San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Saprissa To Face Houston In Soccer Semis

Having beaten Atlante of Mexico in the quarterfinals last week, the leading club in Costa Rican Soccer, Deportivo Saprissa, is set to face Houston Dynamo of the United States in the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup.

The first leg of the two-match duel between Saprissa and Houston will be held at the Robertson Stadium in Houston, Texas, at 9 p.m. on Wednesday. The second will be held at the Ricardo Saprissa Stadium in Tibás, north of San José, at 8 p.m. on April 9.

Saprissa was defeated 2-1 by Atlante in the first leg of the quarterfinals in Cancún, Mexico, on March 13. However, “El Monstruo Morado,” as Saprissa is known, produced a fine performance in front of 23,000 home fans in the second leg, winning 3-0 thanks to an Armando Alonso strike, sandwiched between two own-goals by Atlante players Arturo Muñoz and Gerardo Castillo. The win gave them a 4-2 aggregate victory over Atlante, advancing them to the semis.

For their part, Houston Dynamo, following a goal-less draw in the first leg of their series against Municipal of Guatemala on March 12, beat that team 3-1 a week later, with all goals coming in the second half.

The other semifinal will be between two-time winners of the competition, Pachuca of Mexico and D.C. United of the United States.

Saprissa will be gunning for its fourth title, having won the competition in 1993, 1995 and 2005. The winner of the competition will be invited to the 2008 FIFA Club World Cup.

In related news, Saprissa has been fined $15,000 by CONCACAF after some fans threw objects, one of which struck an Atlante player, onto the pitch during the second-leg victory.

The club has been ordered to “implement a new stadium security plan prior to its semifinal encounter against the USA’s Houston Dynamo,” according to a statement on the federation’s Web site. The association also fined Atlante $2,500 for the “unsportsmanlike behavior” of some players and staff in antagonizing home fans.

On Wednesday night, the Costa Rica national team lost to Perú 3-1 in a friendly match in Iquitos, Perú. The defeat means “La Sele,” as the Costa Rica team is known, has not won in its last 11 international tries and has prompted strong criticism at home.

Costa Rica will open its qualifying campaign for the 2010 World Cup against Granada on June 14.


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