With three games in one week, the Houston Dynamo were expecting their depth to be tested, but certainly not by the circumstances that currently face the forward corps.
Heading into a crucial match against Eastern Conference co-leader Columbus on Wednesday (6:30 p.m., KHOU 11.2, FOX Sports Houston Plus, KPRC 950, La Ranchera 850), Houston will be without Carlo Costly, who is serving a red-card suspension for his ejection this past Saturday. In addition, the Dynamo could be without the services of captain Brian Ching, who told the Houston Chronicle on Monday that he is “hopeful” a groin issue will not keep him out of action.
With at least one of the Dynamo’s four reserve forwards sure to get a start, Houston’s chances up top will rest on its reserve’s – or reserves’ – ability to contribute on short notice.
“It’s tough to stay in form unless you’re playing week in and week out,” Cam Weaver told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Tuesday. “You have to stay positive and keep your fitness up however you can, whether that’s reserve games or extra fitness. It’s hard to stay at the top of your game unless you’re playing consistently. But I’m a professional, and you have to be ready when your number’s called.”
As the striker who has played the most in the past month, Weaver, who has four goals in 15 starts this year, could be the top option to step in. The 6-foot-4 target man has only missed two games all season and recently put together an impressive start when he featured in a friendly against Mexico’s Monterrey on Sept. 4 and scored the opening goal.
Another option is Will Bruin. The rookie has made two game appearances – in MLS Reserve League play against Colorado on Sept. 1 and against Monterrey – since coming off knee surgery that kept him out of action all of August.
With 20 starts under his belt and four goals, the rookie has ample experience in the starting lineup. But coming off the injury, there could be some concern over his ability to be effective in an extended appearance. However, Bruin was clear in a phone conversation that he’s ready and mentally recharged since coming back.
“I’m feeling good, getting my fitness back and mentally refreshed,” Bruin said. “Injuries are never a good thing, but with a few weeks off, that definitely helped me mentally, and I’m ready to get back after it.”
Two other options for the Dynamo are Calen Carr and Jason Garey. In three substitute appearances since coming off the injury list, Carr has shown he still has the same burst he displayed in Chicago. Garey, a former member of the Crew, is very familiar with Houston’s Eastern Conference rivals.
“We talked about it before that a lot of guys are going to play this week for whatever reason: suspension, injury, or rest,” said head coach Dominic Kinnear. “It was a clear message that everyone has to be ready when called upon, and I think that message was pretty clear. ... I think the guys, when called upon, will be ready to play.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.