When the 2010 edition of Superliga kicks off, one of the best matches of the group stage has to be Thursday night’s showdown between Houston and Pachuca, as the two sides renew their rivalry for a fourth consecutive year.
“There have been some absolutely epic battles that have just been a lot of fun,” said Dynamo defender Eddie Robinson. “We have a lot of respect for those guys, and we enjoy playing them and proving to this region that American soccer is worth following.”
“It’s been a great rivalry, and it can go either way,” noted midfielder Brad Davis. “I am happy that we drew them again, and it gives us an opportunity to go out there and get some points against them.”
The Houston-Pachuca rivalry started when the two teams matched up for a home-and-away series in the semifinals of the 2007 CONCACAF Champions' Cup. Houston surprisingly dominated the first leg 2-0 at home, but the return leg was an epic match in which the Dynamo lost an exhilarating match 5-2 in extra time, losing the series 5-4 on aggregate.
“The best experience was probably the first year,” said Davis. “We went down to their place, and they scored some amazing goals to beat us. The atmosphere of playing in their stadium; it was an awesome game.”
Houston and Pachuca met later that year in the semifinals of the inaugural edition of SuperLiga, and again the Tuzos got the best of the Dynamo in another epic contest. This time, Houston went ahead 1-0 early but then went down to 10 men. Pachuca rallied for a 2-1 lead, but the Dynamo managed a late equalizer despite being down a man on an emotional header from Eddie Robinson. The Tuzos were also reduced to 10 men after a second yellow card issued for a dive, and the match went to extra time.
In the extra time, the Dynamo went down to nine men and held on with just eight field players to force a shootout. After the first three shooters for each team scored, the final four penalty kicks were full of drama, with Brian Ching hitting the post, Pat Onstad saving the next shot, and Joseph Nwgenya chipping a shot straight at Pachuca goalkeeper Miguel Calero. Rafael Marquez Lugo then sealed the win for Pachuca, which went on to win the tournament in penalty kicks.
In the 2008 edition of SuperLiga, however, Houston returned the favor in the semifinals, knocking Pachuca out of SuperLiga with a 2-0 win on late goals from Bobby Boswell and Corey Ashe.
Last year, the teams faced off in the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League, where the Tuzos won both games. Houston has a 2-3-1 record against its rivals from south of the border, but Pachuca have had the advantage in three of four competitions.
“Historically, it’s been a pretty good game,” said Craig Waibel. “The players enjoy it because it’s an honest [rivalry]. Every game has been well-contested.”
Unlike most matchups between sides from the U.S. and Mexico, the intensity of the rivalry has rarely gotten the best of players, primarily due to a mutual respect by both teams.
“They are obviously a great team as far as Mexican teams go, and this generation of Pachuca players might be one of the greatest in their history,” said Robinson. “Pachuca is a team that I really like to play. [I‘m] looking forward to them coming and [us] having another shot at them.”
Dwain Capodice is a contributor to MLSsoccer.com. Questions or comments can be sent via email to email@example.com.
Take a look back at the history of the Dynamo-Pachuca rivalry prior to last year's 1-0 Pachuca victory in Houston:
Highlights from last year's game at Robertson Stadium: