Who: Houston Dynamo vs. Puebla
What: SuperLiga 2010, Group A, Match 5
When: Wednesday, July 21, 7 p.m. CT
Where: Robertson Stadium, Houston
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On the line
The top two teams in Group A of SuperLiga square off in the final game of the group stage with first place on the line. Houston sits on four points and plays host to Puebla, who have already secured advancement to the semifinals with two victories and six points.
The Dynamo will secure a spot in the semis alongside Los Camoteros if they manage a draw. A victory, however, would move Houston to the top of the group - thereby earning a home game against Morelia in the semifinals - and keep Puebla in second place.
Houston sits comfortably in second place in Group A, but a loss would leave the Dynamo depending on the result of the Chivas USA vs. Pachuca game to be played later that night. The Dynamo have watched Puebla’s performance in the first two games and are impressed.
“They have been explosive, and they score goals out of nothing at times, and they play pretty wide-open,” said head coach Dominic Kinnear. “They have great attacking players and great individuals, and they are pretty strong in the back, too. [Is it] our strongest test? I would have to say yes.”
Even if Puebla does not play its starters, Houston’s previous experience in international competition has shown that Mexican clubs have plenty of quality depth.
“Puebla’s probably the strongest team we face in the group,” said Dynamo midfielder Brad Davis. “It’s a tough game, but they are already through, so we don’t know how they will play.”
Even though a draw would be sufficient for Houston to advance, do not expect the Dynamo to sit back and play for one point.
“We want to win the game,” Davis said. “This is a chance to keep turning things around. We have a win and a tie, which is good, but we want to start putting together some wins.”
Puebla have looked very strong in their first two matches, showing a potent offense, a strong passing game, and clinical finishing skills. Against Chivas USA, La Franja got off to a 2-0 lead before Chivas USA pulled back a late goal. Then, against Pachuca, Puebla absolutely overwhelmed Los Tuzos, blowing out to a 3-0 lead before again allowing their opponent to pull back a late goal.
Puebla have already secured a ticket into the semifinals, a nice accomplishment for the team’s first foray into the tournament. However, this accomplishment has left head coach Jose Luis Sánchez Solá with an interesting decision: Does he rest his starters on the team’s third game in six days, or does he give them the chance to play together some more during their preseason.
He indicated on Twitter on Tuesday that he will give playing time to eight players who have yet to appear in the tournament, which should only ensure a motivated Puebla team will take the field on Wednesday, with players hoping to earn playing time for the Apertura season.