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The quarterfinal round of the first ever CONCACAF Champions League will kick off Tuesday with MLS’s lone remaining representative hosting Atlante F.C. of Mexico.
Who: Houston Dynamo (USA) vs. Atlante F.C. (Mex)
When: 10:00 pm ET, Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Where: Robertson Stadium, Houston, Texas
T.V.: Fox Soccer Channel/ Galavision

The Houston Dynamo will kick off their 2009 schedule Tuesday night with a quarterfinal CONCACAF Champions League match against Atlante F.C. of Mexico. The match will mark Houston’s first competitive action since clinching a spot in the quarterfinals in November.

Many things have changed in Houston in the months between that match with Louis Angel Firpo and Tuesday night’s clash with Atlante. The loss of key players such as striker Nate Jaqua to Seattle and midfield ace Dwayne De Rosario to Toronto signals a changing of the guard for the Dynamo.

The team could be further hampered on Tuesday night by the questionable status of Stuart Holden. The Olympic veteran who has been tabbed as De Rosario’s replacement missed the tail end of Houston’s preseason trip to California following the loss of his father. His status for the CCL quarterfinal tie is still unknown, but it is unlikely he will be fully fit even if he is with the team.

Orange and White faithful will take solace in the fact that everyone else should be fit and manager Dominic Kinnear has no reason to hold back his first choice eleven, as he did for much of the group stage.

The onus will fall on veterans like forward Brian Ching, midfielder Ricardo Clark, and defenders Bobby Boswell and Wade Barrett to help Houston find their form early. However, this match will likely hinge on how effectively Houston’s role players fit in around the established starters.

The good news for the Dynamo is that Atlante has seen its fair share of struggles of late.

With just one win from seven matches, the Iron Colts are buried at the bottom of Group 1 in Mexico’s top division.  

Atlante qualified for the CCL quarterfinals as winners of Group C, but managed only a goal a game in the group stage. With Houston’s normally stingy defense on tap for the quarterfinal round, and Atlante struggling to find the net in league play, all is not well for the boys from Cancun.

On the bright side for Atlante, Luis Gabriel Rey is in fine form. The Columbian striker has scored or assisted on six of the eight goals posted by Atlante in league play and is without question one of the top players remaining in the CCL.

Teaming with Rey will be Argentine midfielder Gabriel Pereyra and Venezuelan striker Giancarlos Maldonado. While none of the three foreign players featured heavily for the Iron Colts during group play, all will likely see action in Tuesday’s quarterfinal as Atlante try to right the ship.

Players To Watch:

Houston Dynamo: Geoff Cameron. The versatile 24-year-old will need to be on fine form for Houston to walk away winners. Cameron should be fit after spending time in camp with the U.S. National Team during the winter break and his ability to supply Ching and Kei Kamara with good service could decide this match.

Atlante F.C.: Christian Burmudez. The diminutive Mexican starlet can cause problems for any defense. Like most of the Atlante squad, Burmudez has struggled in the early goings of this season. However, the 21-year-old will likely be a big part of any success Atlante has in the CCL.

Goal.com Prediction: Houston is not in mid-season form and Atlante is having problems finding the net. This has all of the makings of a 1-1 draw, with the return leg in Cancun deciding who makes the semifinals.

Allen Ramsey, Goal.com

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