It's that time of year once again. Wednesday night, the Houston Dynamo get set to host the fifth installment of the Dynamo Charities Cup. Their opponent this year will be Stoke City F.C. of the vaunted English Premier League - a name that most Dynamo fans should be at least a little familiar with due to the transfer saga of Geoff Cameron last summer.
Indeed, this is being billed mainly as Cameron's return after a successful spell in the EPL last season. While Stoke battled to a thirteenth place finish that resulted in a finish just six points above relegation and the resignation of longtime manager Tony Pulis. Pulis has since been replaced by Mark Hughes, who was last seen leading a lackluster QPR side before his sacking in November of 2012. Hughes will be looking to start off his campaign right here in Houston. Stoke will play the first of three preseason MLS friendlies against the Dynamo, and they'll have to do so without a familiar face that would probably have been one of the biggest draws, as midfielder Brek Shea (formerly of F.C. Dallas) is still with the US National Team in the Gold Cup - though Dynamo left back Corey Ashe will be back in Houston (no word on his availability, though).
It's been noted in other places that there was never really a lot of enthusiasm for this match-up - and I don't think that's all the fault of the choice of opponents. Due to an unfortunate scheduling quirk, the Charities Cup will kick off about the time that the USA-Honduras Gold Cup semifinal match at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington is ending. This poses the threat of extra time extending the semifinal and causing uncomfortable decisions from most Dynamo fans who support both club and country - with a club friendly almost certain to lose out to a major tournament semifinal match.
That being said, we can't fix the schedule. It's all been set for months. We can, however, hope for an entertaining spectacle, much like last years'. Even though the Dynamo went on to lose that one 2-1 to La Liga side Valencia C.F., fans were at least treated to a well-played friendly. And to be honest, that's all this is. Yes, there's a cup attached to it - and even more importantly, it is in support of a good cause - but it is a friendly, and one often played mainly by reserves. I for one want to see the Dynamo win (I always do), but it wouldn't be that bad of an outcome if they lost.