Musings on the Houston Match: Our First CONCACAF Rodeo


by Jason Goodbody

Last season was a season of firsts. Being such a young club, season two will also be a season of firsts. CITY's first game of 2024 on Tuesday resulted in its first tournament win against an MLS-level or higher quality opponent. Last year, CITY beat USL League 1 club Union Omaha in the US Open Cup before losing to the Chicago Fire FC which subsequently led to a cascade of losses in the US Open Cup, Leagues Cup and the playoffs. So this time around we started off with a win…and thus we have progress. 

A Season of Seconds

It is also a season of seconds as evidenced by center back Tim Parker's second time scoring the first goal of the season, with his head, from a set piece, again. Incidentally, Parker also scored against his former team, a team that is still paying part of his salary due to the trade deal with CITY. That stings. Parker is making a case to ceremoniously score the first goal each and every season moving forward. I'm envisioning teams walk out with the kids, then National Anthem, celebrity flips a coin and awkwardly waves a big supporters' flag, red-out, kickoff, Tim scores first goal of the season. Done.


We also saw a first for newcomer Hosei Kijima. The recent Wake Forest University grad, CITY's first round selection, and someone who appears to be AZ Jackson's understudy, signed his first professional contract that morning. In his first appearance, his first 4 minutes of play in fact, Kijima stole an unsettled ball from Dynamo midfielder Brooklyn Raines, fidget-spinned past the same sprawling Raines, and slipped it past keeper Steve Park into the back of the goal in the 90th minute, sealing the win.  We'll likely see much more of that this season.

CONCACAF Champions Cup- What's it all about?

The CONCACAF Champions Cup is an annual tournament filled with the top clubs from North America, Central America, and the Caribbean and it is the biggest tournament we'll see outside of the MLS championship. The winner of the automatically qualifies for the FIFA Club World Cup which is an even bigger tournament. The last two decades have been dominated by Mexican Liga MX teams save for a Seattle Sounders championship in 2022.

After securing top of the Western Conference last season and earning a spot, many of us got our passports updated and had dreams of sipping umbrella-adorned rum cocktails on a Caribbean beach in February. Instead, we drew Houston. And they drew us and I'm sure both were equally disappointed.  And CITY got the win, further disappointing the Houston faithful.

So it's off to Houston for game two next Tuesday, Feb 27 and if CITY wins, they move on to the tropical paradise of….Columbus Ohio to play the Crew. ….YES, this is still a good tournament, I assure you.

Instead of a "best of three", these are a "best of two" series and if you are like me, your first thought was "oh, interesting" your second thought may have been "wait, huh?" So allow me to break it down for you. Each round will be a two-leg home-and-away series with the winner having the most total (or aggregate) goals with away goals being more valuable. So, just like in all of soccer, not all ties are equal. Some ties are good ties, some are bad ties. In this case, CITY moves on with a draw (a good tie). If Houston wins 1-0, they move on with aggregate goals tied at 2-2, a bad tie because Houston's goal in CITYPARK is deemed more valuable, like equaling 1.000000000001 goals but enough to squeak out a win.

But if it's 2-1 Houston then the game goes to extra time and then penalty kicks, or a who wore it better competition, or maybe Carnell and Dynamo coach Ben Olson play 1v1 for 15 minutes…or something like that. Let's hope for a win so we can avoid all the complicated chaos, or an old man's pulled hamstring.

Some Scattershot musings

  • The font that CONCACAF uses in its marketing is atrocious. Like NextPro-level bad. Like high school metal garage band home made flyers bad. Comic Sans bad. You heard me. COMIC SANS.

  • VAR giveth….this time.

  • New signees Tomas Totland (Norway, Swedish club BK Häcken) and Chris Durkin (DC United) were impressive this outing and will make an impact this year. We'll likely see newcomer Danish player Nikolas Dyhr at left back on Saturday.

  • Tuesday's game wasn't sold out and yet the CITYPARK atmosphere with a crowd of 20k-ish was still loud and raucous. There were a lot of new faces in the crowd so the stadium-wide chants were less stadium-y. Also, CONCACAF reportedly didn't allow Fleur de Noise in the supporters section to have megaphones for fear of being projectiles, I guess. Don't they know that good megaphones cost $50? Then I realized that fans (not our fans) throw whole beers and those are nearly as expensive.

Anyway, the megaphones are back on Saturday for the season opener. The fans will be back. Muse's opening song Uprising may be back, maybe. The street party, the march, the Block Party, the pregaming will all be back.

CITYPARK will be electric. See you there or look for us on the Apple TV, I'll be wearing CITY red. 


Pictures courtesy of St Louis CITY SC