By Dylan Butler
Three points atop Group 3 heading into the final matchday of the CONCACAF Champions League Group Stage, the Houston Dynamo's path to the quarterfinals is pretty clear: don't lose to Olimpia at home on Tuesday.
And history gives them a boost. Houston hasn't lost at home in 18 games - except a club friendly against Valencia -- since it opened BBVA Compass Stadium on May 12. It has lost only twice in the Champions League at home in 10 games - both to Mexican teams, Pumas and Pachuca.
Conversely, Olimpia has won only one of its last nine games away from home overall, and two of 10 in the Champions League.
The Dynamo became just the fourth Major League Soccer team to finish the regular season undefeated at home when they rallied for a pair of late goals in a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Union on Saturday, a victory that clinched a berth in the MLS Cup playoffs.
"Qualifying for the playoffs was the No. 1 objective," said Houston coach Dominic Kinnear, who also guided the San Jose Earthquakes to an unbeaten home record in 2005. "We did that. To go through the season unbeaten at home is a pretty remarkable achievement for the guys."
After falling to FAS 2-1 on September 27, Olimpia further complicated its chances of advancement and can now only do so if it ends a three-game losing streak in the Champions League away and wins for only the second time away in nine tries.
Olimpia and Houston played to a 1-1 draw in Tegucigalpa on August 30 with Adam Moffat scoring the second-half equalizer after Douglas Caetano put the host in front in the sixth minute.
Olimpia also enter this critical match on a high note, beating rival Motagua 2-0 Saturday night with a pair of goals from Roger Rojas to remain atop the Honduran Apertura standings.
"I thank God for the win," Rojas told Diez.hn after the match. "I think we had a good game, both teams came out to win."
The situation will be different in Salt Lake, where Herediano arrives with the three-point advantage. The MLS squad must beat the Costa Rican club by two goals or 1-0 when the sides face off Tuesday night at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.
Herediano sits atop Group 2 with nine points, three in front of second-place Real Salt Lake, and can advance with a draw or even a one-goal loss if it scores a goal.
The Costa Rican side is attempting to reach the knockout stage for the first time, while Real Salt Lake is trying to advance for a second time in as many tries after reaching the tournament final in 2011 before losing to Monterrey.
Coincidentally, both teams enter the match after playing to 0-0 draws domestically during the week. Herediano and Carmelita were goalless, while RSL and Seattle Sounders FC similarly were deadlocked.
"At the end of it all, a result is a result," Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis was quoted in the Salt Lake Tribune. "One point was our baseline objective…We felt like if we could get one point, we could control our own destiny in the last weekend of the season."
Having already clinched a berth in the knockout stage, two-time defending champion Monterrey is in position to challenge for the top seed in the quarterfinals with a victory over winless Chorrillo on Tuesday in Panama City in the Group 7 finale.
"Los Rayados" have nine points and a plus-9 goal difference, just behind fellow Mexican side Santos' plus-11.
Monterrey hasn't allowed a goal in the Champions League this season and will be playing a team that has been outscored 9-2. However, Monterrey has gone winless in its last four games, while Chorrillo's 3-2 win at Alianza in the Panamanian league on Saturday snapped a 10-game winless streak.