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Wilf Thorne/Houston Dynamo

Houston Dynamo look forward to early-season test against MLS champions LA Galaxy

Owen Coyle’s attacking principles do not fade with distance. The Dynamo head coach wants his team to show the same ambition wherever they play — be it BBVA Compass Stadium or, as on Saturday, 1,500 miles away at the home of the 2014 MLS champions.

Houston face the LA Galaxy on Saturday (9:30 p.m. CT; ROOT SPORTS) bidding to rebound after last week’s narrow defeat to Orlando City SC. While the clash with one of the best lineups in MLS is sure to be a stiff challenge, Coyle insists that his players tackle every match with a positive outlook regardless of the opposition.

“We still have the same belief, the same principles, that home and away we want to win games. There’s certain ways and sometimes there will be differentials in how you achieve that, but in essence it’s still the same, still the same focus, the same attitude, same desire from the players to go and be positive and show what we can do while being very respectful of the quality we face week-in, week-out,” Coyle said.

The Dynamo have moved to the Western Conference this year, meaning that Saturday’s match at the StubHub Center is the first of three regular season fixtures against Bruce Arena’s men. Houston’s first two MLS games of 2015 were against Eastern Conference foes: a 1-0 victory over Columbus Crew SC followed by Friday’s 1-0 loss courtesy of an own goal.

Games between the Dynamo and the Galaxy are typically hard-fought. Though LA lifted MLS Cup in 2011 and 2012 at Houston’s expense, the sole regular-season meetings in 2013 and 2014 produced 1-0 victories for the Dynamo.

The Galaxy secured their third MLS Cup in the past four years last December with a 2-1 extra-time win over the New England Revolution.

“This is the kind of pick-me-up that you want, you want to go to supposedly one of the best teams, if not the best team, in the league in peoples’ opinions and you want to play well and get a result. Just to keep showing everyone the strides we’re making forward as well,” said Dynamo forward Giles Barnes, who scored with a precise far-post finish against the Galaxy last year.

“We’re going to go and play hard,” said captain Brad Davis. “We get up for every single game but you have to be able to get up against a quality team, LA is a quality team and if you don’t come ready to play you could be in trouble really quick. The attitude is there, we’ve had some very good games agains them; obviously you look at our past with losing a couple of MLS Cup games. We’ve had some good battles so I think there’s respect on both sides there.”

Davis said that the players have bounced back in training this week after the frustration of falling to Orlando. “Worst thing we should have gotten out of there with was a 0-0 draw. You do have to have a very short memory, we’re going to play a very good team in LA so we have to be able to regroup. Guys have come back, had a good attitude, worked extremely hard this week looking to tweak a few things, change a few things and learn from our mistakes,” he said.

“We had some great moments in play with some great opportunities that we didn’t capitalize on but the biggest thing is we’re still getting those chances. We’d like to get more of them. And it’s about taking care of the ball in certain situations. Obviously the goal they scored was self-inflicted, it wasn’t great play, it was from a mistake from us.”

Coyle is looking forward to taking on last year’s best in MLS. “I think every game’s exciting because particularly now every team’s improving in terms of the quality of players they’re bringing in — but there is added spice because they’re the champions,” he said.

“I’ve been there before in other leagues, you have the elite teams, and LA, there’s no doubt they’re one of the elite teams within the league. But that’s not to say we can’t go there and win and be competitive and that’s what we look to do.”

The Galaxy opened their season with a 2-0 home win over the Chicago Fire, then tied 2-2 with the Portland Timbers on the road last Sunday, a match Coyle watched closely. “We’ll pay them utmost respect because they’re champions and have supreme quality. I watched the game against Portland, first half I felt Portland had the ascendency but second half, for me LA were very much in command of the game, lost a goal against the run of play but still showed the character and the quality of champions to go up the other end and rescue that point,” he said.

“We’re looking forward to it, very respectful of them but making sure that we look to get to our performance level. That’s what we’ve got to do, because I know that if we get to our performance level more often than not the results come with that and that’s something we’re working hard on the training ground to implement. We look to move forward and that’s what we’re ready to do.”

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.