Brad Davis is aiming for three points against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday night to kick off one of the biggest weeks in his international career in style.
While the Dynamo fly home from Canada the day after the match at B.C. Place (6 p.m. CT, CSN Plus), Davis will board a flight to Phoenix, Arizona, where he'll join up with the U.S. national team squad ahead of their game against Mexico on Wednesday.
The clash between the great rivals is the last U.S. game before head coach Jurgen Klinsmann picks his players for the World Cup finals preparation camp. Davis knows it is a vital chance to impress as he bids to achieve what he calls his "ultimate dream"—representing his country in Brazil this summer.
"It means a lot, this is the last opportunity MLS guys that are going into this camp really have to show and prove that they belong on that team. It's obviously a big game versus Mexico, always a tough one. But it really is the last opportunity we have to go out and put our best foot forward. It means a lot, it's the most important camp that I've been a part of, I think," he said.
The Dynamo captain started and played 75 minutes on February 1 as the U.S. defeated South Korea 2-0 at StubHub Center. A year ago he came off the substitutes' bench as Klinsmann's team secured a valuable 0-0 draw at Estadio Azteca in the qualifying campaign. Overall in 2013 the 32-year-old midfielder logged 244 international minutes over seven matches, starting twice and contributing two assists. So the head coach and his staff know Davis well.
"I think they understand obviously now the type of player I am, the attitude that I bring to the game and what I can bring to the table otherwise I wouldn't be going back in," he said. "Ultimately it's the last opportunity that we have, that's what it comes down to. This is going to be: you're going to get in, you're going to have a couple of trainings, what can you do in that training right off the bat to say 'I want to be in this starting group, I want to be in this eighteen, I want this opportunity'?"
Before then, two unbeaten teams meet in MLS. The Dynamo's two previous visits to British Columbia, in August 2011 and June 2012, both ended in losses. But having started 2014 with two wins out of two, Houston are brimming with self-belief as they aim to start a campaign with three straight victories for the first time in club history. Dominic Kinnear's roster is also close to full strength, with only defender Eric Brunner (ankle sprain) listed as out on the official injury report.
"Vancouver is always a tough place to go. We haven't got the best of results there. They started off their first game with a big win," said Davis.
"They're a tough team. The [artificial] turf, they seem to get up for their home games, so it's going to be tough. They've got some guys we have to look out for, but going back to our club I think guys are playing with tons of confidence right now. I think we're playing some great soccer, training's been extremely fun, the games have been extremely fun to be a part of and we're looking forward to going there, playing our game and hopefully we can get on top of them."
Like the Dynamo, Vancouver are yet to lose this season. They beat the New York Red Bulls 4-1 at B.C. Place on the opening weekend then drew their next two fixtures on the road. The Whitecaps will be without one of their most influential players, the former English Premier League midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker, as he suffered a concussion after tripping over a bike rack on a Vancouver street last Sunday.
The former Wales midfielder Carl Robinson, who played in England before joining Toronto FC and New York, replaced Martin Rennie as head coach during the offseason.
In the most recent meeting between the sides a Darren Mattocks goal at BBVA Compass Stadium last March put Houston's long home unbeaten streak under threat but second-half goals from Warren Creavalle and Giles Barnes gave the Dynamo a 2-1 win. The head-to-head record for the four fixtures between the clubs is identical: each has won twice at home and scored six goals.
The Dynamo are yet to concede this season but the defense is likely to be tested by Vancouver's speedy attackers as well as the guile of veteran striker Kenny Miller. So it is good news for Houston that Jermaine Taylor says his center back partnership with new signing David Horst is continuing to improve.
"Going into the first two games we discussed what we needed to establish in terms of our partnership and I think we've done well so far. We take it day by day in practice, trying to work on different stuff and I think it's getting there," Taylor said, adding that communication is essential to developing an instinctive routine that enables each to play to his strengths.
Mattocks and Taylor know each other well from their time with the Jamaican national team, but there is no chance the Dynamo defender will go easy on him if it becomes a physical battle. "I think he'll stay far from me," Taylor smiled. "He's pretty quick, overall a good player, he can jump. I'm looking forward to a good matchup."
Tom Dart is a contributing writer to HoustonDynamo.com and HoustonDashSoccer.com. Former editor and reporter for The Times of London and reporter for SI.com, Dart currently freelances for The Guardian.