Dominic Kinnear would gladly take the same result as last week when the Montreal Impact visit BBVA Compass Stadium tonight (7:30 p.m CT, TICKETS). First, though, the Dynamo head coach wants to see the same positive approach that his players produced in the 4-0 win over the New England Revolution.
“From minute one to minute 90 these guys showed up for the very first game and I think they gave themselves a reminder of how good they can play,” said Kinnear.
“It would be great to get back out on the field and replicate what we did; the most important thing is to carry the same attitude. I think it was one of those games where everyone was playing well at the same time but the attitude for me was fantastic.”
Striker Will Bruin scored last week after 64 seconds and again with 13 minutes gone. Boniek García and Omar Cummings added sheen to the scoreline. “It was a good opening statement for us. We enjoyed [the win] Saturday night and Sunday but this whole week's been preparing for Montreal and I think we've got another tough task ahead of us,” said Bruin.
Montreal entered MLS in 2012 and the teams have only met seven times, but fixtures between the Eastern Conference rivals have already developed a reputation for being intense and physical.
“We've had some interesting battles with a lot of teams and that's just how we play. We approach every game like we're going to get three points and it doesn’t matter who's on the other end of the field and we're going to have that same mentality,” said Bruin.
“We're not going to back down to anybody, we never do. If they're going to try to impose their will on us, I'm pretty sure that we're going to impose our will on them, so it's going to be a battle of two teams trying to stand up to each other and those are the most fun games.
The manner and scale of Houston’s win last week is bound to have an effect on the way the Impact approach this match. Bruin thinks the visitors will be extra-careful not to allow the Dynamo’s attackers the same amount of space they reveled in seven days earlier. And Montreal will be determined to stop Houston getting off to another fast start.
“I think maybe they're not going to give us as much space to get in behind, they've got two veteran center backs who've been around the world playing in a bunch of high leagues so I think they're going to be smart positionally,” said Bruin. “We're going to have to be more patient going forward if they drop back but I think we're going to be all right."
Defender Corey Ashe anticipates that Montreal will be assertive from the first whistle. “They dropped their first game against Dallas so they're trying to right the ship and we're going for our second win. So just expect two competitive teams to go out and fight hard,” he said.
“I expect them to be sharp starting off—we scored against New England a minute into the game. They'll definitely be ready. We're expecting a tough game.”
Few coaches would want to tamper with a lineup that won its last game 4-0 but Kinnear’s hand may be forced by injuries. Ricardo Clark and Tony Cascio are questionable with knee sprains, according to the official injury report. Cascio had a lively debut against New England before injury forced him off after 57 minutes. He was replaced by Andrew Driver, who could deputize this evening.
Center back Eric Brunner is still out with a right ankle sprain. On the plus side, two defensive midfielders who were unavailable to face the Revolution—Warren Creavalle and Servando Carrasco—are getting back to full fitness. But Montreal’s situation is worse: four players missing through injury and another two suspended.
The Dynamo won their first five games in all competitions at BBVA Compass Stadium last year and got off to a 6-2-2 start in MLS overall. Banking points early on served as a cushion when the long home unbeaten run ended on May 12 and prompted a dip in form and a slide down the standings. It also provided reassurance during the summer’s struggles: having proved their potential the players felt confident they could recapture it.
“That's definitely an important part, to kind of get that streak going. It's important to win games at home, we feel that every home game we should walk away with three points,” said Ashe.
“I think the fans played a big part [against New England], they were into it, it was a great atmosphere, everybody was ready to kick off the season. If we can have that same atmosphere come Saturday we should be fine.”
Tom Dart is a contributing writer to HoustonDynamo.com. Former editor and reporter for The Times of London and reporter for SI.com, Dart currently freelances for The Guardian.