To kick off the final stage of the season, the Houston Dynamo are faced with a tough challenge: navigate through three games in seven days.
Houston overcame the first hurdle with a 2-1 win on Sunday over the Portland Timbers. The Dynamo are now on the road to face the New England Revolution on Wednesday (7 p.m. CT, KHOU 11.2, FOX Sports Houston, KPRC 950, La Ranchera 850) before returning home for a game on Saturday against Real Salt Lake (get tickets).
Two main components of Houston's plan to deal with the dual threat of travel fatigue and fitness are to rely on depth and improved passing. The Dynamo have developed a good selection of reserves thanks to some transfer window activity, and head coach Dominic Kinnear is not afraid to use them.
“We have to be very aware of the guys' fitness and where they’re at physically,” Kinnear said. “We said before the game Sunday that it’s not going to be the same lineup every night. We told them to be ready and rest up. It tests the depth of your squad, both mentally and physically.”
While putting fresh legs on the field helps, conserving energy during the game is just as important. To do that, the Dynamo are looking to continue to take the advantage of possession as they have done the past three weeks.
In the last three games — two wins and a draw — Houston has enjoyed long stretches of play controlling the pace and flow of the game by keeping the ball with precise passing. In the process, the Dynamo have mostly shaken off the poor giveaways that plagued them early in the season.
“It’s a big two games, but the more we possess the ball, the easier it is for us because of less running,” said Geoff Cameron. “We just need to keep the same attitude and confidence and the same way we’ve been playing, and hopefully we’ll set the rest of the season up.”
Heading into the final two of this three-game stretch, the Dynamo are very aware of what is at stake. With 10 games left in the season, they stand in line for a playoff spot, but just barely, and need to put together a solid run of results in order to continue their climb up the standings. On the flip side, Houston could reach a tie for second place in the Eastern Conference with a win on Wednesday night.
“We’re playing some good stuff, and this week’s going to be a test of our character with games back-to-back-to-back, ending with one of the better teams in the league in RSL,” said Brian Ching. “Hopefully we continue to do well and put our stamp on the Eastern Conference.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.