In the biggest disappointment of his young career, Dynamo defender Mike Chabala had to sit out last year’s Western Conference championship game against the Los Angeles Galaxy. Suspended after picking up one yellow card in each leg of the conference semifinal, Chabala had to watch from the stands as the Galaxy eliminated the Dynamo in a wild 2-0, overtime win that included two light failures and a Houston goal waved off.
Almost five months later, Chabala and the Dynamo are off to a strong start to the 2010 season, and the implications in the standings – the Galaxy are 2-0 and Houston 1-0-1 – are the most important aspect of Saturday’s rematch.
“We’ve been waiting for this moment from last season to try and get ourselves right,” Chabala said. “It was disappointing the way it finished, but it’s a new season, a new start, and we want to get off to a good start. These three home games that we have in a row are real important for us, all intra-conference games, so we want to make sure we win.”
Still, hosting the Galaxy this Saturday means a little something extra to the Fresno, Calif. native, whose first year as a starter at the professional level ended with him watching from a suite rather than competing on the field.
“It was really tough having to watch that game and not being able to contribute,” Chabala said. “I’m trying to maximize every game I’m playing and trying to help my team get the results we’re looking for. For me personally, I just want to put a little stamp on the game that it should’ve been a different result when we were playing there last year.”
Although his main focus is on the Dynamo’s defensive efforts – the league leaders in goals allowed over the last three years are still looking for their first shutout of 2010 – Chabala has found a way to be involved offensively so far in 2010. He made a long overlapping run from left back and scored with his right foot in the season opener March 27, and it was his long pass into the box that led to Geoff Cameron being fouled and the Dynamo tying the game via penalty kick on April 1.
Against the Galaxy, however, Chabala said the Dynamo will be worried about counterattacks as the Galaxy try to take advantage of the unique talents of Landon Donovan, who can score himself or play setup man for Edson Buddle, who has netted all three Galaxy goals this year.
“We need to be making sure that we’re communicating and paying attention to players when we do have the ball, so that when the ball does turn over, we’re in good spots to keep Landon and Edson in front of us,” Chabala said. “As long as we keep staying together as a tight group, we’ll be fine.”
A shutout and a victory. Not too much to ask, right?
That’s the goal for Chabala and the Dynamo on Saturday, and this time Chabala will be on the field expecting to help Houston reach those goals.