Tomorrow night FC Dallas (FCD) will play one of the most important games in the history of the franchise. There is a certain amount of pressure on the club because no MLS team has never won the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL). The league came close to breaking through twice early in the decade. Real Salt Lake and Montreal both unfortunately lost bitter final round second-leg home matches to Mexico’s LigaMX opponents. This year, there is a belief that FC Dallas may actually represent MLS’s best hope ever to win the Champions League because of the talent, experience and depth of their 2017 squad. On the heals of their first-leg victory two weeks ago, they now take a 2-1 aggregate-goal lead down to Mexico tomorrow night (8 p.m. CDT) where they will play at C.F. Pachuca in the second-leg of one of the CCL semi-final rounds. It will be challenging…Pachuca has not lost at home in more than a year.
Dallas traveled to Mexico last Wednesday to train for close to a week, in an attempt to acclimate to the almost 8,000 feet altitude in Pachuca. This luxury was possible because its weekend MLS regular season game at Colorado was rescheduled. FCD was hosted by Mexican club La Noria FC in Puebla and had the opportunity Saturday to play (and win 2-0) an exhibition match against the reserves of LigaMX side Puebla. Coincidentally, Pachuca played a LigaMX regular season match against Puebla (which ended scoreless) also on Saturday. Pachuca manager Diego Alonso basically ran out a first choice side against Puebla, in what turned out to be a physical and chippy match….39 total fouls and 5 yellow cards.
Pachuca has an extremely deep and loaded roster. One significant change to the team that faced FCD a couple of weeks ago is the reintroduction of young star Hirving Lozano to the lineup. Lozano was injured earlier this season and was out-of-action for a number of weeks. He appears to be back at full fitness and started and played the full 90 minutes against Puebla.
One note to keep an eye on. FCD starters Hernan Grana, Matt Hedges and Carlos Gruezo picked up yellow cards in the first-leg of the series in Dallas two weeks ago. Should FCD be fortunate enough to advance to the next round, a yellow card for any of the three in the second leg would see them suspended for the first leg of a potential championship round.
In the other CCL semifinal, MLS side Vancouver Whitecaps face a daunting challenge against Tigres UANL at home Wednesday night. Tigres defeated the Whitecaps 2-0 in Monterrey two weeks ago and are one of the best teams in the Americas. Vancouver is coming into the game with some momentum however. The Whitecaps came back from a late deficit to score three unanswered goals in the last half-hour against LA Galaxy Saturday night for their first win of the season.