We've come to the last of it. The last vestiges of the MLS regular season are upon us, and for the Houston Dynamo, everything is on the line. They're in a good spot as far as playoffs are concerned - win, and they're in, simple as that. Granted, there's not much margin for error, but at this point, the Dynamo hold their fate in their own hands.
The road to the postseason resumes Sunday night, when the Dynamo play host to the New York Red Bulls, one of the two sides in the Eastern Conference that have already punched their ticket to the playoffs. The two clubs have met twice so far this season, with neither result anything Dynamo fans really care to reminisce about. While a win here Sunday won't erase two losses from the Dynamo's record, the points will go a long way towards easing the feelings of many fans.
Also, by the time the Dynamo play Sunday afternoon, the rest of the conference will have already played, leaving the Dynamo's path clear. There are scenarios in which the Dynamo can clinch a playoff spot this weekend, but that all starts with three points at home. If they don't get those three points, the scenario is out the window.
Luckily for the Dynamo, they'll be back at full strength by the time Sunday rolls around. Jermaine Taylor, Boniek Garcia, and Brad Davis will be back from their stints at the international level, and the week and a half since the SKC match will have given time for Andrew Driver, Calen Carr, and Eric Brunner to heal up. They'll be needed, as this match opens up another three in seven days - before any possible playoff matches are added.
Having all hands on deck will be a nice change from the previous times the Dynamo and Red Bulls have faced each other, but it won't necessarily translate into points. Last time he was in town, Thierry Henry showed why he's still worth a lot of the hype he gets, and Tim Cahill has also impressed this season. They've also had Bradley Wright-Phillips and Connor Lade return to training, so it's not like the Dynamo will be facing a depleted side.
That being said, the Dynamo do have things going for them that they didn't have last time the two clubs met. They'll have a nearly healthy, full roster, as mentioned above - but they'll also have momentum. Even after only managing a draw last week against Kansas City, the Dynamo are still on the late season run that they've gotten so good at. Even more remarkable, much of this run of good form has come against other clubs that are still in the postseason picture.
The last time the two clubs met, it felt like the Dynamo couldn't sink much lower - and indeed, the loss to New York seemed to spark something in them that has kept them climbing ever since. Their form has allowed them to climb back into a playoff race that many were starting to feel was out of the picture. A win here, and three points against a good New York side, could turn all those negative feelings around - especially if it ends up as the final piece of the puzzle that clinches the men in orange a spot in the postseason.
It won't be easy, but then again, nothing is this time of year. Where the race to the postseason is concerned, it's the battle à l'outrance - the fight to the end. Ninety minutes separate the Dynamo from three points and a possible a postseason berth. With one last home match in the regular season, count on the Dynamo to leave it all out on the pitch as they keep charging towards the promised land - and hope that it will be enough to get them there.