One can argue that being in first place really doesn't matter until the end of the season and you'd be right. Then again, there's an undeniable confidence boost when you can look at the standings and see your team sitting atop the conference. Tomorrow's match between the Dynamo and the Red Bulls at BBVA Compass Stadium presents Houston with a chance to do just that.
To take over first place, the Dynamo will have to defeat the Red Bulls, something they haven't done since 2008 when they defeated New York 1-0. In ten matches since, the Dynamo are 0-4-6 against the Red Bulls. Since Houston ended their Canadian jinx last week, why not get rid of another annoying jinx with a win.
Getting that victory will be a solid challenge for the Dynamo. Kinnear's team is in better form of late, going 5-0-2 in their last seven matches, while the Red Bulls are a fairly pedestrian 3-2-2. The Dynamo still haven't lost at home this season while New York is 4-6-2 on the road this season with a -6 goal differential away from Red Bull Arena. The numbers lean towards the Dynamo, but sadly this isn't a simulated result, we've got to play the game.
The Red Bulls were busy right before the close of the transfer window, signing Australian midfielder Tim Cahill from Everton to boost their attack going into the stretch run of the season. Cahill played 45 minutes in a friendly against Spurs on Wednesday and is expected to figure in to the match tomorrow. He could provide an interesting challenge for the Dynamo defense as he'll no doubt be looking to make a quick impact for his new team. There's also that French guy to worry about.
No matter what the outcome, the season will not be defined by Friday's match. What it will do is give us a look at how the Dynamo match-up against a team that's likely to challenge them in the playoffs if Houston wants to return to the MLS Cup Final. Of course, the two teams meet again next week in New York, so this will also have a bit of a playoff home-and-home series feel to it.
Houston enters the match with all hands on deck except Will Bruin whose status remains doubtful with a calf contusion. Should the Dancing Bear be unavailable, Brian Ching will get the start again in the middle of the front line. Beyond that, look for a familiar lineup as the Dynamo take a crack at first place.
On top of everything else, the match is a national TV broadcast on NBC Sports Network. Should be a great evening in Houston.
Predicted Lineup: Hall; Hainault, Taylor, Boswell, Ashe; Boniek, Moffat, Davis; Carr, Ching, Kandji
Predicted Score: 2-0 Dynamo. NY had a midweek match and Houston will be fired up to prove they are the best team in the Eastern Conference.