Houston Dynamo at Árabe Unido
Thursday, October 24, 7:00 p.m. CT
Estadio Agustín "Muquita" Sánchez, La Chorrera, Panama
FOX Soccer Plus - 7:00 p.m.
Univision Deportes - 7:00 p.m.
The Houston Dynamo will try to advance to the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League for the second consecutive year and the third time in the last six years on Thursday night when they travel to Panama to face second-place Árabe Unido in the final Group 1 match. Houston (2-0-1, 7 pts) can advance to the quarterfinals with a win or a tie, while Árabe Unido (2-1-0, 6 pts) need a win to advance.
While Houston won the teams' first meeting this year, 2-1 on Aug. 27, the teams' history goes back to the 2009-10 Champions League. That year, the teams played to a wild 1-1 tie in Panama in a match that included five combined red cards and two power outages. Although Houston won the return fixture at home by a 5-1 margin, Árabe Unido ended up edging Houston for second place in the four-team group and a spot in the quarterfinals. All three head-to-head matches have seen at least seven cards issued.
Houston Dynamo team news
Houston went from third place in the Eastern Conference on Saturday morning to sixth place and out of the playoff spots by Sunday night. Montreal, Chicago and New England all passed the Dynamo with wins, and Houston's 3-0 loss to New York on Sunday puts them behind the eight-ball heading into the final weekend of the regular season. While the Dynamo will face last-place D.C. United on Sunday, they will need one of the teams ahead of them to drop points if Houston is to return to the postseason for a third consecutive season.
With that schedule in mind, head coach Dominic Kinnear did not bring World Cup qualifying veterans Brad Davis, Boniek García or Jermaine Taylor to Panama, allowing the trio to rest for the weekend. The remainder of the travel roster, however, includes Houston regulars, indicating that the Dynamo will field a strong lineup.
Five Houston players have started all three Champions League matches – Mike Chabala, Warren Creavalle, Jason Johnson, Alexander López and Cam Weaver – and Weaver scored both goals in the Dynamo's win against Árabe Unido on Aug. 27. Homegrown goalkeeper Tyler Deric, who backstopped Houston through last year's group stage, started on Sept. 25 against W Connection after returning from a thumb injury.
Árabe Unido team news
In Panamanian league play, Árabe Unido are coming off of a 4-0 win over last-place Río Abajo last Friday, but that is their only win in the last eight league games (0-5-3), dating back to Aug. 24. Despite sitting seventh out of 10 teams in the Liga Panameña de Fútbol's Apertura season, Árabe Unido did earn a 2-0 road win over Trinidad's W Connection on Sept. 19.
Forwards Abdiel Arroyo, just 19 years old, and Humberto Ward have each scored twice for Árabe Unido in Championsn League play, while Joseph Cox and Jose Gonzalez lead the way in league play with three goals apiece. Gonzalez, goalkeeper Miguel Lloyd, and defenders Fidel Caesar, Harold Cummings and Rigoberto Niño have played all 270 minutes of their Champions League campaign.
Cummings, just 21, and midfielder David Daniels are both veterans of the epic 2009 encounter, as is experienced forward Orlando Rodriguez, who scored against Houston in each game in 2009 but has played just 77 minutes in this year's Champions League.
Based in Colón on the northern (Atlantic) coast of Panama, Árabe Unido's home stadium does not meet CONCACAF's standards for the tournament. Although they hosted W Connection at Panama City's Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Thursday's match will be held in the more remote town of La Chorrera, about an hour southwest of Panama City, at the home of San Francisco F.C. It is the same venue that hosted the first Houston-Árabe Unido match in August 2009, a match that included one power outage during the match and another soon after the final whistle.
About the CONCACAF Champions League
The CONCACAF Champions League is North America's top club competition and consists of 24 teams separated into eight groups of three teams that play a round-robin, home-and-away format. The winner of each group advances to the quarterfinals, with quarterfinal seeeding determined by total points accumulated in group play. The winner of the 2013-2014 CCL will represent CONCACAF in the 2014 Club World Cup in Morocco.