Not to be dramatic, but this weekend's match for the Dynamo begins a stretch of games that could go a long way towards defining the rest of their season. Even if Houston was to go 0-4 the rest of the month, it wouldn't mean the season was over, but it would certainly be a blow to the team's confidence and the fans hopes. While I seriously doubt that will happen, we can't ignore the fact that the next four matches are going to test this team's mettle.
First up on Saturday is Real Salt Lake, a team that was already reeling from their CONCACAF Champions League loss and a road shutout loss at Portland. Now they are without influential midfielder Javier Morales for at least four months after his horrific ankle injury against Chivas USA. Despite all that, Jason Kreis' team is still talented, still dangerous and likely more motivated than ever to pick themselves up and continue on their march towards the playoffs.
Here's my big key for the match. If the lineup we saw against Toronto FC is what Kinnear wants to use, with Koke up front and Watson on the right, STICK WITH IT...with two change of course, replace Cam Weaver with Will Bruin and bring Ashe back, moving Hainault inside. Just remember how much better the team looked after Bruin came in. I think that's the best lineup we've got right now and the more time Koke and Watson are on the field, the faster the rest of the team will adapt to playing with them. The long term benefits will outweigh any short term pains.
Rio TInto is a touch place to play, so getting a draw could be big ask for the Dynamo. A loss on Saturday would only be disappointing if it's another listless and ineffective performance like we saw for most of the Toronto match. Playing hard for 90 minutes but losing a close match at RSL is nothing to get upset about. That said, a draw or win would go a long way towards helping the team rebound from a two straight losses.
The Dynamo will be without Calen Carr, Danny Cruz and Brian Ching. Jermaine Taylor isn't listed on the injury report so hopefully the big central defender will be at least back on the bench for Kinnear.
- Even as Real Salt Lake has become one of Major League Soccer's most successful teams, the Dynamo have had success of their own against the Utah club. In their last nine meetings dating back to September 2007, Houston holds a 5-1-3 record against RSL, with the Dynamo's only loss coming at Rio Tinto Stadium last May 13. Over the last two seasons, the Dynamo are 2-1-2 against Salt Lake.
- Houston midfielder Brad Davis has nine assists in 15 career games against Salt Lake. Midfielder Colin Clark, formerly part of the Rocky Mountain Cup rivalry against RSL when he played for the Colorado Rapids, has two career game-winning assists against Salt Lake, one in 2008 and one in 2009.
- Entering the week, midfielder Brad Davis leads MLS with six assists and is already halfway to his career high in assists: 12. His career regular season total stands at 70 assists, 13th in MLS history and third among active players. Dynamo assistant coach Steve Ralston is the all-time leader with 135 assists.
- Midfielder Lovel Palmer scored the Dynamo goal against Toronto FC, his fifth career goal for Houston in all competitions. Now in his second season with the club, Palmer has scored three goals in MLS play but added tallies last year in the U.S. Open Cup and SuperLiga.
- Midfielder Je-Vaughn Watson has started each of the last two games and set up both of Houston's goals in consecutive 2-1 losses. The 27-year-old Jamaican played center midfield against Colorado and right midfield against Toronto FC.
- Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall enters the week ranked second in Major League Soccer in saves, having saved 29 shots in Houston's first 10 games.
- Midfielder Lovel Palmer is the only Houston player to play all 930 minutes of the club's season so far in all competitions, including the team's U.S. Open Cup qualifier.