With less than 48 hours since they last played, the Houston Dynamo (5-6-1, 16 points; 6th place in Western Conference) travel to BMO field tonight to face Toronto FC (5-4-3, 18 points; 3rd place in Eastern Conference) in ESPN's MLS Game of the Week. Houston last played on Tuesday night in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup when they beat Miami FC 1-0. The Open Cup game came just 3 days after the Dynamo drew against the Colorado Rapids on Saturday night in Houston.
The Dynamo's performance against Colorado proved that Major League Soccer's two-week long break for the World Cup did not give Houston enough time to fix problems with the defense. Eddie Robinson made a giveaway the proved to be costly when Conor Casey slotted home Colorado's first goal in the last minute of the opening half. While Robinson took responsibility for his error, he was quick to add that he wanted erase the night's showing with a solid defensive effort in the Open Cup. Robinson looked improved against Miami FC but played all 90 minutes and may not be fully recovered for tonight's game.
Toronto FC will want to attack Houston's shaky back line and will look to use former-Dynamo Dwayne De Rosario's speed for counter-attacks and play through the middle of the pitch. Toronto have been very good at home and have not been beaten when hosting opposition (5-0-2). The Dynamo have conceded 14 goals in their last six MLS games, something the team will have to correct if they want to take any points home from this trip. Mental mistakes have hampered the Houston defense and Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear will be hoping that his back line can muster a solid performance tonight to build some momentum ahead of the second half of the season.
While the compressed schedule may mean a few Dynamo players have tired legs, Coach Kinnear smartly decided to use youth against Miami FC in the Open Cup. Because of this, Houston will likely start with as aggressive a line-up as possible and will keep players with heavy legs on the bench for as long as possible. Despite playing in both the Colorado and Miami games, Danny Cruz could be called upon again to carry the outside of Houston's attack as he currently is one of the team's few in-form players.
One player that is certainly set to miss tonight's game is forward Luis Angel Landin. The former Mexican international appeared to take a knock to the knee on Tuesday night and was quickly substituted following the injury. Incidentally, Landin injured his knee while playing in the center of midfield, a move Coach Kinnear seems to have made in order to make the Houston attack more aggressive. Brad Davis will return to the central attacking midfield role in Landin's absence with the rest of the midfield composed of Lovel Palmer, Danny Cruz, and most likely Brian Mullan, unless Coach Kinnear wants to be very aggressive and start Corey Ashe opposite Cruz.
The top of Houston's attack should also be aggressive with Joseph Ngwenya and Brian Ching starting up top. Cam Weaver and Dominic Oduro both played significant minutes in Tuesday night's game and will likely be called upon late in the game as substitutes. Ngwenya will be looking to double his season goal scoring tally after opening his account against Colorado last week. In his first game back with the team, his movement was good and showed flashes of the player he was for Houston a few years ago. Ching will have to keep his anger in check tonight after he should have been sent off against Colorado for a reckless challenge on Pablo Mastroeni.
The only real questions for Houston's lineup are who will start at the back in defense. Ryan Cochrane only played 45 minutes in the Open Cup and could get the start ahead of Eddie Robinson who played all 180 minutes of the last two games. If Cochrane starts, he should be joined by regular defenders Bobby Boswell, Andrew Hainault, and Mike Chabala.
The Dynamo are 0-1-2 in the three previous trips to BMO field, including 1-1 ties in both 2008 and 2009. Tonight's game in Houston is the third of 10 games in 36 days for the club. During that stretch, the Dynamo are scheduled to play five league game, three SuperLiga games, and two Open Cup games.
Predicted Dynamo Line-Up
=====Joseph Ngwenya============Brian Ching=======
==========Brian Mullan=========Danny Cruz=========
Mike Chabala=Ryan Cochrane=Bobby Boswell=Andrew Hainault
Check back here during the game for more updates and highlights from the MLS Game of the Week.