Six days after the Dynamo's long home unbeaten run was ended by Sporting Kansas City in May, a pair of second-half goals gave the New England Revolution a surprise 2-0 win at BBVA Compass Stadium in a testy match that saw a player from each side sent off.
The teams clash again on Saturday at Gillette Stadium (6:30 p.m., KPRC Local 2 / Mega TV) in what Eric Brunner calls a "six-point game". The Dynamo defender is not looking back to events two months ago for extra motivation to overcome New England – one glance at the current MLS standings will do.
Houston are fifth in the Eastern Conference but the Revolution are only one place and two points back and will leapfrog the Dynamo into the play-off positions with a home win in Foxborough. While the Dynamo are only two points adrift of the New York Red Bulls in third.
"Right now we know that we need to get points anyways, regardless if they've beaten us or if we've beaten them. The attitude in the last few days in training has been pretty intense. They've had a pretty good record defensively at home, I think; we all want to go out there and put in a good shift, a good hard effort, and try to win," Brunner told HoustonDynamo.com.
Saturday's weather forecast for the Boston area calls for a high of 80° F and a low of 66° F: almost chilly by Texas summer standards. "This is when you're 'blessed' to be in this heat, because a lot of teams are dealing with heat that they're not used to. We're used to it, we're going to New England where it's going to feel like it's 50 degrees to us, so I think we're going to be able to run for ages," he added.
The 27-year-old had one of his best games since his off-season arrival from the Portland Timbers last Saturday as the Dynamo broke a seven-match MLS winless run with a 1-0 home victory over the Philadelphia Union.
With right back Kofi Sarkodie suspended and left back Corey Ashe away with the U.S. national team, a reshuffled defense held firm against dangerous opponents. Brunner slotted in at center back alongside Bobby Boswell, with Jermaine Taylor sliding over to the left and Warren Creavalle slotting in for Sarkodie.
"First and foremost, everyone on the team knew we needed three points from that game. I think we were all working really hard. We're working really hard in training and I think that translates on to the field," said Brunner.
"As far as the back line, Jermaine's a great one-on-one defender, I have confidence in him. A lot of it was just communication. Constantly talking. I'm like a chatterbug. I don't scream and yell - which I should probably do a little bit more sometimes - but I'm constantly talking, like 'on your left, on your, left, on your left'. I remember at one point we were going up for a corner and I went to Bobby, 'I know I sound annoying to you but I'm going to keep doing it'. And he was like, 'no man, it's great, keep it up'.
"I think defensively if we had any problems we were all there to help each other, I think the midfield did a great job of breaking up plays and I think we just got Philly tired. They were dead. Once we got that goal we probably could have had four."
It was Brunner's first appearance since he sustained a head injury in his native Ohio during the 1-1 draw with the Columbus Crew on June 1.
A concussion kept him out of the Portland side for a long period last season so he was understandably concerned, but medical evaluations brought good news. "My head's 100 per cent, my body feels great right now. I've been joking with my fiancee it's the first time in like, years, that it's feeling 100 per cent," he said.
"I went and did my testing and did really well on my scores so I think that relieved my stress. And I remember from my previous test that I had in Portland, how I felt was completely different, I didn't have the same kind of symptoms. I had a little bit of a headache but what I told myself was that if it happens again it's meant to be. I'm not going to back out of any challenges, as you saw in the game I'm still going to go for stuff. If I get hurt, I get hurt. But I'm going to leave it all on the field."
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.