The Dynamo travel to Colorado to take on the defending MLS Cup champions, Colorado Rapids, in search of their first road win of 2011. It's been a roller-coaster season for Houston, with more ups than downs, but a win in Colorado could give the men in orange the momentum they need ahead of a three game home stretch.
Taking points away from the Rapids will not be easy, though, and Dominic Kinnear's team has looked much like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde this season. The team also will continue to have to make do with a number of players out due to injury.
Brad Davis, who strained his groin two weeks ago played 45 minutes last week against DC United, but was limited in this week's practices. According to the injury report, he is listed as doubtful. However, reports from practices late in the week describe Davis as active in practice and likely to play against the Rapids. Calen Carr and Eddie Robinson are both out with injuries and Cam Weaver is listed as doubtful with a hip strain. Expect to see Davis get at least 45 minutes of game time with either Danny Cruz or Colin Clark coming on for the left midfielder.
The big decisions for Coach Kinnear come with who to start in the midfield and on the back line. On the outsides of the formation, Brad Davis should start opposite Danny Cruz, who has played well but not great since returning from his knee injury earlier in the season. Colin Clark has been fantastic this season, was lethal against DC United coming off the bench, and should do the same against the Rapids. The decision for Coach Kinnear will be who starts in the center of the midfield formation. Geoff Cameron, who has played all over the pitch this season, started last week in the center defensive midfield position and player very well. Jamaican international JeVaughn Watson played in front of Cameron, instead of on the wing, his regular position, and showed flashes of creativity that the Dynamo have sorely missed the week. Much of that change was related to Lovel Palmer being suspended for receiving a red card the previous week, but Palmer has been very inconsistent the past few weeks and could be benched.
The other decisions with the line-up are who starts in defense for Houston. Rookie Kofi Sarkodie started in front of out-of-favor defender, Hunter Freeman, last week and played very well. Mike Chabala also saw significant minutes against United but did not look as strong as he has in past appearances. For the first time this season, Jermaine Taylor and Andre Hainault started as a defensive pair with Bobby Boswell benched. Boswell has been out of form this year, but has been a fixture of the back line for the last few seasons. Given Colorado's mix of speed and strength, expect to see Corey Ashe start at left back, Taylor and Hainault as center backs, and Sarkodie at right back.
Brian Ching, who played 90 minutes for the first time all season against DC United, is likely half of the starting forward equation with along with Will Bruin. Jason Garey could be Houston's only potential substitute for the forwards, so expect to see Bruin and Ching go the full 90 minutes or to see Garey make a late appearance.
- In 19 career regular-season games against Colorado, Houston forward Brian Ching has netted 13 goals, including his four-goal outing in the Dynamo's first game ever in 2006. In those 19 games, Ching has averaged 1.25 goals per 90 minutes played, and five goals have been game-winners. Last week's game against D.C. United was Ching's first 90-minute outing of the season, and he scored his first goal of the season in the 89th minute to tie the match.
- Houston currently ranks fifth in Major League Soccer in road defense, allowing 10 goals in eight games for a 1.25 goals against average.
- In last Saturday's game against D.C. United, midfielder Colin Clark came on as a halftime substitute and set up the tying goal in the 89th minute with a cross to Brian Ching. For Clark, the assist was his first in a Dynamo uniform and his first since April 30, 2009, when he played for this week's opponent, Colorado.
- The Dynamo twice rallied from a one-goal deficit to tie last Saturday's game against D.C. United, and Houston currently ranks third in MLS in winning percentage when conceding the first goal (1-5-5, .318). However, Houston has only scored first in five of 17 games this season, going 3-1-1 when scoring first.
- Three of the starters in last week's game - midfielder Je-Vaughn Watson and defenders Kofi Sarkodie and Jermaine Taylor - had not played since May 28 and have made fewer than five starts on the season. For Watson, the start was his fourth, and he set up his third goal in those four starts by feeding Brian Ching in the penalty area, where Ching was fouled to set up a penalty kick.
- Houston midfielder Brad Davis leads Major League Soccer with nine assists on the season and is three assists away from tying his career high of 12, a total he reached in both 2009 and 2010. Davis has been named to the MLSsoccer.com Team of the Week five times, more than any other player.
- Forward Will Bruin has set Dynamo rookie records by appearing in 17 games, passing Stuart Holden
(13 in 2006), and making 16 starts, passing Geoff Cameron (8 in 2008). Bruin also ranks third in MLS in shots on goal with 19 and in total shots with 43.
Colorado Rapids - DOUBTFUL: FW Macoumba Kandji (L knee ACL tear); PROBABLE: DF Marvell Wynne (R hamstring strain); GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain); MF Joseph Nane (R shoulder strain); FW Omar Cummings (R ankle sprain)
Houston Dynamo - OUT: FW Calen Carr (concussion); DF Eddie Robinson (L knee MCL sprain); DOUBTFUL: MF Brad Davis (L adductor strain); FW Cam Weaver (R hip strain)
Baldomero Toledo. SAR (bench): Corey Rockwell; JAR (opposite): George Gansner; 4th: Fotis Bazakos
Toledo MLS Career: 113 games; FC/gm: 25.2; Y/gm: 3.7; R: 45; pens: 44
SportsTalk 790 - 7:30 p.m.
La Ranchera 850 - 7:30 p.m.
ESPN2 - 8:00 p.m.
ESPN Deportes - 8:00 p.m.
As always, check back here during the match for in-game updates, news, analysis and more. Also, swing by Dynamo Theory for Zach's take on the match and his usual in-game rants and raves.