Pachuca FC pulled back a little pride for Mexico in the CONCACAF Champions Cup as they beat Guatemala's Deportivo Marquense 2-0 on 22 February on home soil.
Damian Alvarez and Gabriel Caballero scored goals in each half to see the 2006 Copa Sudamericana champions and the oldest club currently in the Mexican top flight roar to a healthy advantage at the series halfway mark. In truth, the Mexicans applied massive pressure throughout the match and the Guatemalan men can count themselves lucky not be contemplating a far more significant deficit heading into the all-important second leg.
With the memory of Chivas of Guadalajara's recent shock loss to Caribbean Minnows W Connection FC and the national team's 2-0 defeat to the USA still fresh in the minds of many Mexican fans, the win will go a long way to helping to restore a bit of pride in the country widely regarded to have the best top-flight and most-devoted football fans in all of North, Central America and the Caribbean.
The USA's two participants chalked up contrasting results in their games on 21 February. DC United, the Major League Soccer outfit that finished the pre-playoff 'regular' season in 2006 with the best record, managed to triumph over Honduran powers Olimpia, winning 4-1 away in decidedly hostile territory. The surprise result came by virtue of two goals from outstanding Argentinian creator Christian Gomez, who scored two phenomenal strikes in each half including a swerving strike from long range. Luciano Emilio and Facundo Erpen rounded off the scoring for United as the Americans picked up their biggest-ever result on Central American soil.
Having participated in seven Champions Cups through the years, DC United - CONCACAF Champions back in 1998 - look in fine fettle to challenge for a second regional title and a spot at the 2007 FIFA Club World Cup this time around.
MLS champions Houston Dynamo, however, did not have as much to celebrate after their contest with Puntarenas FC of Costa Rica. Playing on a bumpy pitch in the Miguel Lito Perez Stadium in Puntarenas, the 'Orange Crush' had massive troubles putting anything together in midfield. However, even with their woes, the ten-man visitors (reduced after Eddie Robinson received his marching orders) did not concede the goal until the second minute of stoppage time. After having put up such a good fight, Houston were left devastated when Kurt Bernard popped up to force the result with just seconds to go.
Losing 1-0, though, on the road will not exactly have the Texan side despairing. With the games played in a pure aggregate format (with road goals counting the same as those scored at home) the Dynamo - led by recently crowned Canadian Player of the Year Dwayne De Rosario - will fancy their chances of overturning the result back in front of their adoring home fans on 1 March.
Chivas look to bounce back
The Champions' Cup quarter-final stages continue next week with second-leg encounters scheduled for 28 February and 1 March.
With the pure aggregate format in place, if the two teams are tied after the second legs the series will go to extra-time and then penalties.
Chivas - heavy favourites and inaugural Champions Cup winners - will be hoping to overcome their 2-1 loss on the road on 13 February when they play their second leg against Trinidadian outfit W Connection in the first of the quarter-final return encounters on 28 February.
CONCACAF Champions Cup quarter-finals:
13/02/07 W Connection FC (TRI) 2 - CD Guadalajara (MEX) 1
28/02/07 CD Guadalajara (MEX) - W Connection FC (TRI)
21/02/07 Puntarenas FC (CRC) 1 - Houston Dynamo (USA) 0
01/03/07 Houston Dynamo (USA) - Puntarenas FC (CRC)
21/02/07 CD Olimpia (HON) 1 - DC United (USA) 4
01/03/07 DC United (USA) - CD Olimpia (HON)
22/02/07 Pachuca CF (MEX) 2 - Deportivo Marquense (GUA) 0
28/02/07 Deportivo Marquense (GUA) - Pachuca CF (MEX)
First leg: 13-15 March
Second leg: 03-05 April
First leg: 17-19 April
Second leg: 24-26 April