By DAN KARELL
By the end of the week, there could be four Major League Soccer teams through to the knockout round of the CONCACAF Champions League.
In addition to already-qualified Los Angeles Galaxy, both Sporting Kansas City and the Houston Dynamo need just a draw to move on while the San Jose Earthquakes are putting their all into earning a huge home victory.
With teams in the final week of the MLS regular season, the timing of these games should make for some difficult choices by the coaching staff, though if there’s one team with plenty of depth, it’s Sporting KC.
With a bevy of midfielders and forwards who have been rotated in and out of the lineup all season, Sporting KC feature a strong cast that even without the likes of Graham Zusi, Matt Besler, and Oriol Rosell on the field, they’ve still been able to churn out results.
They face a difficult task though in Honduran side Olimpia on Wednesday, who feature a number of Honduras National Team members in their lineup. Soony Saad powered Sporting KC to a 2-0 victory on the road, but with his recent performances in MLS, it’s possible that head coach Peter Vermes could save him for Saturday’s MLS finale against the Philadelphia Union. Winger Jacob Peterson, who scored in Sporting KC’s last home match, should return to the starting lineup against Olimpia.
With only a draw needed to take them through, the Houston Dynamo have left a number of their starters at home as they head to Panama City, Panama to face Arabe Unido on Thursday. The Dynamo certainly remember how Arabe frustrated them when the two met in August at BBVA Compass Stadium, a game that ended in the Dynamo’s favor with a 2-1 scoreline.
Brad Davis, Oscar Boniek Garcia, and Jermaine Taylor have all stayed back in Houston but Cam Weaver will be looking to repeat his two-goal performance from the last time the Dynamo faced Arabe Unido.
As the Earthquakes welcome Guatemalan side Heredia to Buck Shaw Stadium on Wednesday, the MLS club has been given a boost. Heredia forward Nelson Miranda didn’t travel with his club to the United States after reportedly forgetting his passport at home. Miranda scored the lone goal when Heredia beat the Earthquakes during their last meeting.
Since the Earthquakes have been eliminated from the playoff race and three points are necessary to progress, Earthquakes head coach Mark Watson says he will play his most competitive starting lineup, which could see the likes of Chris Wondolowski and Victor Bernardez dominating their opponents.
The Galaxy have already qualified for the knockout stages, so they took a weakened squad to El Salvador where they’ll play Isidro Metapan on Thursday evening. Landon Donovan and Omar Gonzalez are both still recovering from injuries though the recently recovered Robbie Rogers is expected to feature.
OTHER CCL MATCHES THIS WEEK
Group 6: Toluca vs. Comunicaciones 10/23
Group 7: CD Victoria vs. LA Firpo 10/23
What do you think of these matches? Which of these matches are you looking forward to most? Do you see Sporting KC winning at home? Do you believe the Dynamo can eke out a draw against Arabe Unido?
Share your thoughts below.