Preview: Houston, Morelia meet in semis
Who: Houston Dynamo vs. Monarcas Morelia
What: SuperLiga 2010, semifinals
When: Thursday, Aug. 5, 7 p.m. CT
Where: Robertson Stadium
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Part Two of the SuperLiga semifinals takes place at Robertson Stadium on Thursday night, as Houston plays host to Mexican side Monarcas Morelia.
In Group A play, Houston secured two victories against Mexican opponents, and the Dynamo hope to continue that success against Morelia. However, Morelia’s 5-1 thumping of the Chicago Fire in the opening group game should put a struggling Dynamo defense on notice of the quality they will face in attack.
These two teams last met in the 2007 SuperLiga group stages, when the game ended in a 1-1 draw. Forward Joseph Ngwenya scored a mere 11 seconds after kickoff, the fastest goal in Dynamo and SuperLiga history, but Morelia battled back for a hard-earned draw.
The Dynamo enter the semifinals after finishing on top of Group A. However, the final group game against Puebla has left Houston without Danny Cruz and Joseph Ngwenya, as both players are suspended. Originally, Dominic Oduro was also suspended, but that suspension was overturned due to a case of mistaken identity. Still, Houston enters the match having to balance its lineup, given its important road match against Seattle on Sunday.
“SuperLiga rules allow you those substitutions to play with,” Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear said, referring to the four field player substitutions allotted each team. “We have some concerns about some players that we have to talk about with our training staff.”
Houston should be buoyed by the return of midfielder Geoff Cameron, who is expected to get his first minutes since suffering a knee injury on April 24. Even with Cameron returning, though, the Dynamo expect a tough match.
“We are up against a really good opponent that is going to make it very difficult for us,” forward Brian Ching said. “It’s fun anytime you get to play against a team from Mexico — especially a good team. We enjoy it, and it’s competitive. Whether it’s a friendly or a competition like this, we are taking it very serious.”
Morelia are off to a good start in their 2010 Apertura season, having used their SuperLiga preseason as a springboard to open their league play with a victory. Forward Luis Gabriel Rey scored in the two of the team’s SuperLiga group matches and in its season-opening win over Atlas Guadalajara.
Though the team is wary of its own league match on Sunday, Morelia head coach Tomás Boy plans to utilize a significant portion of his first team players.
“We want to go with the full team,” Boy said. “Everyone is going to get a chance to play, and we have a game next Sunday, so we need to give our players a chance to play, and we want to stay sharp.”
Morelia defender and captain Mauricio Romero respects Thursday night’s opponent but hopes to come out with a victory against Houston.
“It is a strong team that’s won titles in recent years,” Romero said. “We believe we have a strong enough team to win and play an attractive game against a team that’s similar to us on the field. We believe we can go out and play competitive soccer, and we have plenty of respect for a team that is one of the best in MLS.”