Currently occupying the fifth and final play-offs spot, the Dynamo could find themselves as high as third or as low as sixth on Saturday night after the road game against the New England Revolution.
Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear is not shocked by the competitive nature of the Eastern Conference as the season enters its second half.
“I'm not surprised at all, you look at both the East and West everything's pretty close. It just shows the word ‘parity’ goes a long way. I think [the East] is a little bit more deep this year than previous years but I'm not surprised by it,” he said.
Tomorrow’s game at Gillette Stadium (6:30 p.m., KPRC Local 2 / Mega TV) figures to be a tight encounter. New England have allowed only four goals at home this season, the stingiest record in MLS. This is a meeting between two of the tightest defenses in the East: Houston have conceded 18 goals in 18 games, New England, 14 in 17 matches.
The Dynamo are justly proud of their record in front of their own fans and New England feel the same way. “We’re always most comfortable at home. I think a lot of teams around the league really don’t look forward to coming here, which is obviously to our advantage,” Revolution defender Chris Tierney told MLSSoccer.com.
After struggling to score early in the season, Jay Heaps’ men crushed the Los Angeles Galaxy 5-0 last month in one of the most eye-catching results of the campaign so far. “Defensively they've been very strong all year and now they're starting to score goals. It's taken them a little while to get going but they're playing well,” said Kinnear.
Revolution forward Saer Sene's shot from distance in last Saturday's 2-0 home win over the San Jose Earthquakes is an AT&T Goal of the Week candidate and the team also has two of the best young strikers in MLS in Diego Fagundez and Juan Agudelo, who is out with a right knee sprain.
The Dynamo lost 2-0 to the Revolution at BBVA Compass Stadium in May. The teams will meet again at Gillette Stadium at the end of September.
The schedule has added an extra incentive for the Dynamo to bank points on Saturday. This is the club’s last MLS game for two weeks. Houston next host the Chicago Fire on July 27, three days after the BBVA Compass Dynamo Charities Cup match against Stoke City. The Dynamo are the only Eastern team not in action on July 20 so other teams will have a chance to gain ground or pull away.
Though Dynamo captain Brad Davis is still sidelined by a left hamstring problem, winger Boniek Garcia returned from injury in last week’s 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Union at BBVA Compass Stadium and provided an adrenalin shot to the attack. The victory ended a tough winless sequence for Kinnear’s side and was a vital confidence-booster, according to striker Omar Cummings.
“It's great. It was seven games and a couple of games here at home so to break that streak where you went on that [home unbeaten] run for over a year, then you lose a couple of games at home, it's definitely great to get back on the winning streak,” he said.
It has been a while since a Dynamo striker found the net but Kinnear said he is not too worried provided the team continues to carve out opportunities. “Ideally you like to see strikers score your goals but as long as you're winning games and you're remaining dangerous…” he said.
“The one thing that would be a concern would be if we're not getting chances and I think you saw against Philadelphia we had more than a handful of chances for our forwards, it's just being that little bit extra sharp in front of goal and maybe a bounce going your way. So if we're getting shut out every week and we're not getting chances then that's a concern, more than guys maybe not scoring goals that are close to the goal.”
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.