Guatemala's Guastatoya footballer Carlos Gallardo (L) vies for the ball with US Houston Dynamo Alberth Elis during their Concacaf Champions League football match at the Doroteo Guamuch stadium in Guatemala City on Feb. 19, 2019. (Photo by JOHAN ORDONEZ / AFP)
The Houston Dynamo secured a win, a precious away goal and a clean sheet to boot in a 1-0 victory over CD Guastatoya in their opening Concacaf Champions League match in Guatemala City on Tuesday night. Here are three things we learned from the first match:
Beasley found Fountain of Youth
On a night when Mauro Manotas and company found difficulty breaking through Guastatoya’s back line, 36-year-old Beasley pounced on an attempted clearance of a corner kick and one-touched a 20-yard volley for the 84th-minute game winner.
— Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League (@TheChampions) February 20, 2019
Just prior, Beasley pushed an attack leading to a tantalizing Romell Quioto chance that was, to that point, Houston’s best of the match.
The goal set off a series of tweets suggesting Beasley was now ready for the 2022 or even 2026 World Cup. Though that might be overly aspirational, the captain did play great soccer. And even though general manager Matt Jordan has been busy building a new defense over the offseason, Tuesday night gave indication that Beasley’s still going to be a vital part of that.
New guys already in rotation
For those who wondered how long it would take for Wilmer Cabrera to work his new options into the lineup this season, wonder no longer. Five of the team’s offseason acquisitions saw action. Cabrera ran out Kiki Struna and Maynor Figueroa as centerbacks for the full 90 — instrumental in helping Joe Willis collect a clean sheet — and paired Matias Vera with Juan David Cabezas in the double pivot.
Both Tommy McNamara and Marlon Hairston came on as second-half subs to try to spark a stifled offense.
There may be a path to the finals after all
Saprissa managed a 1-0 home win in CCL action Tuesday against a Tigres team missing key pieces, which leaves the Costa Rican squad in a good place against the Liga MX juggernauts.
The winner of that series faces the Houston-Guastatoya winner in the CCL quarterfinals. With Sporting Kansas City, Atlanta United and Monterrey on the other side of the bracket, the New York Red Bulls or Santos Laguna would be the most likely semifinal opponent for whoever emerges from Houston’s quarter of the bracket.
Should Saprissa hold its aggregate lead — certainly not a given against Tigres’ potent offense — they’d notch a tournament-reshaping triumph over one of the favorites.