The stakes are high and the storylines are thick for Saturday’s match between the Houston Dynamo and the New York Red Bulls. First, there is Dwayne De Rosario’s return to Houston. Second, this is a rematch of a tough 1-1 draw at Red Bull Arena back in week three.
But the biggest storyline for Houston is this: The Dynamo have the chance, with a win and a Philadelphia tie or loss, to move into a tie for first place in the Eastern Conference with the Red Bulls.
“If you’re not looking at the standings, you’re not doing your job,” said Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear. “I know we’re three points behind, and if we come out on top this weekend we’ll be toe to toe with them in the standings.”
The prospect of pulling even with New York is even more enticing considering Houston is looking for its first win since a 4-1 home victory over D.C. United on April 29. And with competition for the three automatic playoff spots awarded to each conference already heating up, winning the season series with the Red Bulls — favorites to win the MLS Cup, according to many observers — could mean a great deal down the line.
In Week 3, the Red Bulls dominated, but the Dynamo defense held out, and Cam Weaver’s second-half equalizer held up. Now that the match will trade venues, the Dynamo are looking reverse the tables. They are hoping to take the game to their opponents, who could be without injured striker Thierry Henry, who is fighting a swollen knee.
“We’re not unaware of what happened when [goalkeeper] Tally [Hall] had a big game up there, but now it’s at our house,” said Bobby Boswell. “We’re aware they have some great players, so we have to make sure we’re sharp.”
According to Kinnear, the Dynamo will need patience in the penalty area and to hold possession against New York, which is coming off of a disappointing home loss to Chivas USA that their coach, Hans Backe, characterized as “sloppy.” Houston, on the other hand, earned a draw at Real Salt Lake last week, and Kinnear is counting on his team’s confidence to key their chances this weekend.
“Looking at their last two games, the one thing you can’t do is step out on the field with any fear,” Kinnear said. “It’s important that our first step is forward and to be positive. I think we can take a lot out of our performance in Salt Lake with how we held the ball away from home, and there’s no reason we can’t do that here.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.