U.S. Open Cup offers Houston Dynamo an unexpected chance at redemption
Any defeat hurts but the loss to FC Dallas on March 23 was more painful than most. Andrew Driver says the Dynamo are glad to have the chance to avenge that result tonight in the U.S. Open Cup fourth round (8 p.m. CT, live stream on HoustonDynamo.com).
The draw for the knockout competition has set up a bonus Texas Derby in Frisco less than three months after Houston traveled to the home of their state rivals and lost, 3-2. Dallas held a 2-0 halftime lead but goals from Driver and Brad Davis in the 79th and 83rd minutes dramatically hauled the Dynamo level.
Yet the comeback was crushed in the 90th minute with a disputed winner from Dallas striker Kenny Cooper, who controlled the ball with his arm on the way to scoring past Tally Hall.
"Any time you lose you want to rectify it. For us to fight back like we did in that game and come so close to getting something out of the game, to lose it obviously it is a bitter taste in our mouths and we've got to use that as motivation to go there and get a result," said Driver.
"A cup's a cup. You want to win every game you play in, that's the reason we're professional footballers – we've got that streak in us, you want to win every game. Especially with close proximity to them it's a big game, we'll want to go there and have a good performance and get the result."
Driver has mixed emotions about the previous trip to Dallas. It was a positive personal milestone for the winger, since he made his first MLS appearance as a substitute and scored a fine goal, a precise high finish that was the catalyst for Houston's short-lived comeback.
"That was my debut and a good memory for me," said the 25-year-old, who won the Scottish Cup in 2012 with his previous club, Hearts, in a 5-1 win over their local Edinburgh rivals, Hibernian. "We just want to go and put a good of account of ourselves. Only three more games and you're in a final so we're going to take it very seriously. Hopefully we can go there and get a result, that's the most important thing."
If the Dynamo win they will host either the Portland Timbers or the Tampa Bay Rowdies at BBVA Compass Stadium on June 26. Head coach Dominic Kinnear says he will approach today's game no differently from any other but that it could "get emotional at times" with a place in the quarter-finals and Texas pride on the line.
Schellas Hyndman's side lead the Western Conference with 28 points from 14 games and are riding a 12-game home unbeaten streak. The Dallas head coach picked a strong line-up as his team beat the Fort Lauderdale Strikers 2-0 on the road in the previous round.
"It's going to be a tough game, we know that. They've been playing well. They'll be missing some guys on international duty but it's still a good team. We'll see what type of team they put out but no matter what it's a good FC Dallas team this year, Schellas has got them going and playing really hard and really well so it's going to be a tough one for us," said Kinnear.
He added that this fixture is well-timed, providing competitive action in the middle of a spell of 18 days without an MLS match for the Dynamo. The orange last faced Columbus Crew on June 1 (a 1-1 draw in Ohio) and next travel to Quebec for a big clash against the Eastern Conference-leading Montreal Impact a week from today.
"It's nice to have this game before we play Montreal," said Kinnear. "We'll try and put together a team that is ready to win the game and is fit and healthy."
Jermaine Taylor, Giles Barnes and Cam Weaver are among the Dynamo players back in training after injuries and Kinnear said that new signing Omar Cummings is likely to see some minutes tonight. The striker has not featured competitively for the Dynamo since April 6 as he continues his rehabilitation from off-season knee surgery, but did see nine minutes of action in a Reserve League match against the Charleston Battery last Saturday.
The temperature at FC Dallas Stadium is forecast to be 92 degrees Fahrenheit. Driver says that coming from Scotland to Texas and playing in conditions typically 30 degrees warmer than he is used to is helping his conditioning.
"I think it's a different kind of fitness. Letting your body go through the heat takes a lot of strength of mind as well. Anything that's alternative as a football player, you learn and you get better off it. In the long run hopefully it will [improve my stamina], I'll be able to cope with the heat for 90 minutes every week," he said.