After a break for international play, the inexorable charge towards the playoffs now continues. Saturday night, the Dynamo play the Philadelphia Union in their penultimate match of the regular season. The final match is on the road, so this marks Houston's final chance to see their team play in the regular season, and a chance to quietly finish off what would be a very remarkable feat (superstition prevents me from actually mentioning said feat, in the hopes that it actually comes to pass).
As of today, the Dynamo are still in playoff limbo, though that could possibly change as soon as the end of Saturday's matches. Kicking off at the same time as the match here is one between DC United and the Columbus Crew. If DC United can pull off a victory, than a Dynamo win would lock up all five Eastern Conference playoff teams (though not necessarily their spots) going into the season's final week.
Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves, though - while this is a match that on paper, looks quite winnable, such matches have not been the Dynamo's strong suit as of late. It took outside help for the Dynamo to retain their playoff spot last weekend, after a disallowed goal late meant that they only managed a 1-1 draw against the Montreal Impact on 6 October.
Philadelphia, meanwhile, have decided that just because they're out of playoff contention doesn't mean they can't be world beaters. Their 1-0 win versus the New England Revolution on 6 October wasn't necessarily anything special, but they also managed to shock the Chicago Fire 3-1 on 3 October.
The Dynamo will certainly want revenge for the last meeting between the two teams - a match on 23 September that the Union won at home, 3-1. But conversely, Philadelphia will also be looking to erase their own road loss - a 2-1 defeat here in Houston on 30 June in a match that was decided by a Brian Ching penalty kick.
The international break over the last two weeks means that both teams will have had time to recharge and plan - most notably for the Dynamo, it means that Brad Davis is once more healthy. I have no doubt that this will be a tough match. In the end, it will all come down to preparation and desire - the team that wants it more will find a way to come out on top. Unfortunately, in my eyes, that puts almost all the pressure square on the Dynamo - Philadelphia has nothing to play for, and as of late have seemed quite at home in the role of spoiler.
You seen me say it in various places - there's no such thing as an easy three points. Whether it's against San Jose or Toronto, no match is a given win. It's a lesson hat's been hammered home in a few ugly draws and losses - most notably that loss in Philadelphia - and we can only hope that the Dynamo are prepared to do what they have to do to win.
The only thing that's changed from last week is the opponent. This is still the battle à outrance of a team fighting to make the playoffs, and the hopes of another shot at the MLS Cup ride on Saturday's result. The stakes are high, as are our hopes that the Dynamo can rise above them.
NBC Sports Network - 6:30 p.m. (DirecTV: 603; Dish Network: 151; AT&T U-Verse: SD= 640 HD=1610; Comcast: SD= 49 HD=649)
KBME 790 - 6 p.m.
La Ranchera 850 - 6 p.m.
REFEREE: Mark Geiger. SAR (bench): Greg Barkey; JAR (opposite): Adam Garner; 4th: Ismail Elfath MLS Career: 102 games; FC/gm: 26.5; Y/gm: 3.7; R: 26; pens: 34
INJURY REPORT (As of Tuesday, October 16)
HOUSTON DYNAMO - QUESTIONABLE: MF Brad Davis (L calf strain)
PHILADELPHIA UNION - OUT: DF Bakary Soumare (R knee menisectomy recovery); DOUBTFUL: DF Sheanon Williams (L ankle peroneal/Achilles strain); QUESTIONABLE: DF Gabriel Farfan (R ankle contusion); MF Danny Cruz (L big toe sesamoid stress fracture); FW Zach Pfeffer (L knee contusion); PROBABLE: MF Freddy Adu (L quad strain)
ALL-TIME (6 meetings): Dynamo 1 win, 7 goals ... Union 3 wins, 10 goals ... Ties 2
AT HOUSTON (3 meetings): Dynamo 1 win, 4 goals ... Union 2 wins, 5 goals ... Ties 0
2012 (MLS): 6/30: HOU 2, PHI 1 (Davis 20; Ching 83 - Daniel 46); 9/23: PHI 3, HOU 1 (Adu 28, 50; Martinez 70 - Garcia 44)
LAST MEETING (MLS):
Union took the lead in the 28th minute. Right back Ray Gaddis made a marauding run up the field and put in a cross that eventually found its way to Freddy Adu beyond the far post. Adu then cut the ball in front of goal and beat Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall to the near post.
The Dynamo pulled level just a minute before halftime when Boniek García hit a beautiful strike off the post and in, following a great feed from Will Bruin, who sucked both defenders to him in the middle of the box.
Adu netted his second goal of game when he banged home a 50th-minute penalty kick after André Hainault dragged down Philly's Sheanon Williams in the box. Adu then left the game while clutching his left leg, replaced by Keon Daniel.
Josué Martinez capped the victory in the 71th minute when he got his foot on a blast from center back Amobi Okugo and took another touch to beat Hall right in front of the net.
PHILADELPHIA UNION (4-4-2): Zac MacMath - Raymon Gaddis, Carlos Valdes, Amobi Okugo, Sheanon Williams - Danny Cruz (Chris Albright 81), Michael Lahoud, Brian Carroll, Michael Farfan - Freddy Adu (Keon Daniel 57 / Antoine Hoppenot 66), Josue Martinez.
HOUSTON DYNAMO (4-3-3): Tally Hall - Kofi Sarkodie, Andre Hainault (Cam Weaver 81), Bobby Boswell, Jermaine Taylor - Luiz Camargo (Giles Barnes 63), Ricardo Clark, Brad Davis - Boniek Garcia, Will Bruin, Macoumba Kandji (Calen Carr 46).