HOU_021015_Miranda_VWFC
USA TODAY Sports Images

Houston Dynamo enter the home stretch in need points to keep them in the playoff race

The Dynamo are hoping that home comforts replenish their playoff hopes as the MLS season heads towards its climax, starting with Saturday’s visit of the Vancouver Whitecaps to BBVA Compass Stadium (8 p.m. CT, TICKETS).

Houston’s ambitions took a hit when they mustered one point from a just-finished three-game road swing. A 2-0 loss to the New England Revolution was followed by a hard-fought 2-2 tie with the Portland Timbers then Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to the Colorado Rapids.

But of the Dynamo’s eight remaining MLS matches, five are at home, all against Western Conference foes. Houston are unbeaten in East Downtown since May 5—winning four and drawing one of their past five league games and giving head coach Owen Coyle optimism that his side is poised for a strong finish to the campaign.

“We have to perform better than we did in the second half against Colorado and now we’re back at home. We’ve had eight of the last eleven games on the road so it’s nice to get back to home. We’ve been in terrific form,” Coyle said.

“The home games are most important, and with five out of the eight at home it’s pretty do or die right there, those home games. Especially with them being against the West, as well,” said defender Sheanon Williams.

He has made six starts for Houston since being acquired in a trade with the Philadelphia Union in July. “We’re in a tight race and we need to pick up as many points as we can,” the 25-year-old said.

“Since I’ve been here we’ve been trying to be in that mindset, knowing that every game matters … It’s been preached to us a number of times, every day, that we can’t take days off and we need to be sharp and focused. Now that we’re going into September it’s even more important.

“We only have eight games left and there’s no ‘next game’—we have to pick up points in every game. Luckily we have a good stretch of them at home which will be helpful, and we need to get things going again.”

The Rapids scored their winner in the 80th minute against a Dynamo side missing the injured Ricardo Clark, Raúl Rodríguez and DaMarcus Beasley. “Each individual person knows that we need to do better at the end of games and as a back four, as a goalie, the five of us need to do better at keeping the ball out. If we want to be a playoff team we can’t be giving up goals in the late parts of the game,” said defender David Horst.

This is the first meeting of the season between Houston and the Whitecaps. The next comes at BC Place on October 25—the final weekend of the regular season. History should give the Dynamo reason to feel confident: in five all-time meetings between the clubs, the home team has won each time.

However, it won’t be easy. The Whitecaps have taken maximum points from four of their past five fixtures and sit second in the Western Conference behind the LA Galaxy. Coyle described them as “probably the most consistent” team in the West this year. They have the best road record in MLS this year, and have already set a club record with 14 wins. Saturday's match will be the eigth for Vancouver in the month of August, between MLS, CONCACAF Champions League and the Amway Canadian Championship—which they won for the first time on Thursday with a 2-0 win over the Montreal Impact to take the two-legged tie 4-2 on aggregate. The club had finished runners-up five times in the first seven editions of the tournament.

“They have some very fast guys up top and they know how to use that speed very well and how to cause problems for teams so it’s something that we have to be aware of,” Horst said.

Saturday’s match is the team’s sixth in August, but the schedule is a little less punishing next month. After Vancouver the Dynamo have a clear weekend before another match at BBVA Compass Stadium, with Real Salt Lake coming to town on September 12 in another match crucial to the team's playoff hopes.

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.