The Western Conference standings show seven of the conference’s eight teams separated by a mere four points.
As a result, conference games including Thursday night’s prime time matchup between Real Salt Lake and Houston Dynamo carries with it extra weight in the standings.
“The west is close and tight together,” Dynamo defender Mike Chabala said. “It’s early and teams are scrapping together results. It’s good for the league, but it shows in the west there are strong teams and when we get these conference games we have to make sure we take advantage of them and try to separate ourselves.”
“Anytime you play a western conference team it’s important,” agreed Brad Davis. “A loss can change a lot. So it is very important to get points when we can.”
Houston has to feel somewhat confident in their ability to get points against the defending MLS Champs, thanks to an unbeaten mark over their last eight games in the series.
But 12 of the team’s 13 meetings have been decided by one goal or less.
“I think we match up well against them and we’ve had some good success against them,” Davis said. “They are a very good team and they play some of the best soccer in the league.”
One interesting question for the Dynamo will be whether they continue with the team’s traditional 4-4-2 or return to the 4-5-1 formation that gave the team some early success against Chivas USA last weekend.
The extra midfielder could help Houston with possession against an RSL team strong in the middle with Kyle Beckerman and Javier Morales.
“We don’t have the plan for Thursday yet,” Chabala said. “Regardless of formation though, the game stays the same. Making sure to maintain possession and getting the ball in good spots. We have to make sure we keep it together in the back, keep it tight.”
While the formation may not change much for Chabala, Davis felt like the change afforded him more freedom in attack. With a goal and an assist for Davis, Houston again may use the formation to get Davis into the attack.
“It gave me more space to get forward, with that many people in midfield,” noted Davis. “I tried to push up as much as possible and it gave me more freedom to go forward and create.”
Dwain Capodice is a contributor to MLSsoccer.com. Questions or Comments can be sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.