The equation is simple: Score more goals than your opponent, or equal with a road advantage, over 180 minutes and advance to the brink of a CONCACAF Champions League final. The execution, however, is decidedly more complex.
Nobody knows that better than the Houston Dynamo, who take on Mexican powerhouse Santos Laguna on Tuesday (8 pm ET, Fox Soccer) at BBVA Compass Stadium in the first leg of a CCL quarterfinal series that pits two of the most consistent teams in Major League Soccer and the Liga MX. It's the first of three CCL matches this week involving MLS clubs, games that could go a long way to earning the regional respect and prestige that MLS officials have said is crucial to achieving the league's goals.
Gaining a first-leg advantage against a Mexican club is never easy for MLS clubs. Still, the traditional gap between the two nations is shrinking, according to Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear, and that has Houston eyeing an upset.
“The only gap for me is 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.”
Of course, Santos' American striker Herculez Gomez, who has been on a tear of late, scoring twice in his club's most recent league match, would love nothing more than to do it again against MLS opposition. “The CCL is important for us, it’s important for me," Gomez told MLSsoccer.com, "so I’m going to do everything I can, everything in my ability, in my power to hurt them."
The Seattle Sounders are trying to avoid the hurt Liga MX sides normally administer south of the border. See what Sigi Schmid had to say ahead of his team's clash vs. Tigres UANL on Wednesday (10 pm ET, Fox Soccer).
In addition to CCL success, part of MLS' vision continues to be an expansion team in Queens. Whether or not that will get done anytime soon remains a bit of a mystery, but having New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg's ongoing support surely can't hurt.
"My hope is we get it done," Bloomberg said. "It would be wonderful for New York City. There's an enormous number of soccer fans in this city. They would love it. The proposal is to build it on one part of Flushing Meadow Park which isn't really used very much and isn't in good shape. And it's another use for parkland that I think is appropriate. And we can find some other space."
Meanwhile, the Miami expansion rumor that came out a few days ago is beginning to look a bit iffy. On Monday, MLS released a statement saying there had been no "formal discussions" with the Dolphins ownership group.
You can't blame Floridians for wanting to experience the kinds of sights and sounds that enveloped BC Place last weekend. Of course, Whitecaps fans wish those would have accompanied a full 90 minutes from captain Jay DeMerit. Instead, the center back's torn Achilles tendon has Vancouver set to miss one of their most influential players for at least four months.
Still, there were bright spots for both Vancouver and Toronto FC in the match. For the home fans, not least the effort put in by Designated Player Kenny Miller, who hasn't had the quickest start to his MLS career.
Season openers tend to be bright for Sporting Kansas City as well. The franchise has lost just once on opening day during the past 12 years. Win or lose, though, SKC fans take care of their own. Read this tale of community and togetherness in the Cauldron.
Sporting hope Benny Feilhaber can be an elite playmaker for them this season, but FC Dallas fans already know they have on in David Ferreira. Check out this breakdown of his effect on the squad using last season's passing matrix.
And while you're at it, see which big-name MLS departures will have the biggest impact on their respective teams. Will it be Beckham? Espinoza and Kamara? Perhaps Montero?
Of course, the LA Galaxy didn't miss Beckham on Sunday against the Fire. That's a good thing because it's looking more and more likely that Frank Lampard will stay put at Chelsea.
Lampard might still be facing a pay cut, but certainly not one along the lines Freddy Adu was reportedly asked to stomach by the Philadelphia Union.
Union fans came out in support of a different player with US national team ties on Saturday against Sporting KC. In the 18th minute of the match, the Sons of Ben raised cards to honor Robbie Rogers for his courage after the former Crew winger recent came out of the closet and announced he was gay.
Should Red Bull fans be concerned about their backline? Maybe, after Sunday's collapse in Portland. Jámison Olave certainly had an up-and-down game, and even head coach Mike Petke second guessed himself after the 3-3 draw.
Finally, some news for US national team fans. On the good side, it appears the USMNT will take on Germany at RFK Stadium. On the negative, it seems Club Tijuana left back Edgar Castillo could miss the US' World Cup qualifiers with broken bones in his face.
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