The Houston Dynamo return home to host the San Jose Earthquakes as the race to the playoffs heats up on Saturday night (8 p.m. CT | TICKETS). Houston is coming off a road draw where it held Real Salt Lake to zero shots on target and will look to follow up that performance with another stout defensive effort.
The Dynamo will have to play without midfielder Alex – who has participated in every league match this season – after the Brazilian received a red card in last week's match. Saturday’s game could feature the first minutes for Argentinian midfielder Tomás Martínez, who signed with the club last month.
“We are preparing ourselves knowing well that it is a very difficult game,” said Dynamo head coach Wilmer Cabrera. “[San Jose] were very solid and played very well against Sporting Kansas City at their home and Sporting Kansas City could not beat them. That shows that they are a team that comes in good shape and are strong physically and mentally."
The Quakes fell to Sporting Kansas City, 5-4 on penalties, in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinals on Wednesday – a match in which eight San Jose field players picked up over 100 minutes each. Goalkeeper David Bingham, defender Víctor Bernárdez and forward Chris Wondolowski were the only starters from Saturday’s 2-1 home win over Columbus that didn’t feature from the opening whistle.
San Jose is led as always Wondolowski on the front line with a team-leading nine goals and five assists this season. The former Dynamo man ranks fourth in league history with 130 goals and has netted at least 11 goals per season since 2010.
“This is one of the bigger games this year so far,” said defender A.J. DeLaGarza. “We know how tight the things are in the Western Conference thus far and we’ve got to be able to get a result this weekend.”
DeLaGarza was named to the MLS Team of the Week after his performance against RSL, a match where he picked up his 16th consecutive start and 20th overall as a Dynamo. The defense also picked up their fifth shutout of the year and third with Tyler Deric in goal.
The Dynamo have yet to lose in MLS play at BBVA Compass Stadium this season (8-0-3) and are currently riding a five-game unbeaten streak. They also hold a favorable record when facing San Jose at BBVA, losing only once to the Earthquakes in five meetings, but Cabrera stresses that’s all in the past as the race for playoff spots heats up.
“They are getting better and they have a new coach,” said Cabrera. “We have to understand that they are very close to us. We are very close to each other in the Western Conference, so every game is going to be a final.”