Different styles, same stakes when Dynamo, RBNY clash

Top spot in the East hangs in the balance in first of home-and-home series

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The Houston Dynamo have put together quite a run up the Eastern Conference standings the last six weeks, and the next step in that run could lead to first place when the Dynamo take on the New York Red Bulls tonight at 7 p.m. CT (NBC Sports Network, Live Chat on MLSsoccer.com).

With just a point separating Houston and New York in the standings, the teams enter the first of a home-and-home series that could go a long way in shaping the East playoff setup.

LAST MEETING: New York 1, Houston 0

“We’ve never had a boring game against New York,” goalkeeper Tally Hall said earlier this week. "It doesn’t matter what the standings are and, for us, we know it’s going to be intense and a very active game. We don’t need the standings to tell us it’s going to be a good game.”

But while they are close in the standings, there is a world of difference in the makeup of the two squads. New York bring MLS’s highest payroll to town to face the Dynamo, who have the lowest in the league.

The divergence in payroll suggests a difference in philosophy on how to build a roster, one focused on signing established superstars – newcomer Tim Cahill recently became the third Designated Player on New York’s roster – and the other focused on maximizing potential.

“We know New York and LA, the big cities like that, are going to have big payrolls, but that’s just how it is,” striker Will Bruin said. “We’re confident with who we put on the field … and if we keep playing the way we’ve been playing, the results will keep going our way.”

The teams will meet against in a week, when the Red Bulls host the Dynamo at Red Bull Arena.

“You can’t say ‘Hey, this is like a playoff series with two games,’” Kinnear said. “They’re ahead of us and we’re trying to catch the teams above us and it’s no different. Sometimes the best way to do it is head-to-head. We’re playing well, we’re on a roll, but as far as statements go I don’t fall into that way of thinking.”

Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.