Action from the CONCACAF Champions League game between the Houston Dynamo (left) and visiting Arabe Unido on August 27, 2013, at BBVA Compass Stadium. (Photo: Bob Levey)
PANAMA CITY, Panama -- The Houston Dynamo traveled to Panama with the knowledge that a draw against Arabe Unido on Thursday will be enough to clinch it a place in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals. For Deportivo Arabe Unido vs Houston Dynamo game notes, please click here.
The host, though, lurks only one point behind and will be pleased to play at the more intimate Estadio Agustin “Muquita” Sanchez in La Chorrera. Arabe contested its other Group 1 home game against DIRECTV W Connection in Panama City’s 29,000-seat Estadio Rommel Fernandez, while the Muquita was getting up to tournament regulations.
This will be the fourth all-time CCL meeting between the sides. Houston holds the advantage with two wins at home, but the other ended in a 1-1 draw on August 26, 2009, in La Chorrera.
The Dynamo, who dropped a 3-0 decision to the New York Red Bulls at home on Sunday, will be without Brad Davis. The midfielder played a key role in the United States’ 3-2 World Cup Qualifying win at Panama last week, setting up two goals.
With the loss to New York, Houston currently is out of post-season reckoning in Major League Soccer. After facing Arabe, it has a pivotal domestic encounter at D.C. United on Sunday and could finish anywhere from third place to seventh in the Eastern Conference.
Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear is convinced his team can accomplish its goals of advancing to the CCL quarterfinals for the third time and qualifying for the MLS playoffs.
“We have a good team, obviously this game today doesn’t exactly back up my statement with balloons and streamers, but I think we have a good team,” said Kinnear. “I have confidence that we’re going to go to D.C. and play and that we’re going to go to Panama and play well.”
Arabe Unido, which lost 2-1 at Houston on August 27, has struggled somewhat in Panamanian league play. A 4-0 victory over Rio Abajo on Friday, however, snapped a seven-game winless streak and elevated it into seventh place. Jose Gonzalez scored the match’s opening two goals.
Head coach Jair Palacios is confident that his side is ready for the Houston challenge.
“This is a very mature group,” said the Colombian. “The players are aware of what is at stake tomorrow and have worked hard to achieve the classification.
“We must be, as the Japanese say, a kamikaze, throw ourselves with all the attack. The team is aware that we play to win and we will need public support to take the team forward.”