I can't remember the last time I thought this as a Dynamo fan, but did the road trip really have to end? After taking only one point from road matches in Dallas, Portland and Toronto, the Houston Dynamo grab six points in five days against the LA Galaxy and D.C. United. Between the quality of the competition (at least in LA's case this year), the cross-country trek and resultant weariness, and the Dynamo's normal poor road form, anyone claiming that the men in orange would be taking the full allotment of points from this road trip would probably have found themselves committed.
But it happened. The Dynamo followed up Sunday night's 1-0 victory over the Galaxy with a 4-0 rout of DCU that looked more like Marshal Davout's victory at Auerstedt than the closely-contested conference final rematch that many had hyped and predicted. Ben Olsen's side has underacheived this year - there's no doubt of that - but I'm not sure anybody saw a rout here, against a desperate DCU side playing at home.
And yet that rout happened, and an eight day stretch that many people were apprehensive about is suddenly on capable of yielding nine points to the Dynamo. To do that, however, the Dynamo will have to get past an Sporting Kansas City side that is coming to town this weekend. This will certainly be the clash of titans that many people predicted the DCU-Dynamo match would be - the first meeting of these rivals comes nearly a third of the way through the season, with both sides near the top of the conference table.
Though they lost 1-0 to Seattle at home on a late goal by Djimi Traoré, SKC will undoubtedly get a boost from this week's return of Kei Kamara from a loan to Premier League side Norwich City. Kamara was substituted on for the final seventeen minutes of Wednesday's defeat, and there's every sign that he might indeed find himself starting here in Houston. Paulo Nagamura will be returning from his suspension, though lingering injury issues may keep Matt Besler and Benny Feilhaber off the pitch this weekend.
Houston is a bit more beat up, though they will certainly hope that they can ride the momentum of the week through to another three points at home. Ricardo Clark and Warren Creavalle have missed time from injuries, and Giles Barnes was substituted off the pitch just thirty-seven minutes (and one goal) into Wednesday's match. It's too early to say anything about his injury, but he may not be playing come Sunday evening.
Both sides will be playing their third match in eight days, and depth and fatigue will certainly be issues. If Barnes isn't able to go, the Dynamo do have more depth in midfield, and a few options up top in Jason Johnson and Brian Ching, both of whom saw service Wednesday night (Ching saw fifty-three minutes, coming in when Barnes was subbed off - it's highly doubtful that Dynamo supporters will see very much of him). Defense is a bit of a worry, especially if Creavalle isn't able to return. The backline has played the full ninety minutes of both matches, and at this point, there may not be much help coming from the bench.
The good thing, though, is that the Dynamo will be playing at home, in BBVA Compass Stadium. This venue is turning into one that opponents don't like to come to, and the record streaks are just a part of it. One of the many nicknames supporters have given the stadium is the Oven - and we're getting to the part of the year where the Texas heat and humidity start to become a big factor. These teams will be tired, and with temperatures expected to be in the 80s, it might not be a pretty sight, even to those used to playing under such conditions.
One thing is certain, though: this will be battle à outrance. It's pretty much accepted that the Dynamo and SKC are rivals, and you always step up your game when you play a rival. As I've mentioned elsewhere, these two sides have a history filled with close, hard-fought matches, and I would expect nothing different this Sunday. Peter Vermes and his side would like nothing more than to atone for a letdown at home with a win on the road, and it's up to Dominic Kinnear to field an XI that will deny them that opportunity. Records may have already been broken, but there's still a streak to protect - and extending it will be the Dynamo's task this weekend.