As eager as Houston fans were to see the release of the 2011 regular-season schedule on Thursday, several Dynamo players huddled around a paper copy before leaving training to see when and where they would be playing this season. One of the things that stood out to them is playing five of their final eight matches on the road. While getting points on the road in MLS is tough, the Dynamo do not see it as an issue.
“Hopefully we are in the playoffs at the end or we are still in the hunt,” said head coach Dominic Kinnear. “But there are no easy games and, home or the road, you have to play them.”
Midfielder Brad Davis echoed those sentiments.
“You like to see [home and away matches] spread out, but most importantly, you want to get off to a good start,” he said. “Hopefully by the end of the year, when we’ve got these road games, we’re in good position for the playoffs.”
The schedule was met with a pleasant reaction when players saw that there are no day home fixtures during the summer. Houston will not play any daytime kickoffs at Robertson Stadium between June and August, three of the worst months of the year.
“When you are out there going 90 minutes with the heat, it becomes difficult sometimes,” said rookie defender Kofi Sarkodie. “For the players and the fans, you will see a better quality game with more energy, and that’s great.”
For Sarkodie, the issue will not be the weather but rather adjusting to a longer, more grueling professional schedule. At Akron, Sarkodie played in 25 matches a year. In MLS, he will face a 34-match schedule plus U.S. Open Cup, international friendly, and possible playoff action.
“It’s definitely going to be tough going from a three- or four-month college season,” he said. “It is going to be a lot of learning from the guys about maintenance. Eating right, getting stretched, and making sure you get in the ice tub.”
The Dynamo begin the season at home against Eastern Conference foes Philadelphia on March 19.
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.