It doesn’t take much to create a rivalry in MLS. A tough tackle, a hard-fought match, or a competitive playoff series can spark a feud between fan bases and create a tough battle between teams on the field.
The Houston Dynamo and Seattle Sounders only have two years of history with each other, but they have still forged a rivalry after several tough battles. Chief among them are an extra-time U.S. Open Cup semifinal in 2009 that Seattle won (archived story) and a spirited Western Conference semifinal series later that year that Houston took 1-0 in extra time after 210 physical minutes (archived story).
The clubs traded home victories in 2010 and are deadlocked with a 2-2-2 head-to-head record in MLS play, with neither team losing at home. On Friday, the Dynamo face Seattle expecting a tough battle from a team, that like Houston, is looking to get things on track early in 2011 (9 p.m., FOX Soccer).
“They’re a good team,” said Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear. "They haven’t gotten off to a good start, so they’re looking for the same thing we are, and that’s to get that first win of the season."
The trip to Seattle will be a homecoming of sorts for several Dynamo players. Tally Hall (Gig Harbor, Wash.) and Cam Weaver (Kent, Wash.) are from the area, and Mike Chabala (University of Washington) and Brian Ching (Gonzaga University) played their college soccer in Washington.
“I’m excited about playing in Seattle,” Chabala said. “My time in Seattle projected my career forward … but at the end of the day, it’s just another tough place to play on the road in MLS.”
[inline_node:330098]Ching is set to make his 2011 debut against Seattle this weekend after missing the season opener with a hamstring strain. With fitness an issue, Ching is questionable to start but will be available for selection.
“We’ve got to be careful with Brian, because we don’t want to rush him back,” Kinnear said. "But he’ll be available, and that’s a good thing."
Newcomer Calen Carr is out with a concussion and not expected to travel and Francisco Navas Cobo will miss his second straight match with a hamstring strain. Colin Clark has been upgraded to questionable but is still not available for selection despite taking part in scrimmages this week.
Andre Hainault is the likely replacement for Jermaine Taylor with the latter away on national team duty with Jamaica. Hainault’s move inside would open up a starting spot at full back for either Chabala or rookie right back Kofi Sarkodie, with Hunter Freeman moving to the left.
What to Expect
[inline_node:328083]Seattle will present a tough attacking challenge for the Dynamo. Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid coaches an attacking style and is always pushing his team to create and score goals. With the always dangerous Fredy Montero and Steve Zakuani, as well as incoming Argentine playmaker Mauro Rosales, the defense and goalkeeper Hall will have a challenge in stopping the potent Seattle attack.
“They’ve got some good offensive power, so we’ll have to stay organized and maintain our shape to keep them in front of us and minimize the danger,” said Hall.
While the defense will be battling the Sounders up top, the Dynamo will be looking to get on the board for the first time in 2011. Last week, the attack failed to score a goal against a compact Philadelphia Union defense that was playing to preserve a lead for 85 minutes. This week the Dynamo expect to see more space as the Sounders look to get the ball forward.
“I felt we were unlucky the first game, and the challenge for us this weekend is to play with the same style but put the ball in the back of the net,” Ching said.
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.