After stopping in San Antonio to play MLS opponents -- including each other -- in the Texas Pro Soccer Festival last week, Houston and D.C. United begin play Wednesday in the CONCACAF Champions' Cup quarterfinals sporting very different lineups than they did last year. In United's case, the look is drastically new.
Both MLS teams are away in the first leg. United faces a much easier task in Kingston, Jamaica, at the Harbour View Stadium (Fox Soccer Channel, 8 p.m. ET); Houston plays CSD Municipal at the inhospitable Estadio Mateo Flores in Guatemala City (FSC, 10 p.m.).
Yet for both teams, which between them have won three of the last four MLS Cups and a combined 31 league games last year, the opposition is less important than getting their changes squared away.
During the offseason, Houston lost attackers
But the core of Houston's '06 and '07 championship teams is still in place: keeper
Caraccio scored his first goal for Houston Sunday at the TPSF in a 1-1 tie with United, which began the game with most of its likely starters: goalie
If Houston's look is a shade or two different, United is the MLS version of
Wells and Peralta are among United's newcomers. Gone are
United is more Latin, with Argentine midfielder
Former teen sensation
Soehn is running short of time to hone Peralta and Martínez as the central defensive pairing, work Gallardo and Niell into his attack, and balance the abilities of Wells and Carvallo before D.C. opens MLS play March 29 at Kansas City. Reserves and trialists garnered much of the minutes in Texas, but this two-game series against beatable opposition is likely to be the last of the experimental opportunities.