The Dynamo hit the road again in the second leg of their early season transcontinental adventure to face the New York Red Bulls. It's Houston's annual sojourn to play the team with a big city name that calls the land of Bruce Springsteen and "Waste Management" companies home.
Saturday's match will be all about the continued growth and development of this Dynamo team. While the draw in Seattle wasn't a perfect performance by any stretch of the imagination, it's a starting point towards hopefully getting the season moving in the right direction. The
Tally Hall was outstanding and will be looking to repeat his standout performance in goal against a Red Bulls lineup that will be bolstered by the return of several key players from international duty and injury. This will be a different team that the group that drew on the road at Columbus last weekend and will provide a stiff challenge for Hall and the Dynamo defense.
Brian Ching should be ready to start up front and I imagine either Jason Garey or Cam Weaver will start along side him. Geoff Cameron's availability is in doubt with a hamstring strain (the Dynamo sure do seem to get a lot of those), though he did practice on Thursday. If Cameron is not able to play, Brad Davis seems the most likely candidate to move inside with Corey Ashe or Danny Cruz getting the start on the left side of Kinnear's midfield diamond. Colin Clarke practiced this week as well and it possible we could see him on the bench this weekend for the first time since joining the Dynamo last season.
Defensively, look for Andre Hainault to start in central defense with Jermaine Taylor still recovering from a foot injury picked up while on international duty. With Hainault in the middle, the most likely fullback tandem would be Hunter Freeman on the left and Kofi Sarkodie on the right.
For the Red Bulls, Thierry Henry is still listed as questionable as well with hamstring issues, but the return of Juan Agudelo and Rafa Marquez should give their lineup a boost. Bummer. Still, you like to play the best the competition has to offer early in the season to help get a better idea of how far along the roster is.
There's no doubt the Red Bulls attack is strong and they will put pressure on the Dynamo defense. We could see a match that looks a lot like last week in Seattle and it will likely take a big effort from Hall and the defense to give the Dynamo a chance to get points out of the match.
The Dynamo will have a quick turnaround this week as they face Sporting Kansas City on in College Station, TX on Wednesday, April 6th in a U.S. Open Cup Qualifying match.
- New York leads the all-time series between the teams 4-2-6, including playoffs, with a 2-0-4 mark in home games. Five of those six contests, however, came on artificial turf at Giants Stadium. In the teams' first meeting at Red Bull Arena last year, New York won 2-1 on a stoppage-time free kick. After a 2-2 tie in Houston in July, Houston has not won a game in the series since May 31, 2008, a 7-game drought (0-3-4).
- Dynamo captain Brian Ching has been very successful in his MLS career against the Red Bulls, even under their old moniker as the MetroStars. In 11 regular season games against the club, Ching has scored seven goals, including one last year at Red Bull Arena. After missing the 2011 opener with a hamstring injury, Ching played 15 minutes as a substitute against Seattle last Friday.
- Houston is unbeaten in its last four road games (2-0-2) dating back to September 25, 2010. Since a 4-3 loss to Kansas City (9/22/10), the Dynamo have beaten D.C. United (9/25/10) and San Jose (10/16/10) and tied Philadelphia (10/2/10) and Seattle (3/25/11). The four-game unbeaten streak follows a nine-game winless streak (0-8-1) on the road in league play.
- Houston midfielder Geoff Cameron scored his first goal of the 2011 season last Friday against Seattle, his 10th career goal for the Dynamo in all competitions (7 MLS, 2 USOC, 1 CCL). Cameron is now tied for ninth in team history in goalscoring and needs four more goals to move past four inactive players into fifth place. Forward Brian Ching (57 goals - 1st) and midfielder Brad Davis (19 goals - 4th) are the active Houston players ahead of Cameron.
- With first-round draft picks Will Bruin and Kofi Sarkodie both in the lineup against Seattle last week, the Dynamo started two rookies in the same MLS regular season game for the first time in club history. Sarkodie, aged 20 years, 3 days, became the youngest Houston player to start an MLS match.
- Defender Andre Hainault, starting at center back due to the international absence of Jermaine Taylor, tied for second in MLS last weekend with 19 clearances, according to MLS game-day stats partner Opta. Hainault and Colorado's Drew Moor trailed only Toronto's Adrian Cann (22) on the weekend. On Tuesday, earning his 18th cap for Canada, Hainault scored his second international goal in a 1-0 win over Belarus.