The Houston Dynamo continue their grueling schedule tonight with a fifth game in ten days when they host Eastern Conference leaders Columbus Crew. The Dynamo will be looking for a win following consecutive draws against the Colorado Rapids and Toronto FC.
The Columbus Crew is unbeaten in its last three games and has a 2-1-3 record on the road this season. The last two seasons the Crew has won the Supporter's Shield by finishing with the best record in Major League Soccer and also won the MLS Cup in 2008. Goalkeeper William Hesmer ranks third in MLS with a 0.92 GAA. Up front, forward Guillermo Barros Schelotto leads the team with five goals and four assists on the year, while midfielders Eddie Gaven and Adam Moffat are also having impressive seasons.
Houston is 1-0-2 all time at home against the Crew and will be forced to field a patchwork line-up for yet another week. Forward Joseph Ngwenya is out due to red card suspension from last week's game against the Rapids. Coach Kinnear will also have to contend with the loss of Luis Angel Landin and Ryan Cochrane to injuries and likely will not be able to use midfielder Brad Davis, who is doubtful with a hip flexor strain. Davis is currently second in league with six assists and three goals and would be a huge absence for Houston.
'I'm feeling much better,' said Davis, 'but I still haven't fully gotten after a ball. I am going to keep pushing it. I'm feeling good as of right now, but I'll talk to Dom and see what he wants to do.' If Davis can't go, Houston will likely start Richard Mulrooney and Lovel Palmer in central midfield.
The Dynamo will be looking to build some sort of positive momentum, but know that tonight's game will be a challenge. '[They are] one of the best teams in the league the last couple of years,' said Hainault. 'It's always a tough game.'
In order to have some success against the Crew, Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear believes that they 'have to bring the same attitude we brought against Toronto. We have to move the ball well and our forwards have to hold it against two strong central defenders,' he added.
For Houston, this match comes at a critical point in their season. If the playoffs started today, Houston, who has 18 points and is in 6th place in the Western Conference, would be out of the playoffs. Getting all three points at home will be vital for the Dynamo if they want to make it into the post-season.
Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. at Robertson Stadium, and the match can be heard in the Houston area on SportsTalk 790 and at online at sports790.com. The match will be broadcast in Houston on local channel 11.2.
Predicted Dynamo Line-Up (4-4-2)
F: Dominic Oduro
F: Brian Ching (C)
LM: Danny Cruz
CAM: Lovel Palmer
RM: Brian Mullan
CDM: Richard Mulrooney
D: Mike Chabala
D: Eddie Robinson
D: Bobby Boswell
D: Andrew Hainault
GK: Pat Onstad
Bench: Tally Hall (GK), Cam Weaver, Adrian Serioux, Corey Ashe, Francisco Navas Cobo, Brad Davis, Craig Waibel
Note: If Brad Davis is still hurt and cannot play, Sammy Appiah will likely be on the bench in his place.