The MLS schedule can be weird. I've touched on this before, but it's worth bringing up again. Because the league is divided up into two uneven conferences, there's a whole host of Western Conference sides that the Houston Dynamo will only see once. The season is thirty-four matches long, yet only nine of those will be played against inter-conference foes. You would think that the league would try to spread these cross-conference matches up, yet Sunday afternoon, the Dynamo will play their fifth Western Conference opponent (to this point, they've only played three matches against Eastern Conference teams).
This weekend, the Colorado Rapids come to town looking to erase the memories of last weekend's home defeat at the hands of the previously winless Seattle Sounders. Whatever plans they lay, they can be sure of one thing - it won't be snowing at BBVA Compass like it has much of this week in Denver. Early forecasts have Sunday's high at just under 80 degrees, with thunderstorms possible throughout the day - something that may not be too appealing for a side that plays it's home matches in the cool, crisp mountain air.
The Dynamo, meanwhile, will (finally!) be returning home with a point, as Warren Creavalle's equalizer deep into stoppage time salvaged a draw in Toronto last Saturday. Unfortunately, the Dynamo will be bringing home much more than that: defender Jermaine Taylor will be suspended following his red card in Toronto (which many believe could have been successfully challenged), and the status of midfielders Adam Moffat and Brad Davis are as of yet unknown after injuries limited both to the first half of last Saturday's match. Striker Omar Cummings may or may not be available, though his exclusion from the eighteen the last few matches could mean that a setback has occurred in his recovery. More cheerful is the status of Boniek Garcia, who is hopeful that a full week of training will have him ready to go come Sunday.
But as beat up as the Dynamo are, the Rapids might be more so. Striker Edson Buddle was scratched before the start of the Seattle match, and Marvell Wynne left that match with an injury. Deshorn Brown was injured during training last week, and those are just last week's additions. In what may be poetic parity, the player the Dynamo traded to get Cummings, Brian Mullan, is also injured, and several other players (ten in total, the second highest total in the league) were listed as injured in some form as of last Saturday.
So what to expect? Who knows, really. We can't use last year's fixture as much of a guide - as the last game of the MLS regular season, neither side was playing for anything, and the Dynamo started a XI of reserves en route to a 2-0 Colorado win in Commerce City. The starting XI this weekend may be almost as patchwork as that one was, but for a completely different reason - as noted above, there are still plenty of question marks left to be addressed.
Will Boniek start? Will Cummings first start in orange be against his old teammates? Where will Andrew Driver play? How about Creavalle? A patchwork XI without Davis, Taylor and Boniek worked well enough to get three points against Vancouver a few weeks ago - will we see another such result this weekend? Who will fill the defensive midfield spot left vacant by Moffat? Can the Dynamo firmly secure sole possession of both MLS home streak records? The answers to these and many other questions will be answered Sunday afternoon. One can only hope that the Dynamo will manage to give a good account of themselves under less than ideal circumstances.