Preview: Houston Dynamo at W Connection
W CONNECTION FC vs. HOUSTON DYNAMO
HASLEY CRAWFORD STADIUM, Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago
August 20, 2013 (CONCACAF Champions League Group Stage)
7 pm CT (FOX Sports 1)
The Houston Dynamo hold high hopes as they open their 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League campaign in the Caribbean nation of Trinidad & Tobago on Tuesday evening with a Group 1 match against W Connection.
The Dynamo advanced to the knockout stages in last year's edition of the tournament, but fell at the hands of Mexican side Santos Laguna in disappointing fashion in March's two-legged quarterfinal. The Orange are planning to go on at least as deep a run this season, believing that they are eminently capable of becoming the first MLS club to win CCL, and that journey starts with a positive result against Tuesday's opponents.
“This is a competition our club’s taken more and more seriously over the years and it’s something we expect to advance in,” veteran striker Brian Ching told MLSsoccer.com via phone from Trinidad on Monday. “Along with those expectations, you have to go out there and prove you’re a better team. That’s the challenge now, and it’s one you’re ready for. “We look at this game as almost a must-win that we must get a result out of if we want to continue on in this competition.”
W Connection are making their second CCL appearance, having competed in the 2009-10 edition, where they knocked off the heavily favored New York Red Bulls in the preliminary round but could not navigate a path to the knockout stages in a group featuring UNAM Pumas (Mexico), Real España (Honduras) and Comunicaciones (Guatemala).
W Connection qualified for this year's Champions League by virtue of reaching the Caribbean Club Championship final. They are 0-1 thus far after losing their tournament opener on the road against Panama's Arabe Unido 3-1 on Aug. 8, a match in which teenage striker Neil Benjamin scored the Trinidadians' only goal.
Houston have won four of their last six MLS matches and have traveled to Trinidad on a high note after Saturday's 3-1 defeat of the Seattle Sounders. Coach Dominic Kinnear is expected to field a hybrid lineup featuring some reserves on Tuesday, as the Dynamo begin the delicate process of balancing their Champions League ambitions with their Eastern Conference playoff push.
Newly signed Designated Player Alexander López may make his Dynamo debut against W Connection. The Honduran talent can be considered one of the side products from Houston's last CCL run, having been scouted by Kinnear when the Dynamo met his former club Olimpia in the tournament.
Young reserves Anthony Arena, Jason Johnson and Brian Ownby are also candidates for CCL playing opportunities, while strikers Calen Carr and Omar Cummings are eyeing the competition as their chance to work their way back into the Houston squad after injury layoffs.
Under the current Champions League format, only the group winners advance to the knockout stages, reducing Houston's margin for error as they wade into a sequence of six midweek CCL matches over the next two months.
Veteran Mexican referee Marco Rodriguez will be the man in the middle at Manny Ramjohn Stadium on Wednesday.