With a 34-game season, some matches can be difficult to get up for, but hosting FC Dallas on Saturday is not one of those games for the Houston Dynamo.
The rivalry between the two Texas clubs has been brewing since the Dynamo arrived in Houston. The early success of the Dynamo; a number of heated matches; and the billboards, videos, and banners of recent weeks have anticipation high for 2011’s first installment of the Texas derby.
“You go back to when we first came here, there were certain individuals that made the games intense,” Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear said of the rivalry. "And the fans don’t like each other."
Added midfielder Brad Davis, once a member of the Dallas Burn, “I know Houston and Dallas have a big rivalry in everything they do. It gives the fans something to grasp onto, and we’re excited about it. With the way things have gone for us, this could be a turnaround point.”
With Houston looking to cap a tough May with a win, the Dynamo will face an FC Dallas team on a 489-minute shutout streak that could eventually challenge the Dynamo's league record of 727 consecutive shutout minutes, set in 2007. Schellas Hyndman’s team is undefeated in seven; the Dynamo, meanwhile are looking to get back their winning ways against a tough defense.
“They’re good defensively, but I don’t think they’ve gone without having chances against them,” Kinnear said. “Every game has its chances in front of goal, and the question is, are you alert enough and aggressive enough to bust through?”
Houston’s answer to that question is simple: Make better choices around goal.
“In the last few weeks, we’ve been moving the ball well and getting the ball into the final third, but we haven’t been making the right decisions when we get there,” Davis said. “I think we need to be a little more composed. We’ve turned the ball over a little too easy.”
Rivalries, fan battles, and all that goes along with them aside, from the Dynamo’s perspective, Saturday is more about getting things right than who their opponent is. Looking to get their first May win with their last chance, Houston are looking to build some momentum heading into the summer.
“The fans are doing their part [to create the rivalry], and so is our front office, with the billboard and the planes flying over the stadium,” said Dynamo defender Mike Chabala. "But at the end of the day, it’s about the play on the field and making sure we get three points."
Corey Ashe — who was lifted at the half against the LA Galaxy on Wednesday due to a groin strain — sat out Friday’s training and is out for the Dallas game. Chabala replaced Ashe in LA and is one of the options who could get the call at left back Saturday.
“Corey pulled up with a leg injury, and I just tried to take advantage of my opportunity,” Chabala said on Friday. “Whether I get selected or don’t tomorrow, I just want to do my part and help our team win.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.