It’s a simple formula: grind out results on the road and protect the home field.
Heading into Wednesday's matchup with the defending MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids (7:30 p.m., Buy Tickets), that strategy has the Dynamo at the top of the Eastern Conference. Houston has won its last three home games by a combined score of 8-2, making any visit to Robertson Stadium a tough task.
“I remember when I was in Colorado coming to Houston, and in the week leading up to the game thinking about the heat and it being a tough place to play,” said Houston midfielder Colin Clark, who will suit up against his old team for the first time. “So you come into the game with a mental disadvantage. Now coming back after last year and how we’ve played at home after the Philly game, we’re starting to make it more like a fortress.”
The Dynamo are looking to keep building the Robertson mystique against a Rapids team that is 0-5-2 all-time at Robertson Stadium and comes to town having gotten just one point out of their last four games. The results, coupled with Brian Mullan’s suspension and Conor Casey’s injury, have the defending champs reeling.
Still the Rapids always present a challenge. With a veteran-laden roster led by U.S. international Pablo Mastroeni and the dangerous Omar Cummings — along with solid contributions from young players like Andre Akpan, who scored the game tying goal against Chicago last week — all signs point to a potential trap game for the Dynamo Wednesday night.
“You have to play as if every team is going to play their best game,” said Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear. “We can’t just think because we played well on Friday, it will be a walkover. They’re a tough team, and it’ll be a tough game.”
One key for Kinnear is to keep his young team focused despite the recent success. He is looking to veterans Lovel Palmer and Brian Ching, who is healthy and available again, to make sure that the team understands that in MLS there are no easy opponents.
“It’s going to be a good test, because they’re one of the better teams we’ve faced up to this point,” Ching said. “We’re playing really well right now and we can’t let our guard down. With a young team, we have to focus on staying sharp and working hard and not getting complacent.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.