It's that time of year and we're in that kind of place where the introduction to each game preview will sound similar - something about the playoffs, getting three points, digging deep, yada yada yada. Well, welcome to the game preview for the Houston Dynamo against the Philadelphia Union. Houston heads up north to face the struggling Union looking to maintain pace with the rest of the Eastern Conference in the playoff race.
Here's where we stand now. As of today, Houston is sitting in the fifth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot. That's right, our men in orange who were in first place not that long ago are now fighting for the final spot. Sporting Kansas City (who drew with Montreal today) sit atop the standings with 55 points, followed by Chicago (53), New York (50), D.C. United (47), and Houston (46). With Montreal having played more games than most East teams, their draw today gives them little chance to make the playoffs, but Columbus (45) sits just one point back of Houston for the final playoff spot after losing to the hot Chicago Fire earlier tonight.
The Dynamo have a short history against the Philadelphia Union, but a history that is marked by an unimpressive 1-2-2 record during league play. Houston hasn't been able to figure out Philadelphia at PPL Park in the two regular season matches, each drawing 1-1.
With the results around them, it's time for the Dynamo to pick up three points. Thursday night they helped themselves to a 4-0 win over C.D. FAS in the CONCACAF Champions League, but now it's time to make it count in league play. With just five games left, and three at home, the Dynamo will need to replicate last season's late form if they want to secure a playoff position and/or lock up one of the top three positions.
The Dynamo should be at full strength, with Jermaine Taylor and Corey Ashe back at training on Friday.
The last time these two clubs faced off in June, Houston plugged newly signed designated player Boniek Garcia right into the starting lineup and switched from the reliable 4-4-2 to the experimental 4-3-3. That 2-1 win for the Dynamo kicked off a great run with saw Houston rise to the top of the Eastern Conference in early August.
Dominic Kinnear will be hoping his players can recapture that form and ensure they don't leave any points on the table to look back on. Anything less than three points could jeopardize Houston's chances for a playoff spot with Columbus so close. D.C. United, who currently stands fourth, hosts struggling Chivas USA tomorrow night also. If they are able to get a win, they would widen the gap between themselves and the Dynamo.
We know this a must win game on the road, but what do you think will happen in PPL Park? First regular season win there? How will the Dynamo build off their successful CCL win on Thursday?