Just five days after a decisive 4-1 victory over DC United, the Houston Dynamo are back home and play host to defending MLS Cup Champions, the Colorado Rapids. Wednesday night's match is Houston second game of three games in 8 days, and will be another tough test for the men in orange, who are currently riding a six-game unbeaten streak.
The Rapids, meanwhile, are sitting on the other side of the spectrum, and are winless in the last four games, drawing 1-1 against the Chicago Fire over the weekend. Despite the current run of form, the Rapids are still a dangerous team with a variety of attacking options. Pablo Mastroeni, Jeff Larentowicz, and the always dangerous Omar Cummings will lead Colorado's attack Wednesday night.
After Friday's win, Dynamo Head Coach Dominic Kinnear discussed the Rapids and the challenges teams face when defending Omar Cummings.
"Omar Cummings, he's been very good for them. They're a very confident team and Omar Cummings is a very big scoring threat for them and his pace can be a problem. He probably leads the list of dangerous players for them and is definitely a guy you have to keep your eye on," Kinnear said. "They're the defending champions and they know how to win."
Fortunately for Coach Kinnear, Dynamo captain Brian Ching is fully fit, should start, and can play as many minutes as the team needs. Ching's health likely will force Cam Weaver to the substitute's bench, but Weaver, who leads the league in balls won in the air, is an excellent option for a second-half appearance. Hat trick hero, Will Bruin, should start up top alongside Ching.
Danny Cruz and Calen Carr are both listed as "out" for Wednesday night's match, and Geoff Cameron is listed as "doubtful" after picking up a nasty shin contusion against DC United. In their places, Colin Clark, who will play against his former club for the first time on Wednesday, and Jamaican international JeVaughn Watson seem the best options to start. Lovel Palmer and Brad Davis, who leads the league in assists, should fill out the rest of the midfield. After featuring for almost 10 minutes against DC United, new signing Sergio Koke could see more of the game tonight as a second half substitute.
With a road game just a few days away, Coach Kinnear could opt to rest a few of his defenders, making way for Eddie Robinson, Mike Chabala, and Jermaine Taylor. But, the coach, who has found a winning combination with a back line of Ashe, Boswell, Hainault, and Freeman, is likely to stick with the group that has produced results lately.
"It's going to be a good test because they're one of the better teams we've faced up to this point," Ching said. "We're playing really well right now and we can't let our guard down. With a young team we have to focus on staying sharp and working hard and not getting complacent."
- Houston is 5-0-2 at home all-time against Colorado, including a win in the 2006 Western Conference championship game. The Dynamo lead the all-time series 8-4-3 but are 0-2-1 since a 1-0 win in April 2009.
- Dynamo captain Brian Ching, who has been limited to 63 minutes due to injury, has dominated the Colorado Rapids over his career. Ching has netted 13 goals in 18 career games against Colorado, including four goals in one game in 2006 and four game-winning goals from 2006-09.
- The Dynamo are currently unbeaten in six games (3-0-3) since losing the season opener at home to Philadelphia. That unbeaten streak is the club's longest in MLS play since April-June 2009, when Houston went 11 games without defeat, a club record.
- Houston went unbeaten in April for the first time in team history, posting a 3-0-2 mark while outscoring opponents 10-4 and moving from the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings into a tie for third.
One of several teams off to a hot start, the Dynamo join Real Salt Lake and the New York Red Bulls as the only teams to rank in Major League Soccer's top five both in scoring offense and scoring defense. Houston ranks third in scoring offense at 1.57 goals per game and fifth in scoring defense, conceding 0.86 goals per game.
- Rookie forward Will Bruin scored the fifth hat trick in club history in last Friday's win over D.C. United, netting three goals in the game's first 57 minutes and earning MLS Player of the Week honors. At 21 years, 187 days, Bruin became the second-youngest player in league history to net a hat trick; former Columbus forward Stern John scored three goals in 1998 at the age of 21 years, 170 days. Bruin is also the fourth rookie in league history to complete a hat trick.
- Midfielder Brad Davis leads MLS with six assists after setting up two of Bruin's goals against D.C. United. Davis is already halfway to his career high in assists, 12. Dating back to Sept. 18, 2010, Davis has 12 assists in his last 14 games. His career regular season total stands at 70 assists, 13th in MLS history and third among active players. Dynamo assistant coach Steve Ralston is the all-time leader with 135 assists.
- After finding the net against D.C. United, forward Cam Weaver has scored in three of his last five games and five of his last 12 MLS contests dating back to last season.
Houston midfielder Brad Davis has taken 36 corner kicks in the last four games, more than Colorado has taken all season (26). Davis took seven corner kicks against Vancouver, 12 against New England (tying a career high set with Dallas in 2004), 10 against Chicago, and nine against D.C. United.
Houston Dynamo -- OUT: FW Calen Carr (concussion); MF Danny Cruz (R knee hyperextension); DOUBTFUL: MF Geoff Cameron (R lower leg contusion).
Colorado Rapids -- OUT: FW Macoumba Kandji (L knee ACL tear); DOUBTFUL: DF Eddie Ababio (R hamstring strain); QUESTIONABLE: FW Conor Casey (L hamstring strain); MF Sanna Nyassi (lower back strain); PROBABLE: GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain); FW Quincy Amarikwa (L ankle sprain); DF Marvell Wynne (R hamstring strain); FW Caleb Folan (R quadriceps strain).
Suspended: COLORADO RAPIDS - Brian Mullan
Project Houston Dynamo Starting XI
F: Will Bruin
F: Brian Ching (C)
LM: Brad Davis
CAM: JeVaughn Watson
CDM: Lovel Palmer
RM: Colin Clark
LB: Corey Ashe
CB: Bobby Boswell
CB: Andre Hainault
RB: Hunter Freeman
GK: Tally Hall
Substitutes: Tyler Deric (GK), Eddie Robinson, Mike Chabala, Sergio Koke, Jermaine Taylor, Cam Weaver, Francisco Navas Cobo