Well, it's back on the road again. It was a treat to play - and beat - FC Tuscon, in the US Open Cup. Sure, they're a PDL side, but they came into BBVA and played with heart, when it would've been completely understandable to come in and fold. I'll also admit that I'm highly intrigued by the Houston Dynamo's next opponent in that competition, but that's about a week and a half into the future. Between then and now, there's league business to attend to. Saturday night, the Dynamo will be in central Ohio to play the Columbus Crew, one of the few middling clubs in the Eastern Conference (This is nothing against the Crew, just a note of how the tables have played out so far this season).
While a draw on the road in Kansas City was nice, the point remains that out of their last three league matches, the Dynamo have dropped eight points - and two spots in the conference table. That being said, last Sunday's match showed that the Dynamo had put at least part of their funk behind them, and that they had continued what's been a fairly improbable string of results away from home. This time last month, the Dynamo had a single point from matches on the road, compared with thirteen points at BBVA Compass Stadium. That's flipped recently, though - the last month has seen no points from home matches, yet seven from three on the road - giving the men in orange a four match unbeaten streak away from Houston (someone please look up the last time that happened - I can't remember if it has before).
The Crew, meanwhile, sit at sixteen points on the year (five behind the Dynamo) and are riding a three match unbeaten streak which has seen them earn a win in Toronto and a draw with conference leader New York (as well as a victory over USL Pro side Dayton Dutch Lions in the Open Cup). They've only lost two players to international matches - Jairo Arrieta and Wil Trapp - and have ridden the play of Dominic Oduro (Yes, that Dominic Oduro) to sixth place in the East, with a chance to climb even higher.
To do so, however, they'll have to get past the Dynamo. With Brad Davis, Oscar Boniek Garcia and Jermaine Taylor out for international duty (along with Corey Ashe, who is unlikely to start after his withdrawl from the national team camp due to injury and Bobby Boswell, who will be serving the final match of his suspension), it will be interesting to see what lineup Dominic Kinnear brings to Columbus with him. Many of the reserves saw significant minutes against FC Tuscon, and more often than not, they impressed, leading me to believe that the Dynamo should be able to scrape together a successful XI - especially since they won't be playing again until the fourth round of the US Open Cup on the 12th.
Aside from a wonderful goal from SKC's Kei Kamara, the centerback tandem of Eric Brunner and Ricardo Clark performed well against a strong attack, and I get the feeling that those two will get the call to help slow down Oduro on Saturday. Mike Chabala filled in for Ashe wonderfully in the Open Cup, so I'm not too worried about the left back position, even on short rest. I also get the feeling that we'll get to see Warren Creavalle start, though I'm not as sure who will play the other midfield role (the Creavalle, Andrew Driver, Clark and Adam Moffat quartet trotted out against Vancouver is obviously out of the question if Rico is at centerback). That being said, I trust Dom, and after watching the (mostly) reserves in the Open Cup, I feel a little bit better about whoever gets called on to fill in.
To steal a motif from the other Houston football team, the Texans had a memorable "next man up" philosophy. There were several instances of this happening throughout the season, but the most memorable was when they lost starting quarterback Matt Schaub and backup Matt Leinhart in back to back games. At that point, the next man up was someone who hadn't even been on the roster until the game Leinhart went down - a third string rookie named T.J. Yates. Yates was asked to step up, and as those who follow the NFL remember, he did so. Late game heroics in his first two career starts played a role in clinching the franchise's first playoff spot - and they would go on to claim their first playoff victory about four weeks later.
It is, by all accounts, a wonderful story of a team overcoming adversity, but how applicable is it here, you ask? Perhaps more than you'd think. While none of the big names for the Dynamo are injured, there are several starters who are unavailable for one reason or another. Because of this, the Dynamo need the next man in line to step up and carry a bit of the load. I think the Dynamo have the roster depth to make it feasible - and unlike Yates, many of our reserves are league-tested (and Dom approved). That being said, we won't know how well it works until ninety minutes are played in Columbus this Saturday night. Whatever the result turns out to be, I get the feeling that the Dynamo will give a good account of themselves away from home - and hopefully, they take points from the match as a souvenir.