Last year the Houston Dynamo took the tough trek through the MLS playoffs.
Starting with a play-in win on the road in Chicago and ending at the Stub Hub Center in Los Angeles for MLS Cup, Houston endured the toughest possible route to come up 45 minutes short of a third league title.
After that playoff race, several players credited the win against the Fire in Chicago as a momentum builder to push them through the playoffs. But the team is hoping to avoid such drama to this year’s potential playoff race, starting with avoiding the play-in round.
"I think the amount of games we’ve played this year when you throw in CONCACAF it’d be nice to get a little bit of a rest heading into to the playoffs, but first you have to qualify,” head coach Dominic Kinnear said. “Any way you can get in is a plus.”
Houston are currently in third place with two games left, beginning at home on Sunday against the New York Red Bulls. They hold a two-point lead over the Montreal Impact and Chicago Fire, who would face off in the play-in game if the season ended today.
Avoiding the play-in game has some very real advantages, considering the schedule the last week of the season. During the last week of the season Houston will play three games in seven days with a CONCACAF Champions League game mixed in.
“It’s a credit to us to have done that last year and still be able to make it to the final,” said right back Kofi Sarkodie. “It showed the strength of the team and the mentality, but if you can have some rest and some down time then it’s only going to help you long-term.”
“What’s most important is getting the home field advantage,” Sarkodie continued. “When you have rest and home field advantage you put yourself in the best spot to have success."
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.