With First Kick just around the corner, the Houston Dynamo will conclude their preseason this weekend when they take on the Columbus Crew and New England Revolution in the Atlanta Pro Soccer Challenge in Kennesaw, Ga.
Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear began the preseason looking to challenge his team and build depth. Heading into the final two matches of the preseason, the record speaks for itself: The club has put together a 7-0-3 record while getting everyone in camp time on the pitch.
In Atlanta, Kinnear is looking to continue building fitness with an eye toward the regular season opener on March 19 against the Philadelphia Union.
“We’ve got some guys with some minor knocks, so we want to make sure and treat them properly,” Kinnear said, “but we’ll be looking to extend some minutes for some groups of guys and start getting ready for next week against Philadelphia.”
Making sure the players are in form is a priority this close to the regular season. Scheduling tough competition is a part of that process, and Houston is looking forward to playing two fellow MLS clubs this weekend.
“It’s a good thing we’re playing good teams so we can make sure we’re on point because, in a week, we’ll be playing in front of our home crowd,” said defender Bobby Boswell. "We need to make sure we’re ready."
Outside of preparing for the regular season, the lineups will be a focal point in Atlanta. Kinnear rotated lineups and evenly distributed playing time throughout the previous 10 matches. The mass substitutions allow everyone on the roster to build fitness and gel as a group.
The frequent lineup changes have everyone guessing who will be in the starting XI on opening day. For players looking to be a part of that lineup, the final two matches are their last opportunities to impress.
“I think there’s pressure on everyone in the final two games, but you can only control what you can control,” rookie defender Kofi Sarkodie said. “So right now, you just have to go out there and do your best and make it a difficult decision for [Kinnear] at the end.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.