With each approaching game during a close playoff race, a team has a chance to define themselves and capture that memorable moment - for better or worse - of their season. Saturday's match-up between the Houston Dynamo and the New England Revolution will be the latest test for the men in orange who are no where near guaranteed a playoff position in 2012.
Houston's latest results have been below expectations - everyone's expectations. Less than two month's ago, the Dynamo climbed to the top of the Eastern Conference and were within reach to challenge San Jose for the Supporter's Shield. After the first of two games against the New York Red Bulls, Houston sat four points behind the Earthquakes. Today, the Dynamo sit a distant 14 points back of the Supporter's Shield, and 12 back of Sporting Kansas City for the Eastern Conference lead. Oh what could have been.
Moving forward, Saturday's game is their next chance of few to get back on track. Whether they peaked too early, play down to opponents, or are in the wrong formation - Houston must win to make the playoffs, starting tonight.
New England heads into the match looking to play spoiler. The Revolution currently sit in ninth position in the Eastern Conference, with a 29 points (7-15-8). While pride will be on the line, the Revolution are playing for little else. That's not always a good combination and a team like this is exactly who Houston has had trouble closing out.
New England will be without two of their best offensive weapons, with Saer Sene and Lee Nguyen out for the remainder of the season. Sene and Nguyen combined for nearly half of New England's goals this year, and both gave the Dynamo trouble in their earlier meeting, which ended in a 2-2 draw.
The Dynamo are coming off an embarrassing 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Union and know the importance of getting a result against their next four opponents. The best part about Houston's last four games are the next three are in the comfort of BBVA Compass Stadium. The Dynamo are MLS' only unbeaten team at home (9-0-5) and haven't lost in well over a year at home.
This will be New England's first visit to BBVA Compass Stadium, but the Revolution are one of the few teams with success against the Dynamo at home, compiling a 4-1-1 record in Houston.
Captain Brad Davis told MLS Soccer.com last week Houston's mentality going into the next three home matches is to win them all. With the Columbus Crew sitting just one point back of Houston for the final playoff spot, Houston will need all the points they can get to not only secure a playoff position, but try to finish in the top three spots.
Here's the game info (via Houston Dynamo.com):
Houston Dynamo vs. New England Revolution
Saturday, September 29, 7:30 p.m. CT
BBVA Compass Stadium
Revs lead 6-2-5
KPRC Local 2 - 7 p.m.
SportsTalk 790 - 7 p.m.
La Ranchera 850 -7 p.m.
The Houston Dynamo kick off a crucial three-game homestand when they play host to the New England Revolution on Saturday evening at BBVA Compass Stadium. The Dynamo are grimly hanging on to fifth place in the Eastern Conference and the final playoff spot following a 3-1 loss at Philadelphia last weekend, still riding the second-longest home unbeaten streak in MLS history. The Revolution hit the road coming off a dramatic, last-gasp 1-1 draw with regional rival New York.
REFEREE: Drew Fischer. SAR (bench): George Gansner-- JAR (opposite): Jonathan Johnson-- 4th: Baldomero Toledo; MLS Career: 5 games-- FC/gm: 29.4-- Y/gm: 2.2-- R: 0-- pens: 0
INJURY REPORT PRESENTED BY THE METHODIST HOSPITAL SYSTEM (As of Tuesday, September 25)
- HOUSTON DYNAMO -- QUESTIONABLE: DF Nathan Sturgis (R ankle sprain)-- MF Giles Barnes (R quad strain)-- PROBABLE: DF Corey Ashe (L hamstring strain) ;
- NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION -- OUT: DF Flo Lechner (R knee MCL sprain)-- MF Lee Nguyen (R shoulder surgery)-- DF Tyler Polak (R foot sprain)-- FW Saer Sene (L knee ACL surgery)-- DF Chris Tierney (L knee sprain / L hamstring strain)-- DOUBTFUL: MF Clyde Simms (R calf tightness)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none