Regardless of records, rivalry games carry weight with fans. When the game features two in-form teams, the intensity is sure to rise on the field as well.
As the Houston Dynamo prepare to host in-state rival FC Dallas on Saturday (7 p.m. CT; TICKETS), they know the club traveling south is on a good run of form and ready to strike with a team that has adapted seamlessly to the preachings of new boss Oscar Pareja.
“If you look at Pareja’s teams, they have a little more grit,” said right back Kofi Sarkodie. “They’re going to fight, they’re going to battle. With the players he has in Dallas, he has a lot of pace. It’s going be a really down-and-dirty game with a lot of grit.”
It is clear that Pareja’s group has Houston’s full attention. The Dallas outfit has started off the season in scorching fashion, scoring goals and going undefeated in their first four games. While the cast of characters has not changed too much, the fingerprints of Pareja’s one-touch, strong style is noticeable.
Players like Blas Pérez, Fabián Castillo and Mauro Díaz have thrived under their new boss.
“Sometimes, a change of coach brings out some better play in people,” said Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear. “Let’s be honest, they haven’t lost a game yet and they’re doing it without [defender] George John. But it’s the same cast of characters, so they seem to be playing well. With the head coach changes it maybe gives the guys a little different outlook on the team and their role on the team.”
FC Dallas will not be the only team riding a wave of good form.
Despite coming off a loss, Houston have gotten out of the gates strong. They won their first two games at home and feel they responded to a tough road test well in Vancouver. In fact, the loss to the Whitecaps may have had a positive effect on the group.
“I don’t think there’s anything for this group to lose confidence about,” forward Giles Barnes said. “I think it’s going to be a good spectacle. It’s two in form teams playing each other. They’re coming to our backyard though, and we’re very confident about the result.”
With Houston confident and unbeaten at home and Dallas starting strong, Saturday’s game could be the most the most anticipated Texas Derby in recent memory. While the fans will surely be on their game, the styles and quality of the teams will surely push that excitement onto the pitch.
“I enjoy these games,” Kinnear said. “I wish we played Dallas more than once in a season, but that’s the way things have lined up. I do think you enjoy them because I think it brings out the best in both players emotionally and some competitiveness.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.