As anyone involved in the construction business will tell you, foundation-building can be a frustrating thing. It's unglamorous, sometimes only distantly resembling the glittering structure you're ultimately trying to construct, and even if you follow all the plans, you frequently don't know exactly how good you did until it's far too late.
Which brings us to the Houston Dynamo as they slide on into the second half of the 2012 MLS regular season. Putting aside the memories of a frustrating, not entirely bad but ultimately missed opportunity to rescue all three points against the Chicago Fire on Tuesday night, the Dynamo are headed to Sporting Kansas City Saturday to once again try to make up ground on a team that sits above them in the Eastern Conference standings. The match is set to kick at 7 p.m. Saturday, and will be broadcast in ingles on Fox Sports Houston and in Spanish on Multimedios 43 and on radio similarly on SportsTalk 790 AM and La Ranchera 850 AM.
The game will be no easy task, but as John, Paul, George and Ringo once remarked, when you're goin' to Kansas City, it's just a 1,2,3,4...5,6,7,8,9...
Of course, that still leaves a 10 and 11, and if we don't start getting more production out of those two spots, especially on the road, then frustration might just once again be the order of the day. Though I have no intention to make this preview all negative. I mean, the team is currently on what could be the beginnings of something quite good, earning four points out of the last six on offer, coinciding with the arrival of Boniek Garcia on these Southeast Texas shores.
There is a bigger picture of abject mediocrity out of which we are trying to climb. Since beating the LA Galaxy on Memorial Day, the Orange have claimed just eight of the 18 points available and sit just barely on the inside of the playoff-qualification loop. The Sporks, like us, are also hardly setting the world on fire. Over that same span, they have claimed just seven out of 15 points, with includes the three they took at Montreal this past Wednesday. However, due to their red hot start, SKC still own 32 points overall, just one behind DC United in second place, and eight ahead of our 24.
So the stakes, as they say, have been smoking their funny cigarettes. The Dynamo are pretty much the picture of "middle of the road," with a 6-5-6 mark, scoring 22 goals while allowing 24. This is a little better than at the same point in 2011. Then, through 17 games, Dynamo were 4-6-7 (19 points) and had scored 21 goals while allowing 22. Our Orange then went 8-3-6 (24 GF, 19 GA) in the second half to finish 2011 with a 12-9-13 mark (45 GF, 41 GA) and 49 points to finish in second place in the East. Do this again, though, and we stay in fifth. Sporting Kansas City is currently on pace for 64 points, New York and D.C United on pace for 62 points and Chicago on pace for 56 points. The Sporks, as we all remember, finished the conference race in the lead with 51 points in 2011. The saving grace and cause for hope comes in the home fixtures we still have remaining. Nine of the Orange's first 17 games were at home in 2011, while seven of the first 17 games have been at home in 2012.
The game is the first regular season visit to the City of Fountains since a 3-0 pasting last Sept. 10 that served in many ways as a sort of "Come to Jesus" moment for the Dynamo, who would not lose again until the MLS Cup final. And of course, along the way, who could forget this moment courtesy of the last Honduran clad in Orange:
Especially the part at the 0:33 mark.
So clearly, I think it's fair to say that the Cauldron will be somewhat motivated for this match.
For those of you formation-minded, Dynamo might just once again line up in the 4-3-3 they've favored since Garcia's spaceship touched down. And in the media press notes, that is indeed projected thusly:
Judging by comments on this site in the last few days (as well as my own, which I must admit was written in the heat of frustration after the Chicago game, but which after the intervening days, I still do not detract), the inclusion of Kandji is sure to have its dissenters. The injury report, which was posted Friday, shows the following:
HOUSTON DYNAMO -- DOUBTFUL: MF Calen Carr (L hamstring strain); MF Je-Vaughn Watson (L adductor strain); QUESTIONABLE: DF Geoff Cameron (L hamstring strain)
SPORTING KANSAS CITY -- OUT: DF Cyprian Hedrick (L fibula fracture); GK Jon Kempin (R ankle fracture); DF Lawrence Olum (L groin strain); PROBABLE: FW Bobby Convey (L calf strain); MF Michael Thomas (R ankle sprain)
Nice to se that Alex Dixon is off the injury list. We'll see about Cameron. Nothing says "stay away" to prospective European suitors like persistent injuries, so I'm sure Geoff is hankering to get back in the starting lineup. Not that he was missed defensively in the clean sheet posted against the Fire. JdJO pointed out on his blog that the performance showed that defensively, Dynamo will be OK for now with Cameron, though long-term depth problems will remain.
As for Kansas City, this is how they looked while earning two penalties at Montreal on July 4th:
How bout them empty seats masquerading as fans? Are the Quebecers quickly becoming the Frisco denizens of Canada? The invisible majority.
Of the Montreal residents who showed up, if they had any finishing skills at all, they'd have been up 4-0 by halftime. I hope that's the defense we see Saturday night. Even Mac Kandji can score on those kind of chances. (Right?) On the first penalty, Montreal got screwed. Pure and simple. The hands were tucked in to the body. There was no attempt to play the ball with the hands. Bad reffing. On the second penalty, I'm still waiting to see Davy Arnaud foul anyone. Wow. I'm no fan of L'Impact, but I know a screw job when I see one. On the third goal, if Dynamo give that kind of space, I would HOPE we'd be punished like Montreal was.
As for those aforementioned Nos. 10 and 11 slots. What we might be seeing is the blooming of the player who could be the best forward in team history. Will Bruin’s nine goals are the most for a Dynamo player since Brian Ching set a franchise record with 13 goals in 2008. And who among us would say that four more goals in 2012 is the least we expect from the Dancing Bear, who has reached nine goals in the fastest number of games (15) in team history. In Ching's 2008 campaign, he didn;t get to nine until the team's 18th game. So it's clearly possible we are seeing a passing of the torch.
Of course, one thing about Captain Kamehameha, when it comes to big goals at crucial times, he has been unparalleled. If Bruin is to start delivering those on a consistent basis, in effect replicating his performance against Toronto here a few weeks ago, Saturday will be a good time to start.
So I will go on record right now and predict a Dynamo win. I think we're in their heads after last season. I am calling for a 2-1 Dynamo win, with tallies from Boniek Garcia, who seems to beat at least one player, and frequently two, on his every touch, and a spectacular and game-winning tenth from Bruin. What's your call?
At the very least, the Cauldron may just now have another Honduran on whom to lavish their love.