The final week of the CONCACAF Champions League group stage begins on Tuesday, and there is plenty of interest for fans of Major League Soccer. All of the matches can be seen on FOX Soccer. Here’s a breakdown of each team’s chances:
Tuesday, Oct. 23
Houston Dynamo v. Olimpia (HON) – 8 p.m.
The situation is fairly simple for Houston and Olimpia. The Dynamo will advance with a win or draw at home, while Olimpia will advance with a win due to the head-to-head tiebreaker.
The Dynamo should feel good about their chances at home where they have not lost a competitive match this year. In the first meeting in Honduras, the Dynamo held on for the draw despite losing Nathan Sturgis to a red card in the 61st minute.
Houston will likely use a mix of starters and reserves three days after securing a playoff spot and four days before the regular season finale that could improve the team’s seeding. The Dynamo have enough depth that a comfortable win should be expected.
Real Salt Lake v. Herediano (CR) – 10 p.m.
Real Salt Lake must win by the exact score of 1-0 or by two or more goals in order to advance.
Because RSL lost 1-0 and did not score in Costa Rica, Herediano needs to score just one goal to take the away-goals tiebreaker and force Real Salt Lake to score at least three. That leaves coach Jason Kreis with some interesting tactical decisions. Do you focus on securing the shutout, or do you try to score as many as possible in case Herediano finds the net?
The defensive strategy might work best considering the roster limitations. The team’s biggest scoring threat, Álvaro Saborío, will miss the match due to yellow-card accumulation, while forward Fabian Espíndola and defender Jamison Olave are questionable with injuries.
Salt Lake will need to avoid the types of challenges that give referees an opportunity to reach for a card. Nat Borchers was sent off during the first Herediano match, and Kyle Beckerman was shown a red card in another Champions League match.
Wednesday, Oct. 24
Santos Laguna (MEX) v. Toronto FC – 8 p.m.
Toronto must defeat Santos Laguna by three or more goals or by two while scoring at least four. If that does not sound like “Mission Impossible,” then consider that defenders Darren O’Dea and Logan Emory and striker Eric Hassli may miss the match.
Toronto played in Torreón for the semifinals of the Champions League in April and lost 6-2. Most observers might expect a similar score on Wednesday, but Toronto players have nothing else to shoot for this season and could be dangerous if Santos Laguna underestimates them. If Toronto pushes forward for goals as needed, then expect a high score.
Seattle Sounders v. Marathón (HON) – 10 p.m.
The Sounders have already secured a spot in the quarterfinals. The only question is the seeding. With a win, Seattle has a good chance of having one of the top two seeds in the tournament and possible playing one of the weaker teams in the quarterfinals.
Thursday, Oct. 25
Isidro Metapán (ES) v. LA Galaxy – 10 p.m.
The Galaxy have also secured a spot in the quarterfinals. A win should move them up to one of the top four seeds which will give them a potentially weaker opponent.