11/26/2008 – HOUSTON – Brian Ching scored in the 13th minute to give the 10-man Houston Dynamo a 1:0 victory over CD Luis Angel Firpo on Wednesday and complete the quarterfinal field for the CONCACAF Champions League.
The victory gave USA’s Major League Soccer its only team to advance to the final eight and left Central America with just Honduras’ CD Marathon in the knockout round.
Ching, who led the Dynamo with 13 goals in MLS this past season, was unmarked as he drove Dwayne De Rosario’s corner kick just under the crossbar with a header. The goal came on Houston’s fourth corner in the first 13 minutes in a half it dominated, with Firpo rarely able to hold any possession in the attacking third.
The Dynamo finished the game with 10 men after Eddie Robinson was sent off in the 82nd minute for a foul at midfield on Carlos Monteagudo. However, Firpo lost the advantage in the first minute of injury time when second-half substitute Carlos Calderon drew his second yellow card in five minutes for appearing to fake being fouled.
The result finished Houston with nine points in Group B, three behind Pumas UNAM and one better than Firpo – which needed only a draw to advance. The match originally was scheduled for September 17 but had to be postponed in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike.
Houston had been idle since November 9, when it was eliminated from the MLS Cup playoffs by the New York Red Bulls. Firpo entered the game having won only one game in its last seven and already out of contention for a place in the Salvadoran semifinal playoffs.
After using a largely second-choice lineup in its last Champions League game on October 28, at Firpo, Houston manager Dominic Kinnear selected a regular starting side, including forward Nate Jaqua, who earlier in the day was selected by the Seattle Sounders FC in the MLS expansion draft.
Jaqua was eligible to play since his transfer will not become effective until Friday.
The Dynamo was the clear aggressor for the first half, generating six corners and not allowing a shot by Firpo until Denis Alas’ attempt from distance in the 23rd.
But with the insertion of Francisco Medrano for Christian Sanchez to start the second half, Firpo asserted itself quickly generating two chances by Edgar Lequizamon within 11 minutes.
Firpo continued to press for the remainder of the half, and while continually creating anxious moments for Houston, never tested Dynamo goalkeeper Pat Onstad.
Besides Pumas, Houston and Marathon, the quarterfinal field is comprised of Cruz Azul, Atlante, the Montreal Impact, Santos Laguna and the Puerto Rico Islanders. The pairings for the knockout round and the route to the finals will be set with the draw on December 10.