By DAN KARELL
With two road losses in a row, Sporting Kansas City is certainly hoping that their trip to Honduras can help them discover some form from the beginning of the month.
Sporting KC visit famed Honduran side Olimpia CD on Tuesday in both team’s second match in the CONCACAF Champions League group stages. Also on Tuesday, the Houston Dynamo host Panamanian club Arabe Unido, while on Wednesday, the San Jose Earthquakes visit Guatemalan side Heredia and Club Tijuana host El Salvadorean club Firpo.
In the two-match losing streak, Sporting KC have been missing forward Kei Kamara for the past two weeks due to an ankle sprain, which is a big reason their offense has stuttered. However, they’ll be given a huge boost as Olimpia has to replace not only Alex Lopez, who moved to the Dynamo this summer in a transfer move, but also forward Roger Rojas, who is reportedly in England securing a loan move to West Ham in the Premier League.
With Real Esteli having lost two matches already, the match between Sporting KC and Olimpia could help decide who advances from Group 2 and which side crashes out of the competition.
Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear meanwhile will have to pick his team up off the floor and get ready quickly to play their third match in seven days. Following a scoreless draw in Trinidad and Tobago against W Connection, the Dynamo were routed, 5-0, against the Montreal Impact.
Back in the comforts of home, the Dynamo can leap from Arabe Unido with a win in the Group 1 standings, though a loss would make life increasingly difficult for the squad if they expect to make it past the knockout stages. Alex Lopez, who started for the first time in the Dynamo’s CCL match last Wednesday, could make his home starting debut on Tuesday evening.
One team that didn’t fall this past weekend was the Earthquakes, who battled to a 2-2 draw with FC Dallas, despite having two players sent off. Those two, Victor Bernardez and Justin Morrow, are both available for CCL matches and the MLS club desperately needs a win after falling in their first Champions League game to the Impact.
Interim head coach Mark Watson’s team haven’t had the same success as they did last year when they won the supporters shield behind Chris Wondolowski’s 27-goal season. This year, the offensive production is much more inconsistent, with Wondolowski leading the team with eight goals and Steven Beitashour chipping in with a goal on Saturday. They’ll need to find some offense from their reserves when the Earthquakes face Heredia, or else face a difficult final two matches to overcome the Impact.
Finally, Club Tijuana, who earned a place in the CCL via winning the 2012 Apertura title, return home for their final two matches of Group 7. On Wednesday, the club take on Firpo, who they played to a scoreless draw with on August 7.
One of the surprises of the Apertura season this fall is the play of Xolos 18-year-old midfielder Paul Arriola, who has earned a starting place in these CCL games for the club. The American even scored a goal in his side’s 3-2 victory against Victoria six days ago.
Both Joe Corona and Greg Garza, also Americans in the squad, are likely to play on Wednesday at the Estadio Caliente, due to not playing in the 1-1 draw with Santos Laguna over the weekend. Head coach Jorge Almiron won’t be worried too much by the opposition, as Xolos proved that they can advance in cup competitions due to their impressive run in the Copa Libertadores.
OTHER CCL MATCHES THIS WEEK:
Group 8: Cartagines vs. Isidro Metapan on 8/27
Group 3: Valencia (Haiti) vs. Cruz Azul on 8/28
Group 6: Caledonia AIA vs. Communicaciones on 8/29
Group 4: Alajuelense vs. Club America on 8/29
What do you think of these matches? Which match are you looking forward to most? Do you believe that Sporting KC and the Houston Dynamo can improve their form?
Share your thoughts below.