With a 2012 MLS Playoff position secured, the Dynamo quickly turn their focus to the next "to-do" on the list - advancing to the Championship Round of the CONCACAF Champions League. Tuesday night, BBVA Compass Stadium will welcome Honduran side Olimpia in a match that will decide who will advance out of Group 3.
The simple scoreline will determine who will go through - a Dynamo win or draw would see them through to the next stage, while a loss would send Olimpia through (based on tiebreakers).
These two clubs faced off on August 30 in Honduras and finished knotted at 1-1 in an action packed match. Olimpia pressured the Dynamo the entire game, outshooting them 8-4 (on goal), 9-3 (corner kicks), and controlling 52% of possession. The video highlights from the first match (below) will surely look more like a tribute to Tyler Deric because of how many chances Olimpia had (and were denied). It didn't help matters that Nathan Sturgis was shown a red card in the 61' leaving the Dynamo down a man for the rest of the match. Nonetheless, Houston stood their ground on the road which is extremely difficult to do and came away with a very important point.
The good thing about home field advantage in the CCL is it works both ways. With Saturday night's victory, the Dynamo haven't seen defeat in 2012 in a competitive match at home. Olimpia surely will come to win, knowing only a victory will do, but the teams Dominic Kinnear puts on the field have more than held their ground in this year's tournament.
Through three games, Houston has outscored opponents 8-2 and have yet to lose a match. It was evident when the group draw was complete it would more than likely come down to Houston and Olimpia. The Dynamo will have the advantage knowing the final game is at BBVA Compass Stadium and Olimpia has to win.
Kinnear will more than likely stick with a similar lineup that he has in the last few matches. I'd expect to see the 4-4-2 in action, with Brian Ching and Cam Weaver up front. Weaver, who finished his Reserve League season with 11 goals, has added two in CCL action. Nathan Sturgis will be back after serving a suspension for a red card and as of now there are no injuries so we should have full availability.
Destiny is within their control on Tuesday - win or draw and Houston advances to the knockout stage. Olimpia will be a tough opponent, but this year's Dynamo team has the depth and experience to make it deep in the tournament. I'll wait until we are at least in the next round to talk about whether or not this team could claim the title, but I believe we should get through the group without a problem on Tuesday.
With players that could likely be starters on other clubs like Cam Weaver, Colin Clark, Nathan Sturgis, Andre Hainault, and Je-Vaughn Watson (among others), Houston should be able to pull out a result here at home. Newcomers like Warren Creavalle and Giles Barnes provide further support and youthful sparks that make this Dynamo squad one of the most unique in years.
One thing's for sure - home field advantage is not the same with empty seats. This has historically been a tournament that is greeted with mixed results, but this is an important match and the team will need the fans support. It may be on a Tuesday night, but I'm hoping fans will make it out in bunches and pack the stadium, helping send the boys on the next step towards an international crown.
Rest of the CCL action
When it comes to clubs who will advance to the knockout stage, here's a cliffsnotes version of the scenarios.
Group 1: Santos (Mexico) likely advances, but technically Toronto FC (Canada) is not eliminated. If I was confident Toronto could pull off a win in Mexico, I'd break it down, but I'm not - they are pretty bad.
Group 2: Herediano (Costa Rica) and Real Salt Lake (USA) will face off in Utah for a decisive game. RSL will need to defeat Herediano by two goals or by a 1-0 scoreline to advance. This will definitely be a game to see.
Group 3: Houston (USA) and Olimpia (Honduras) will battle it out as you know. If Houston wins or draws, they are through.
Group 4: Seattle (USA) has already won the group and is in the next stage.
Group 5: Los Angeles Galaxy (USA) has already won the group and is in the next stage.
Group 6: Tigres (Mexico) and Alajuelense (Costa Rica) will play to see who'll advance in Mexico. This is an easy one, Tigres has to win or Alajuelense will advance.
Group 7: Monterrey (Mexico) has already won the group and is in the next stage.
Group 8: Chivas (Mexico) and Xelaju (Guatemala) will face off to see who advances in Mexico. Chivas has to win by at least two goals or by a 1-0 scoreline to advance. If they don't, Xelaju will go through.
The eight clubs who advance will be seeded based on total points, using goal differential and goals scored as tiebreakers. Once the Dynamo's fate is decided, we'll have you covered on the Championship Round.
For now, plan on being at BBVA Compass Stadium Tuesday night. See you there Dynamo fans!