gruezo were yellow-carded in Leg 1 and would miss out on the first leg of the final if they are cautioned and FCD adcance.
Perennial Liga MX contenders, Los Tuzos (the Gophers) finished second in the 2016 Apertura and sit in fifth place in the current (Clausura) campaign with a 5-3-3 mark. They also boast their league’s most dominant home form of late, with an undefeated record stretching back over a year in all competitions.
Pachuca just got another promising development, as star winger Hirving “Chucky” Lozano returned to match play for the first time since sustaining a gruesome foot injury in a match vs. Club Tijuana a month ago. With six goals, Lozano is the leading scorer in the current edition of CCL – but he failed to convert a penalty kick in Pachuca’s 0-0 draw with Puebla at the weekend. Will his fitness levels allow him to start on Tuesday?
Argentine striker Franco Jara is another dangerman for FCD, while Uruguayan playmaker Jonathan Urretaviscaya will likely pull the strings. US international and former LA Galaxy center back Omar Gonzalez – a Dallas native – will anchor the Tuzos defense
- Suspended: None
- Int’l Duty: None
- Injury Report: None
Projected starting XI (4-4-2): Oscar Perez – Raul Lopez, Omar Gonzalez, Oscar Murillo, Emmanuel Garcia – Victor Guzman, Erick Aguirre, Jorge Hernandez, Hirvin Lozano – Jonathan Urretaviscaya, Franco Jara
Notes: Pachuca won the 2009-10 CONCACAF Champions League … Lozano – whose recent injury was the result of a cynical challenge by USMNTer Michael Orozco – is the most-fouled player in Liga MX and Pachuca officials have railed at what they perceive as lax protection by referees, with club president Andres Fassi calling it “an embarrassment” … General-admission tickets for Tuesday’s game are on sale for just 50 pesos, equivalent to slightly less than US$3 per person.