In normal circumstances few clubs would relish meeting the reigning MLS Cup champions, but hosting Sporting Kansas City on Friday could be exactly what the Dynamo need.
Houston versus SKC has developed into one of MLS’s best rivalries, with games between the two perennial Eastern Conference contenders sure to be tight, aggressive and hard-fought.
With the Dynamo smarting after three successive road defeats, they return to BBVA Compass Stadium on Friday (7.30 p.m. CT, TICKETS) believing that the chance to renew hostilities with an old foe on home soil will quicken pulses and bring out the best in a team that’s known for rising to big occasions.
“[The rivalry] always gets your blood flowing a little bit. It’s important for us to really forget quickly what happened and move forward to this game. It’s been a good rivalry over the years, there’s always been some hotly-contested games and I don’t think this Friday will be any different so I think it’s a good pick-up for us,” Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear told HoustonDynamo.com.
“Both teams enjoy this confrontation, it brings out the physical element in both sides. It’s an important one for us as we head into the break, it’d be good to get a win to go into the break on a positive note. Whenever you play your rival I think it does bring out the best in you.”
The match under BBVA Compass Stadium’s Friday night lights is Houston’s last MLS fixture before the league goes on hiatus for the early rounds of the World Cup. The Dynamo will host the Laredo Heat in the U.S. Open Cup next Wednesday, then wait until June 29 for their next MLS game, away to the Montreal Impact.
Houston’s previous game in East Downtown was an impressive 1-0 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy, before a three-game road swing with key players missing from the line-up brought no goals and defeats to D.C. United, the San Jose Earthquakes and the Colorado Rapids.
Winger Andrew Driver says that after failing to live up to its high standards in recent weeks, the side is intent on reversing the bad run against SKC. “It’s bitterly disappointing,” he told HoustonDynamo.com.
“We’ve got our backs against the wall and this is where we’ve got to pull together and produce probably our biggest performance at the weekend to get out of this rut. A lot’s not been going right and not a lot’s been going well so as a team we’ve got to really look at it, point out the negatives and probably listen to a few things that we don’t want to listen to, but that’s part and parcel of being a footballer. It’s the only way you’ll ever improve.”
The 26-year-old has started all but one of the Dynamo’s 15 games so far this season and worked tirelessly in defense as well as attack, but he believes there is more to come from him. “I’ve been massively disappointed with my performance as well. I don’t think anyone in the team will put their hand up and say that they’ve been at their best,” he said.
“You can’t have that, you’ve got to have the majority of your team playing well. As a team, and personally, we’ve got to look and say ‘what did we not do well in those games?’. I’m going to do that this week and look to rectify it for the weekend.”
Conceding early goals has been an issue for the Dynamo this year, and it happened again last Sunday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. After the setback the team was unable to regain its rhythm, ultimately losing 3-0. “You can’t put you head down when you go behind, we’ve got to really keep our heads up and keep fighting,” said Driver. “So the first goal is massively important but we need to keep the same mentality whoever scores first, you’ve just got to really dig deep and battle. The most important thing is battling and wanting to win your own personal battles.”
Whenever Houston lock horns with Kansas City, that desire is never in doubt. “The fact that it’s a big game against a good team gives that extra incentive for us to work and we are a good team, we know that - we’ve just got to cut out the errors,” Driver said.