Tuesday will be the second meeting between the Chicago Fire and the Houston Dynamo, but they have yet played 90 minutes against each other this year. Their April 15 match was cut short in the 66th minute due to lightning, and each team had to leave with a 1-1 draw.
Will Bruin scored his first of nine goals thus far in the season in the 24th minute, finishing a through ball from strike partner Brian Ching. The Fire equalized, somewhat luckily, three minutes later. A Parvel Pardo free kick deflected off of Logan Pause's back and past a stranded Tally Hall to tie the game at one goal apiece. The scoreline remained that way the rest of the shortened match, which included a 70-minute weather delay.
Both teams enter Tuesday's match having played tough games over the weekend. Chicago visited Livestrong Sporting Park on Friday and downed Sporting Kansas City 1-0. Goalkeeper Sean Johnson came up big in crucial moments for the Fire, who were outshot 27-7. Marco Pappa was able to grab the winning goal in the 58th minute on a three-on-two counterattack to give Chicago their third straight victory. The win keeps Chicago in 4th place in the Eastern Conference standings with a record of 8-5-3.
Houston entertained the Philadelphia Union at BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday night, and were able to snatch a 2-1 win. Newcomer Boniek Garcia had a stellar debut, and contributed on Brad Davis' 4th-minute goal to open the scoring. Keon Daniel of the Union snagged a goal at the start of the second half, but substitute Brian Ching drew and converted a penalty in 83rd minute to secure the win for Houston. With the victory, the Dynamo sit four points behind Chicago in the conference standings, holding a record of 6-5-5.
Home sweet home
BBVA Compass Stadium has been a welcome environment for the Dynamo, if not for their opponents. Whether it's the heat, the humidity or the passion of the fans, opposing teams have not been able to break down the Dynamo in their new facility. Their 4-0-2 record at home this season includes a 1-0 win over current Eastern Conference leaders D.C. United. The only other unbeaten home team in MLS is New York Red Bulls, with a record of 5-0-2 at Red Bull Arena.
The unblemished record can't be solely credited to the new stadium, however. The Dynamo haven't lost an MLS match in Houston, whether BBVA Compass Stadium or Robertson Stadium, since June 18, 2011, a stretch of 15 games.
The Dynamo are in the midst of a string of 14 games against Eastern Conference opponents. Three matches in, Houston is 1-1-1. The next four matches may prove critical for the Dynamo to climb up the standings into playoff position. Those games are all against teams that are currently ahead of them in the conference standings: Chicago, Sporting Kansas City (2) and D.C. United. Three of those matches are within the confines of BBVA Compass Stadium, which the men in orange hope will give them that home field advantage.
Players to watch
- Sean Johnson - The young goalkeeper makes some of the most athletic saves in MLS, and Johnson had all he could handle on Friday. Sporting Kansas City had 27 shots against the Fire, but not one of them found the back of the net as Johnson kept his second clean sheet of the season. The third year man is currently on pace for his lowest goals against average of his young career, having let in only 16 in 13 games played.
- Marco Pappa - Pappa is tied for the team lead in goals with five and second in assists with three on the year. The Guatemalan midfielder is always looking to create offense, and is among the league leaders in shots this season. The Dynamo midfield will need to keep a close eye on Pappa, who is also able to hurt on set pieces as his goal against the US on June 12 showed.
- Dominic Oduro - Dynamo fans are well aware of the threat that Oduro poses, having played for the team from 2009-11. His pace is among the best in the league, and he has improved his finishing, scoring 12 goals in 2011 and already with 5 this season. The usual forward pairing with Patrick Nyarko is among the fastest in the league, and could be troubling for the Dynamo back line.
Tuesday is Military Appreciation Night, presented by Budweiser. Following the match there will be a Pre-Independence Day fireworks celebration. Limited tickets are still available, including Brad's Brigade packages. For $49.99, fans get one ticket for themselves, one ticket donated to a member of the military, a Brad's Brigade scarf and the opportunity to meet Brad Davis and teammates after the match. This match is also a McDonald's 4-Pack game, for $69.99 fans receive four tickets to the match and four McDonald's meal vouchers. For more ticket information, click here or call (713) 276-GOAL.