Home stretch: Houston Dynamo start three game home stand against Columbus Crew on Wednesday
Dynamo forward Giles Barnes wants to use last weekend's performance against Chivas USA as a template for an important three-game homestand that begins with the visit of the Columbus Crew to BBVA Compass Stadium on Wednesday night (7 p.m. CT; TICKETS).
Houston snapped out of a tough run of results in style on Saturday with a 4-1 defeat of Chivas at StubHub Center and Barnes grabbed his first two goals of the campaign with a crashing shot from distance and a calmly-struck penalty kick.
The Englishman is aiming for more of the same as the Dynamo first host Columbus, then Real Salt Lake on Sunday and the Los Angeles Galaxy on May 17. They are the last home games before World Cup rosters are finalized and key Dynamo players potentially head to the tournament. Attacking midfielder Boniek García has already been named to the Honduras squad and captain Brad Davis is hoping that U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann hands him a ticket to Brazil as well.
Barnes said that the Dynamo are in confident mood after the team clicked against Chivas and he is looking for another clinical display on Wednesday. "We've got to keep the momentum going. I think it was one of the best games we've played this season, using the ball wide, we pressured high, we took opportunities when they were given to us. We've got only good, positive vibes going into the next game," he told HoustonDynamo.com.
"We always look forward to coming home and trying to do something special for our fans so hopefully we can do that [against Columbus] and carry it on."
While pleased to be back at BBVA Compass Stadium for an extended stretch, Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear is expecting a stiff challenge from all three teams. RSL was last year's MLS Cup runners-up while the Galaxy are another perennial Western Conference force.
"It's going to be tough, all three opponents are good opponents and the games are close together but I'd rather have them at home than away," he told HoustonDynamo.com. Against Chivas the Dynamo were more successful at converting pressure and possession into goals than in recent weeks, and the defense recovered its composure and smothered Chivas' attacks after the setback of conceding an early penalty kick.
"Sometimes [goals] come, sometimes they don't. To be honest we could probably have scored a couple more. But a 4-1 scoreline, if you'd have said that before the game I think our guys would have taken it. It's good to get the win after we played really well on both sides of the ball and obviously any time you win the guys are feeling really confident and happy," said Kinnear.
Wednesday night's game is the only midweek Eastern Conference clash. The division is so tight that although the Dynamo are currently just outside the top five, a win will see them move level on points with Sporting Kansas City, the New England Revolution and the New York Red Bulls at the head of the standings (having played more matches than SKC and the Revolution). SKC are the only team in the unpredictable East to have won as many as half of their fixtures.
The Crew are a point above Houston with a game in hand. They were early pacesetters under new sporting director and head coach Gregg Berhalter, the former U.S. defender. They won their first three matches but lost two and tied three of their next five. Their last victory was an impressive 2-1 success away to the Seattle Sounders on March 29 and they have some of the most dangerous attackers in the league.
"They're a good team. Federico Higuain is an important player for them, especially when they go from defending to attack, they always try to find his feet," said Kinnear.
"Obviously Dominic Oduro's pace, and Jairo Arrieta; Justin Meram provides a good spark for them whenever he steps on the field. They're playing well, very calm with the ball at the back and they try to build up things slowly—but they can catch you on the break."
Columbus are without midfielder Wil Trapp, who is suspended after picking up a red card in last Sunday's 2-0 defeat to SKC. Kinnear will make a couple of late line-up decisions as he prepares for the Dynamo's fifth match in the space of 18 days, with Sunday's fixture also looming. Definitely out are defender Eric Brunner (recovering from ankle surgery), midfielder Ricardo Clark (concussion) and winger Tony Cascio (likely out for the season after last week's knee surgery).
"Rarely do you see, for any team, the same team three games in a row. We'll see how our squad is. I won't name the team until [shortly before the match]," he said. "There are still some bumps and bruises … You'd prefer the guys going to bed knowing what's going on for them tomorrow, but with games in a short period of time sometimes you have to wait till you get to the locker room."
Tom Dart is a contributing writer to HoustonDynamo.com and HoustonDashSoccer.com. Former editor and reporter for The Times of London and reporter for SI.com, Dart currently freelances for The Guardian.