Tyler Deric may not have happy memories of Tucson but he is hoping to put that right on Wednesday night as the Dynamo host FC Tucson in the third round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
The Dynamo goalkeeper missed a couple of weeks with a wrist injury suffered during a pre-season game in the Arizona city as part of the Desert Friendlies series at the end of January. Fit again after that and an ankle problem he picked up in training, he is in line to make his first start of the campaign at BBVA Compass Stadium (7:30 p.m. CT, HoustonDynamo.com live stream).
"Hopefully it'll come full circle and we can get a result," he told HoustonDynamo.com. The Dynamo Academy product has spent the past two seasons as Tally Hall's back-up in MLS but has featured in Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League fixtures. He started in Open Cup losses to the San Antonio Scorpions last year and to Sporting Kansas City in 2011 and is eager to play against Tucson.
"Any opportunity to represent the Dynamo is a special occasion," he said. Deric has learned plenty from training with Hall, who will join up with the U.S. national team after Saturday's MLS trip to the Columbus Crew. "I'm so happy for Tally, he's worked really hard to get where he is and I'm glad he's getting the call-ups that he is, he really does deserve it," said Deric.
Founded in 2010, Tucson are in their second season in the Premier Development League. The club is used to hosting MLS sides at their Kino Sports Complex, which takes advantage of Arizona's mild weather to stage the annual pre-season Desert Diamond Cup.
Tucson earned their trip to BBVA Compass Stadium by defeating San Antonio on penalty kicks last week - with a strong display, as it happens, from a goalkeeper whose first name is Dallas. The likely presence between the posts of Dallas Jaye on Wednesday is a little reminder that a Houston victory could produce a second Texas derby of the season. The winners of the tie at BBVA Compass Stadium will travel to FC Dallas in the fourth round if Schellas Hyndman's team overcome the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.
Tucson rested most of their starters last Saturday and were handed their first loss of the season, a 2-1 reverse by the Ventura County Fusion. "They got a good result against San Antonio so I'm sure they're flying high. It doesn't matter who we're playing against, we're just going to go out there and play our game," said Deric.
Named by Culture Map in March as one of Houston's most eligible bachelors, the Dynamo are simply grateful that the 24-year-old from Spring is eligible to play on Wednesday. Injuries and international call-ups mean that head coach Dominic Kinnear must rotate a squad that produced an impressive performance and result on Sunday in a 1-1 draw away to Sporting Kansas City.
That could give opportunities to some talented youngsters and the likes of Mike Chabala, the reliable veteran re-signed in February who made his first appearance of the season at Sporting Park as a half-time substitute for the injured Corey Ashe.
"The reason we brought in Mike is that there's going to be a lot of minutes around for everybody. You want a guy who in CONCACAF or MLS is going to show up and be serious and when he steps on the field he's going to be motivated to do well and Mike is definitely one of those guys," said Kinnear, who also praised late substitutes Warren Creavalle and Jason Johnson.
"Our squad is maybe a little bit thin right now but I think it speaks well of those guys that when they get those minutes they do well and that gives them confidence," he said.
Whoever takes the field against Tucson at BBVA Compass Stadium on Wednesday, Kinnear wants to see a spirited performance against opponents who will compensate for technical inferiority by showing plenty of heart.
"Quality is different as we all know but sometimes that quality can be evened with the other team's attitude. When you step on the field you've got to have the right attitude, especially in these games it becomes more of a fight than anything else. So we have to be ready to fight tomorrow first and foremost before we can start playing," he said.
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.