After a loss and two nailbiting draws to start the season, the Houston Dynamo return to the confines of Robertson Stadium with the hopes of making the Vancouver Whitecaps their first victims of the 2011 season on Sunday night (6 p.m., Galavisión, KHOU 11.2, FS Houston, SportsTalk 790, La Ranchera 850).
Houston started the season with three very close games and has two well-earned road points to show for it. With the tough road work done for now, the Dynamo start a stretch with four of their next five games at home. They’ll look to start that stretch with a win against Vancouver, which comes to Houston as one of the surprise teams of the early 2011 season. The expansion Whitecaps currently sit in fourth place in the Western conference in large part due to their scoring prowess.
[inline_node:330603]“They’ve scored a lot of goals,” said defender Hunter Freeman. “They’ve gotten off to a pretty good start as a new franchise with a lot of excitement. They’ve got a combination of guys who put in the work and guys who have a lot of flair.”
In addition to their scoring – Vancouver has notched eight goals in four matches – the Whitecaps have shown they can be a physical side. With that in mind, the Dynamo are expecting a tough battle Sunday.
“They’re an up-tempo team, but I think all MLS teams are physical, and they certainly stepped into the role of being a physical MLS team,” said head coach Dominic Kinnear.
The Whitecaps attack will be without one of their best weapons this weekend, with Designated Player Eric Hassli suspended for the match after picking up his second red card of the young season Wednesday night against New England. Like Vancouver, Houston could be without several starters, as defender Jermaine Taylor is out with a foot sprain, star striker Brian Ching is doubtful due to rib separation, and midfielder Brad Davis is questionable with a hamstring sprain.
“Brian took part [in training] earlier today but felt some soreness and pulled out of training,” said Kinnear on Friday. “Brad did some stuff on the side, and we’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”
Despite the injuries, Houston is looking to get into the win column on Sunday. To do that, the Dynamo will have to break down a Vancouver opponent they know relatively little about. Without a lot to go on, the Dynamo will rely on their home-field advantage.
“They’ve played most of their games at home and they’ve got a lot of confidence, but anybody who follows the league knows it’s different playing on the road,” Freeman said. “So we’ll take a look at them on film [on Saturday] and go from there to try and get the win.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.