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Matchday Preview 31: Houston Dynamo vs Montreal Impact

The stretch run to the MLS playoffs returns to BBVA Compass Stadium Friday night as the Houston Dynamo host the Montreal Impact in the first of three straight home matches against clubs above them in the conference table. The Dynamo control their own destiny - can they start this stretch off with three against Montreal?

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

I'll admit, I missed watching Saturday night's 1-1 draw between the Houston Dynamo and the Revolution. I was sick, so the best I could really do was follow it on Twitter, but that was enough for me to glean some important facts from it.

They showed fight and heart. Again. This time, they fell behind on the road and didn't give up. Where recently, giving up a second half goal had lead to collapse, it didn't here. Will Bruin found the back of the net, and the Dynamo walked off the turf of Gillette Stadium with a point. I think we all would've preferred three, but one point will do - and honestly, it was about what I expected.

But that's past. If we see the Revs again, it'll be in the postseason - and we're not there yet. Friday night, the Dynamo will start a crucial three match home stretch against the top the Eastern Conference clubs with a clash against the Montreal Impact. Yes, the Impact, who have been the bane of two Dynamo trips north of the border this season. This time, however, the club from the Royal Mountain will be the away side, and Dynamo fans can only hope that BBVA Compass will be as pleasant for them as Stade Saputo has been for the men in orange.

The implications for this match are huge. The Dynamo sit fourth in the East, just two points back of Montreal. You can do the math, and you can figure out the huge difference between sitting in third come the end of October and sitting in fourth or fifth. Granted, Montreal do have a match in hand, but as the Dynamo have proven so often, that's not always a sure thing. Of course, this is all conjecture, and out of the hands of the Dynamo. All they can control is what result they get out of Friday's match.

And there's no doubt they want a result. No matter how much they can claim to not want revenge for two lopsided, lackluster losses in Montreal, the matches must be in the back of the Dynamo's head - as Brad Davis has admitted. However, Davis has also noted that the Dynamo can't let that be the sole purpose in Friday's match, which is also true. The Dynamo need to play like they have in recent weeks. If they can do that, it stands to reason that a favorable result will follow.

And make no mistake, it will be a challenge. Montreal may be reeling, but they're still a talented side. Marco Di Vaio leads the league in both goals and offside calls, as befits his style of play, and Justin Mapp, Patrice Bernier, and Davy Arnaud are all members of a creative midfield that can still carve up a club - as Dynamo fans have seen firsthand. Whether or not he's past his peak, Alessandro Nesta still commands respect, and Troy Perkins (when he's on his game) is among the best keepers in MLS so far. They may be down, but they're far from out.

The Dynamo, of course, are on the upswing. They're healthy and getting healthier, and have finally found a stride. Bruin is scoring once more. Davis' set pieces are looking better, and Boniek Garcia, Ricardo Clark and the rest of the midfield are clicking. The backline is still a bit shaky, but they've gotten back to full strength, and Tally Hall has been in good form during this stretch. Omar Cummings looks to be returning to health, and Servando Carrasco and Alex Lopez are slowly meshing into the club.

Injuries are still a bit worrying, with Andrew Driver, Calen Carr and Eric Brunner still listed as questionable (pending this week's injury report), but it's still a far cry from the injuries Dynamo fans were seeing a month or two ago. The club is coming together for a stretch run, and every available foot (hand use, of course, being frowned upon) will be needed.

It's a simple prospect: the Dynamo control their destiny. Points get them into the playoffs. They have four matches to collect these points, and three of them are at home. That should be the Dynamo's main focus, not revenge for past transgressions. Get the points, and let that suffice for repayment. In one of his famous monologues from The Wrath of Khan, Ricardo Montalban quotes the 'old Klingon proverb' that "...tells us revenge is a dish that is best served cold," before noting that "it is very cold in space!" That's true for space, but not the Space City - Friday promises to be humid and perhaps rainy - not prime revenge weather, though it could prove to be perfect for the Dynamo's true goal.

The stretch run is here. The heat is on. It's up to the Dynamo to take care of business at home, and they'll get that chance. Friday night, they'll start the pivotal stretch with ninety minutes against the Impact. Hopefully by the end of it, the Dynamo will have started this run off on the right foot.