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The CONCACAF Champions Cup is coming to Houston and fans are in for a treat in a unique way. The champion of the tournament will earn a spot in the 2006 FIFA World Club Championship which will be held in Japan in December of 2006.
The match in Houston on February 22 will feature popular Club America of Mexico and Jamaican club team Portmore United.
What is unique about this event is that it will be the first ever soccer match played at Minute Maid Park, the home of the Houston Astros.
"Now we're going into a new venue, first time there has ever been this type of event at Minute Maid Park, it's really going to be an interesting challenge for us setting it up," said Lone Star Sports and Entertainment head Jamey Rootes.
"The goal always is to present the game in a way that will fuel the fans' passion for soccer. It will provide a good avenue for us to host international events when Reliant Stadium isn't available."
That passion should be evident when the "Eagles" of Club America arrive in Houston.
Fueled by star quality, Club America last won the Mexican League title two seasons ago when they crushed Tecos of Guadalajara 7-4 on aggregate with the final game being played in Azteca Stadium in Mexico City in front of 100,000 fans. It was only the second time Club America had won the title since the Mexican League went to the current system of two championships per year.
One player fans will certainly want to come out and see is controversial striker Cuauhtemoc Blanco, who has scored over 100 goals for Club America and has spent the majority of his career in Mexico City.
Blanco was recalled to the Mexican National team for an exhibition game against Norway. His ongoing feud with 'tricolores' head coach Ricardo LaVolpe has aired out publicly and has divided a country. Now that relationship may be on the mend.
Blanco is a hero to many in Mexico and an embarrassment to others with his off-field antics that have included problems with the press and his personal life. Yet despite that he continues to be a dangerous player when put on the soccer field.
His ability to provide the unpredictable can be the difference in winning games. With an ability to beat people off the dribble, he can eliminate defenders at will on his day.
Add to that tremendous awareness and vision plus the 'x' factor of being able to draw free kicks in dangerous areas.
What you have is a player that U.S. National Team manager Bruce Arena has called extremely dangerous to deal with.
Combining with Blanco in the Club America attack is Brazilian Kleber and Argentine Claudio Lopez. The three form a formidable three-pronged attack that has a blend of skill, ideas, pace and power.
Blanco had paired with the powerful Kleber during the 2004 Mexican League Apertura while at Veracruz before both were brought to the 'Eagles.'
With the addition of Claudio Lopez who has starred for both Lazio in Italy and Argentina, you have arguably the most dangerous attack in Mexico .
Two players that allow Blanco, Lopez and Kleber the freedom to attack within the Club America system are veteran are veteran midfielders Pavel Pardo and German Villa.
Both provide the work rate, positional sense and box-to-box ability that support the attacking efforts of the trio.
Pardo is expected to be a key figure in Mexico's World Cup run in Germany this summer.
The first step towards getting to the FIFA World Club Championships in Japan ironically will also coincide with the first-ever soccer match at Minute Maid Park
With World Cup talents like Blanco and Pardo on hand this should be a memorable
night in Houston soccer history.
Davis is a nationally recognized broadcaster for HDNET where he partners up with former U.S. National Team defender Marcelo Balboa. He was one of the lead voices for ESPN during the 2002 World Cup and has called major international soccer matches for the Fox Network as well. He is a weekly columnist for the Houston Chronicle and hosts the "Soccer Hour with Glenn Davis" radio show presented by Soccer 4 ALL on ESPN 790 AM every Wednesday at 9 p.m. Davis played soccer professionally for the Houston Dynamos where he was a league all star selection and team captain.