The Dynamo are ready for anything as they look to resume normal service with a home win when the New England Revolution visit BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday night (BUY TICKETS).
It's a given that Houston will fight hard from the first kick to the last with typically relentless intensity, but it's hard to predict the style that Jay Heaps' versatile side will deploy. Will New England try to outpass the Dynamo, or outbattle them?
"Depending on their lineup they could have a really big group of guys out there or a really small group of guys," defender Bobby Boswell told HoustonDynamo.com. "I imagine it'll be somewhere in-between - but they've got some big strong guys who can go out there and smash into you and play a physical game and they've got some real skillful guys who want to do a lot of give-and-gos. We've prepared for everything."
The Revolution took the lead in each of their past two games, both at Gillette Stadium, but ended up with a solitary point. A 2-1 defeat to Real Salt Lake was followed by a 1-1 draw with the New York Red Bulls.
"Looking at those two games it was a very different setup so we've just got to go out and not focus too much on them," Boswell added. "Obviously we need to be ready for whatever personnel they put out there but we've got to get back to dominating at home and making them adjust to us and not the other way around."
The Dynamo lost 1-0 to Sporting Kansas City at BBVA Compass Stadium last Sunday, ending a record-breaking 23-month home unbeaten streak. But with New York and KC not playing until Sunday, a win over New England or a high-scoring draw will send Houston to the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
Houston's MLS Cup titles in 2006 and 2007 came at the Revolution's expense, though the Dynamo have not always had things their own way in the regular season.
Houston owns a 2-4-1 home record against New England but the past two games in Texas were Dynamo victories. This year, the Revolution have won only once on the road and have struggled to score goals, with six in ten games. That said, they do not concede many: just nine goals so far, which is jointly the second-lowest mark in MLS.
"They're very stingy at the back and then going forward they've had their chances, they possibly could have had more goals and that's the way it is for them right now," said Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear. "They do keep it very tight, nice and tidy, don't give up much; but they do have a threat to score goals, that's for sure."
The Revolution addressed their forward line with an eye-catching trade for Juan Agudelo last week. The highly-promising 20-year-old U.S. national team attacker joined from Chivas USA in exchange for allocation money but did not feature in last Saturday's tie with the Red Bulls because of a left hamstring strain. He is not listed on the injury report, so could make his debut in Saturday's game.
"If he's in there obviously you want to make it difficult," said Boswell. "It's a new team for him so he might not be as familiar with the guys but he's also going to be hungry to prove that he can help the team out. Every team in this league is dangerous for one reason or another. I always say it's about timing: playing guys at the right time."
There is good timing for the Dynamo with the news that Giles Barnes has recovered from the hamstring problem that kept him out of last Sunday's game, so is available to resume his impressive attacking partnership with MLS player of the week Will Bruin.
Saturday's match is the second game at BBVA Compass Stadium in six days. Then the Dynamo face three straight road games - KC, Columbus and Montreal - meaning that the next home fixture is not until June 22, when Toronto FC are the visitors. But the Dynamo's attitude does not alter when they change location.
"We go out there to win whether it's home or away, preseason or playoffs, we want to do well," said Boswell. "When we're at home we're tough to play against and there's a reason. It's how we prepare, and the heat, the fans and our style. For me it's just getting back to that."
Tom Dart is a contributing writer to HoustonDynamo.com. Former editor and reporter for The Times of London, Dart currently freelances for The Guardian and SI.com.