HOUSTON - JUNE 11: Brian Ching #25 of the Houston Dynamo rushes the ball up through midfield against Chivas USA at Robertson Stadium on June 11, 2011 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
It's still strange talking about the Dynamo in relation to the Eastern Conference, but when the Columbus Crew come to town this weekend, it's a battle for conference playoff positioning. Houston sits in third place, tied with the Crew on 18 points, but ahead on goal differential. It's these matches type of home matches that will ultimately decide the Dynamo's season so needless to say, Saturday's match is important.
After last weekend's defeat of Chivas USA, the Dynamo have shook off the seven match win less streak and can now look to build a streak of positive results instead. Eddie Robinson is lost for the time being to an MCL strain but the defense gets a boost from the returning Andre Hainault thanks to Canada's elimination from the Gold Cup. Hainault's return will allow Geoff Cameron to return to the CAM role full time and however you feel about this experiment, having Cameron in the middle does allow Brad Davis to remain on the wing, a position that suits him and the team much better.
Brian Ching should be available to start, though Kinnear could stick with the Bruin/Weaver combination and let Ching work in as a substitute. Personally, getting Ching on the pitch as much as possible, assuming he's completely match fit, would benefit the Dynamo better than sticking with any sort of lineup that might of been working. In Ching's time played against Chivas USA, you could see the immediate effect he had and Houston needs the offensive boost he can bring. At least he's training and available for selection though, that alone is a huge step in the right direction.
The Crew are coming on a turbulent stretch of matches that saw them defeat Real Salt Lake and lose to the Chicago Fire. Despite the team's decent record and place in the standing, all is not well in Columbus as there are serious doubts about Robert Warzycha and the team's belief in their coach. The antics and general ineffectiveness of Andres Mendoza are not sitting well with fans, and teammates so it seems, but the Crew remain a dangerous team and one the Dynamo will need to take points off to help their playoff chances.
Here's the lineup I expect to see from Dominic Kinnear tomorrow evening at Robertson Stadium:
Ashe - Hainault - Boswell - Freeman
Clark - Palmer - Cameron - Davis
Bruin - Ching
- Houston leads Major League Soccer in home scoring with an average of 1.88 goals per game (15 goals in eight games). By contrast, Columbus ranks last in MLS in road scoring with 0.5 goals per game; the Crew have netted just three times in six road contests.
- Saturday's match features Major League Soccer's co-leaders in fouls committed, as Columbus defender Julius James and Houston forward Cam Weaver have each committed 31 fouls this season. Columbus midfielder Eddie Gaven is the most-fouled player in MLS (39 fouls suffered).
- With two Dynamo defenders currently on national team duty for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, Geoff Cameron has seen time at center back in each of the last two games, although he started in midfield against Chivas USA.
- 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 three multiple-assist games this season; seven of his nine assists have come in those three games. He has been named to the MLSSoccer.com Team of the Week five times, more than any other player.
- Houston's rally for a 2-1 win over Chivas USA last week was the Dynamo's first come-from-behind win of the season. The Dynamo have also come from behind to post four ties on the season; they have allowed the first goal in nine of their 15 league games. The comeback win was Houston's first since October 23, 2010, when the Dynamo beat Seattle 2-1.
- Midfielder Lovel Palmer is the only Houston player to play all 1,470 minutes of the club's season so far in all competitions, including the team's U.S. Open Cup qualifier. In league play, Palmer is one of two players to contest all 1,350 minutes, joining goalkeeper Tally Hall.