All-time record: New York leads 4-2-5 (3-2-4 regular season)
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This match, no matter what’s at stake for both teams, is special for one overarching reason: Thierry Henry’s MLS debut for New York. The French superstar looked good in two international friendlies last week, but now the games mean something, and Henry is expected to lift the Red Bulls from Eastern Conference challengers to MLS Cup contenders.
The last time these two met, Juan Pablo Angel nailed a stoppage-time goal to give the Red Bulls a 2-1 win. The Dynamo have not won an MLS game since May 22 and have conceded 10 goals and scored four in their last five matches.
With only five home games remaining in their schedule, the Dynamo know they must start securing three points at Robertson Stadium if they want to try to make any type of run towards the playoffs.
New York enters this match with pressure from Toronto FC on their spot for second in the East. While Hans Backe’s side has slipped off the pace for first, a road victory against Houston can put them right back in the running.
After suffering a disappointing loss against the Columbus Crew, Dominic Kinnear’s side were swept up in the All-Star Game festivities. While Brad Davis and Brian Ching performed well, both played limited minutes and should be fully available for Houston this weekend.
Bobby Boswell is suspended due to a red card he incurred against the Crew. With Ryan Cochrane and Adrian Serioux, Houston have options to replace Boswell, but those options have not been particularly great this year. The Houston defense has conceded a conference-high 25 goals.
To further complicate matters, Dynamo goalkeeper Pat Onstad did not practice on Thursday and does not appear to have recovered yet from a recent abdominal strain. As a result, Tally Hall will likely start again between the pipes for Houston. Hall made an uncharacteristic mistake last week against the Crew, but he has generally been good when called upon this season.
Henry’s acquisition sparked a media frenzy around the world. Now Henry has to make good on the hype. Against Manchester City and Tottenham, he partnered primarily with younger forward Macoumba Kandji, as Angel was out with injury. The Colombian is fit again, and Backe will most likely play all three attackers at once.
That weaponry could be needed. In New York’s last three league matches, they have managed only two ties and a loss, which came in their last outing, a 2-0 loss against the Crew. In that game, the Red Bulls played poorly and failed to muster much offense. It was a missed opportunity to stake their claim as true contenders in the East.
Heroes & Villains
Thierry Henry and Juan Pablo Angel vs. Eddie Robinson and ??? — The Henry-Angel strike partnership has yet to be seen, but it has the potential to be the league's most potent. Both players are strong on the ball and devastating finishers. The Dynamo defense, meanwhile, has struggled all year, and this weekend is without its starting goalkeeper and its best defender. It is a massive question mark (or three) as to who will play in the middle.
Stat that makes you go “Hm…”
25 fouls, 8 yellow cards. The meeting between these two in early June was a rough affair.