The path to glory is long and winding in MLS but much shorter and more direct in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The Dynamo aim to take their latest stride towards a trophy they have never won when FC Dallas visit BBVA Compass Stadium on Tuesday (8 p.m. CT; TICKETS) for the second Texas Derby of the year.
While winning MLS Cup involves negotiating a 34-game regular season then at least another five postseason fixtures, MLS clubs can claim the Open Cup with as few as five victories.
“You look at it, it’s the easiest trophy to win in American professional soccer. You win five games, you win a trophy,” Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear told reporters on Monday. “Along the way there’s different [levels of] competition. As the tournament goes on longer the competition gets harder, and Dallas as we know is a good team. It’s going to be a difficult game as always against them.”
Currently in different conferences, the teams play each other less often than in the past—but Tuesday will be Dallas’s second visit to East Downtown of the season following a lively MLS encounter between the Lone Star State rivals on April 5.
“Those early years really made it something good and even though the realignment of the conference has kind of taken us away from playing each other, I still think there’s a bit of animosity whenever we play each other,” Kinnear said.
If the Dynamo progress their quarterfinal tie will be away to the Los Angeles Galaxy or the second-tier NASL’s Carolina RailHawks on July 8th or 9th.
Since MLS took a break during the early stages of the World Cup, the match will be Houston’s first since they beat the Laredo Heat in the fourth round of the Open Cup almost two weeks ago courtesy of Alex López’s first Dynamo goal.
While the time off was a welcome chance for the team to rest bodies and refresh minds, several of the Dynamo’s injured players are still a way off returning to action, though defender David Horst and midfielder Ricardo Clark are back in training. “I think as far as putting players on the active roster we’re not there yet. [Clark’s] not cleared to play [against Dallas] and neither’s David,” Kinnear said.
With Tyler Deric suspended after his red card against Laredo and third-choice goalkeeper Michael Lisch cup-tied thanks to his loan spell with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, the Dynamo will be desperately hoping that Tally Hall can play the full 90 minutes against Oscar Pareja’s men.
While the roster’s overall injury situation remains clouded, Clark’s return to training with the first-team on Monday was a ray of sunshine. The influential veteran has not played since April 23 when he was knocked out and suffered a concussion in a collision with Bradley Wright-Phillips during the second half of a defeat to the New York Red Bulls.
“It always sucks being injured, I think this injury was probably the most frustrating of my career but that’s the way it goes, that’s what I’ve got to deal with as a professional soccer player and I’m just glad to be back, just trying to look forward and hopefully move in the right direction,” the 31-year-old told HoustonDynamo.com.
“It was the first time I’d been knocked out for that amount of time, I was a little bit more dazed, unconscious for a little bit longer, so I can kind of understand why it’s taking so long for me to get normal. That’s just the way it goes,” he said.
“Some concussions are different from others. I’ve had a couple in the past but this one for me lingered a little bit longer than I expected so I just tried to do the best I could to heal myself as much as possible, seeing different doctors, specialists, kind of thinking outside the box in the situation and I think that’s helped me along the way and hopefully it’ll keep progressing in the right way and I can be on the field soon.”
The Dynamo are also hoping to see captain Brad Davis in action, though not necessarily in orange. The midfielder is with the U.S. squad in Brazil but did not feature in the team’s first two matches, the 2-1 win over Ghana and Sunday’s dramatic 2-2 tie with Portugal. Still, Chris Wondolowski came on as a late substitute to join another former Dynamo, Geoff Cameron, on the field in Manaus.
Dynamo midfielder Boniek García started Honduras’s second group game, a loss to Ecuador, and came off the bench in their opening-match defeat to France. Honduras play Switzerland on Wednesday (3 p.m. CT) and must win to keep their slim chances of progression into the next stage alive.
Jurgen Klinsmann’s side take the field for their decisive third group game against Germany on Thursday (11 a.m. CT). “I would love to see [Brad] play. You see Wondo get a chance to play; I’ve obviously known Wondo a long time, Boniek playing for Honduras, it makes you feel nice to see those guys, you have a personal relationship with them so it’s nice to see these guys play in this wonderful tournament,” said Kinnear.
“It’s great when you see Brad on the television and you’re having your fingers crossed when the next sub goes up that he’s the next guy coming in. So hopefully this next game he can do that.”