Friday was fun, wouldn't you say? Ricardo Clark set the tone early, and while it got nervy at the end, the Houston Dynamo we able to hold on for a 1-0 victory against the Montreal Impact that sent them into third place in the Eastern Conference. All in all, not a bad start to the weekend.
That being said, the weekend's over now - time to put that one behind us and focus on the next match. It's a short turnaround, but Wednesday night, the Dynamo are at it again, this time playing host to Sporting Kansas City. This fixture has turned into one of the bigger rivalries in the league, but it'll have an added flair this week as both clubs are missing pieces due to international duty.
The Dynamo will have Brad Davis, but as we noted earlier, they'll be down Boniek Garcia and Jermaine Taylor, leaving two vital holes to be filed by coach Dominic Kinnear. On the other side of things, Kansas City will be missing defender Matt Besler and their midfield maestro, Graham Zusi (as well as possibly Soony Saad, if his FIFA paperwork goes through in time). All are important players, but both rosters have the depth to replace them, as Kinnear and SKC coach Peter Vermes have shown many times over. It may be a match missing some of its stars, but it will still be the hard fought battle we've come to expect from an SKC-Dynamo match.
This will be the third meeting of the two clubs this season, and I don't think people have forgotten either one. There's always something to prove, but (like Montreal last Friday), some people might feel that there's a bit extra here - even beyond a great rivalry. Once again, I have a feeling that while such things might indeed be in the back of the minds of players and coaches, they're more focused on the job at hand. What happened in May can be rendered moot by what happens Wednesday.
With Boniek Garcia and Taylor away, the spotlight will move to the health of Eric Brunner and Andrew Driver, as well as the fitness of players such as Alex Lopez and Servando Carrasco. Driver saw action Friday, and is he probably frontrunner to slot into Boniek's midfield slot, though filling the hole that Taylor leaves in the back line may prove a bit harder to guess. The Dynamo have ridden a rather consistent starting XI in this run of favorable results, so this should prove a good test of whether or not they can keep things going.
As for SKC, they'll still have plenty of weapons to worry about. Losing Kei Kamara to the English Championship didn't seem to hurt them as much as many thought it might, and I think they have the pieces to cover for the absence of Zusi and Besler. They may not be as potent as they are with those two on the pitch, but they're still more than capable of eking out a result with the likes of Benny Feilhaber, Ike Opara and Dom Dwyer.
And results are what are needed this time of year. Unlike Friday, the Dynamo cannot catch or overtake SKC with a full three points Wednesday night, but those points will go a long way towards the Dynamo's ultimate goal - the playoffs. There is a scenario in which the Dynamo can clinch this week, but it all starts with a win against SKC, followed by some help later this week from - here's irony for you - Montreal and Dallas. I won't mention the exact scenario, because at the moment, it's all dependent on one single thing: points.
You all know my mantra: there's no such thing as a given three points. Certainly not where Kansas City is concerned. If it was possible to take a run for the postseason beyond à l'outrance, this fixture would be when it happens. I wrote in the preseason about how this rivalry has bloomed, and it's certainly continued to do so. You can be sure that both the Dynamo and SKC will come out ready to play each other, and that after ninety minutes, it'll all be left on the pitch at BBVA Compass Stadium.
In such a contest, anything is possible. I won't mess around with predictions - you guys know I don't do that kind of thing anyway. I will, however, say this: the men in orange would love for the orange seats of BBVA Compass Stadium to be filled to the brim with the orange-clad faithful (we'll have more on some of their efforts to ensure this happens tomorrow). So if you can get down there on a weeknight, do so. It's a playoff run, and every little bit helps. The Dynamo started that run off on the right foot Friday, and hopefully Wednesday night sees them keep up the pace.