Here we go again. Another gut check, and another quick turnaround. This is a time of year when you have to have a short memory, like a closer in baseball. Focus on the good, keep out the bad, and try again next time. Otherwise, you're caught in a feedback loop, and everything goes down the drain.
Next time, in this case, comes at 4 pm local time Sunday afternoon, back here at BVA Compass Stadium. The Houston Dynamo will be hosting the New York Red Bulls in a what has more or less become a must-win situation for the club in orange. They had a match in hand and a chance to jump up the tables Wednesday night, and they didn't. Now, they must grab points - and hope their luck turns for the better.
Just like Wednesday, the Dynamo will be facing a side missing one of their more potent weapons - Red Bulls midfielder Tim Cahill will be out with a torn PCL - but New York is a different animal altogether. He may be in the twilight of his career (and coming off a spat with coach Mike Petke which resulted in his being benched for the first hour or so of last weekend's 2-1 victory over DC United), but there's a reason why the name of Thierry Henry is still venerated by so many fans around the world - a few weeks past his thirty-sixth birthday, he is completely capable of taking the match into his own hands, as he has been for nearly two decades. Dax McCarty and Lloyd Sam are solid midfielders, and though Cahill, Roy Miller and Connor Lade are all out, they can beat you plenty of different ways.
The Dynamo and Red Bulls have met once already this season - a 2-0 away loss that came during the Dynamo's ugly winless stretch this summer. Theoretically, however, this should be different. New York comes to Houston, where they win about as often as we do up there (for those who don't pay attention, that's never so far). Then again, recent results don't necessarily inspire much confidence, do they?
I could just copy and paste my list of questions from the last preview, but I tire of getting repetitive. I'm sure you're tired of me getting repetitive. Whether or not you feel that the Dynamo's current form is them under-performing or slumping or that their early season run was the aberration, I think we can all agree that performances like Wednesday are not much fun to watch, and not just because of the result.
If you missed my rant on Twitter after the match, I noted that unlike last Sunday, the club didn't seem to show much heart against Columbus. They held on fine in the first half, gave up a goal early in the second half, and went on a nosedive after that. Mistakes got compounded, tempers flared (seriously, how was Adam Moffat not sent off?) and everything kind of just fell flat.
I also noted that I wasn't quite ready to throw in the towel. Not yet. This has been a brutal stretch for the Dynamo - Sunday will mark the end of five league and two Champions League matches in twenty-two days, a schedule that would wear anybody down. They get a bit of a rest after this match - no midweek fixture for the first time in nearly a month while the country salivates over the USMNT-Mexico qualifier in Columbus - but there's not really much of a chance for a mental break.
They have to find answers. The absences of Boniek Garcia and Ricardo Clark are glaring. With Jermaine Taylor away and with Eric Brunner and now Corey Ashe injured, an already thin back line looks ragged. The team is (correctly, in my eyes) refusing to pin all the blame for Wednesday's loss on the shoulders of Will Bruin, but with three clear misses in the opening quarter hour of play, you have to be wondering just what's wrong with him. Andrew Driver seems to be injured again, and Jason Johnson looked awkward playing out of the midfield. Cam Weaver is a nice target to have, when you can get him service - which was missing from most of the Columbus match. For whatever reason, Brad Davis isn't quite as potent on the set piece as he has been, and the Dynamo as a whole have struggled with set pieces - both offensively and defensively.
As I said last night, this is not yet a lost cause. The Dynamo can still turn this around, and they've proven in previous years that they can pull off such a turnaround. But if they're going to start, it hasto be soon. The fact that the rest of the Eastern Conference sat idle Wednesday night was actually a good thing, but that won't be the case Sunday. At the moment, the Dynamo are on the outside looking in. They need points badly - and then, they need a bit of help. But that help is moot unless the Dynamo take care of their own business. They'll get a chance to do so Sunday afternoon, and the fate of this season could very well rest on how well they answer the call.
So I challenge the Dynamo thus: we may be frustrated, we may be seething - but we are still loyal. We want to dream. We want to scream. We want to believe. But we need inspiration to help us, and we're hoping you can provide it. To Dynamo fans: fill BBVA Compass Stadium to the brim. Not just this Sunday, but every chance you get. Let the club see that the city still stands behind them. There's roles for us all to fill, and it's not a time of year for anyone to be slacking. Let's rock BBVA Compass this Sunday, and hope the Dynamo can trn that into three badly needed points.