What to Watch For: Dynamo playoff hunt

Three storylines to follow down the stretch as Houston aims for postseason

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Photo Credit: 
Anthony Vasser/Houston Dynamo

With less than two months left in the regular season, the
Houston Dynamo are looking to close out their season in strong fashion and return to the playoffs after missing out last year. Currently in third place in the Eastern Conference, here are three things to watch for heading into
the final two months of the season:

1. Road challenges
Houston’s performance on the road this season has been well-documented.
The Dynamo have failed to win away from Robertson Stadium but have been hard to beat, compiling a 0-4-8
record on the road.

While all the draws have helped the Dynamo stay within striking
distance in the East, with five of their last eight matches on the road
Houston will likely need to break through with an away win to stay
in the top three of the Eastern Conference.

“We haven’t gotten a win on the road, and I think this is a perfect
place to start with our trip to Vancouver,” midfielder Brad Davis said
of the club’s weekend visit to Empire Field. “We know there are going to
be difficult games on the road, but we have to take it step by step,
because we’ve put ourselves in a good position, and now we have to stay
there.”

2. Conference battles
With the Eastern playoff race growing increasingly tight, the best way
to securing a playoff spot is by winning the head-to-head battles and finishing in the top three.

Houston has just three games left against conference foes, with two
coming against teams that are currently ahead of the Dynamo: the
first-place Columbus Crew and second-place Sporting Kansas City. The
Dynamo will travel to meet those clubs Sept. 10 and Sept. 14 in back-to-back games that will
go a long way in deciding the club's finish in the playoff
standings.

“It’s going to be a tough stretch, and we’ll need everyone,” left back
Corey Ashe said. “If you look at the playoff race in the Eastern
Conference, we all know it’s going to be tight. But we’re going in with
our normal mindset, which is winning one game at a time.”

3. Facing MLS' best
Of Houston’s final eight matches, five come against teams that have
among the best overall records in MLS, including road games at Sporting
Kansas City (No. 2 in East), Columbus (No. 1 in East), FC Dallas (No. 3
in West), and a regular-season home finale against the LA Galaxy (No. 1
in West).

With a 2-5-7 record against teams currently in the playoffs, Houston
will have to reverse its fortunes against the cream of the league’s crop to emerge with a postseason berth. To boost the team for this stretch run, Houston signed 24-year-old
Brazilian midfielder Luiz Camargo, who trained on Tuesday for the
first time after last playing for Clube Paraná back on July 9.

“He looked a little leggy,” head coach Dominic Kinnear said of his new
acquisition. “It could be the travel, and he hasn’t played for a while.
He’s good on the ball, but he needs a little more off the ball.”

Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.