By Dylan Butler
When the Houston Dynamo head to San Salvador to take on CD FAS in their Group 3 CONCACAF Champions League opener Wednesday, coach Dominic Kinnear will make sure his players know they're not in Texas anymore.
The vagaries of playing on the road internationally can be challenging, and winning the first group stage match - home or away - is critical, according to Kinnear.
"You want to get off on the right start in CONCACAF," he said. "It's not easy and it's always hard to predict what's going to go on when you go down there. A lot of things are going to go differently and you just have to be prepared for it, but the expectation is to go down and win this game."
Houston enters the match having lost only one its last 10, including Sunday's 2-2 draw with the Columbus Crew, and has the fifth-best record in U.S. Major League Soccer.
It faces a CD FAS side which is unbeaten in its last two in the Salvadoran first division after losing three of its first four and lost 3-0 to Olimpia on August 2 to open the Champions League. It drew 0-0 at home on Saturday with fellow Champions League qualifier Aguila.
"Let's hope that we play a better game and we can win," FAS manager Agustin Castillo told Prensa Grafica. "Suddenly, that team (Dynamo) goes on the attack, coming from the back and not leaving any spaces on the field, and when we don't have space we have trouble."
He calls Houston "a dynamic team of good football. It has a tinge of European football. On the Internet we see plays, goals. We know little about them and they should not know about us."
Like FAS, Caribbean champion Caledonia AIA is looking to rebound from a 3-1 loss to Seattle in its Champions League opener when it hosts Marathon Wednesday night at Ato Boldon Stadium.
"We should be able to do better," coach Jerry Moe told ttproleague.com. "We have to be confident. We have three games still. We won the second half against Seattle and that should give us some confidence. So it's just for us to play our remaining matches with the right discipline and attitude."
Marathon enters the match with a new coach, Manuel Keosseian, who was chosen to replace Ramon Maradiaga on Friday after the club had lost four straight to start the Honduran Apertura. Under interim manager Mauro Reyes, it ended its slide with a 3-2 victory at Real Espana on Saturday with three goals from Mitchell Brown.
"It's a big motivation, this gives us confidence for what lies ahead in the tournament," Reyes told La Prensa after the match. "We had some communication with coach Keosseian. We did some analysis of the team and made some decisions."
Wednesday's other match pits a sagging Tigres UANL against an unbeaten Alajuelense.
Tigres has fallen to seventh in the Mexican Apertura after a 2-1 loss to Tijuana that extended its winless streak to three. After scoring 10 goals in three games - including a 4-0 win over Real Esteli in its Champions League opener, Tigres has scored only three goals total in its last three games.
Conversely, Alajuelense is one of only three unbeaten teams left in the Costa Rican first division after six rounds, and sits atop the league with 14 points.
It faces Tigres at home, where it hasn't lost in four previous matches in the Champions League. It has won three straight, all in last year's Group Stage and all by 1-0 scores.
However, this season in the Costa Rican first division it has won four and drawn two - both ties coming at home. An additional concern is the likely absence of Pablo Gabbas, who injured his left instep in Sunday's 1-0 win over Perez Zeledon, Alajuelense said on its website Tuesday.