HOUSTON – With the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals upon us, the talk once again revolves around the gap between Mexican and US clubs – and deservedly so. After all, a club from south of the border has claimed the title, and the spot in the FIFA Club World Cup that comes with it, every year of the competition's existence.
Finances, roster depth and the timing of the games all help explain why MLS clubs have come up short in CCL play. And while evidence suggests MLS clubs are at a disadvantage, when the Houston Dynamo step onto the field at BBVA Compass Stadium on Tuesday night (8 pm ET, Fox Soccer), they'll do so with the belief that they've got more than enough to reverse the trend against 2012 runners-up Santos Laguna.
“The only gap for me is there’s an economic gap,” head coach Dominic Kinnear said. “There has always been a gap in depth but I think it’s closing over the years. I think MLS teams are getting closer, no more closer than what Salt Lake did a couple of years ago. I think we all believe that something good can happen.”
The Dynamo, who are fresh off a 2-0 home win over D.C. United in their season opener, are one of the few MLS clubs that have a history of success against their Mexican counterparts. Houston have an 8-6-3 record all-time against clubs from south of the border and were the first MLS side to score a result in Mexico in CCL play, a 4-4 draw with Pumas UNAM back in 2008.
Heading into Tuesday's first leg, the Dynamo know that Santos are a club ripe with talent and attacking guile. But Houston believe the homefield advantage that BBVA Compass Stadium offers – the Dynamo have a 31-game unbeaten streak at their downtown digs – can help them set the tone in the series.
“The important part here is that it’s two legs and you’ve got to take care of business in the first leg to give yourself a chance in the second leg,” defender Bobby Boswell said. “If you go down there and have to score two or three goals or don’t have a lead, it’s a tough place to go win.
"We’ve had some teams over the years do it, so it’s not impossible to go down and get results, but you’re not doing yourself a favor if you’re not taking care of things at home."