As I remarked earlier in the week, the race to the playoffs, like the weather here in South Texas, is starting to heat up. This Sunday, the Houston Dynamo escape a bit of that heat when they travel to Harrison, New Jersey to play the New York Red Bulls in a clash between two Eastern Conference clubs trying to change their recent fortunes.
A look at the conference tables would tell you that both the Red Bulls and the Dynamo are in good shape at this point in the season. A results chart, however, might tell you a different story - the Dynamo (as we all know) are winless in six matches since 8 May, and the Red Bulls haven't won in three matches since 19 May.
These are two teams with plenty of offensive firepower - Will Bruin has generated a lot of attention in just his third season, and though he's in the twilight of his career, Theirry Henry is still one of the legends of the game. Tim Cahill, Dax McCarty, Giles Barnes, Andrew Driver and several others all have a knack for finding the back of the net - and yet recently, neither of these teams has been able to do so enough to win.
The Dynamo's struggles (to the tune of just two goals over that six match winless streak) are well noted, and many supporters may be salivating at facing another side in the midst of a slump. That is an attitude I would advise against taking. While it's true that both clubs have slipped from the heights they seemed to be at earlier in the season, they are still forces to be reckoned with.
The Red Bulls will be getting back Cahill, Juninho and Jamison Olave from various absences - Cahill was on international duty while Juninho and Olave were sitting out suspensions. Boniek Garcia has returned to training this week, and while he's listed as questionable, it's not unlikely that we'd see the Honduran midfielder start. Brad Davis, on the other hand, might be out - though he is also listed as questionable, it's probably better to be safe than sorry where he's concerned.
This will be the last match that Bruin and Corey Ashe play for the Dynamo before the leave to join the US National Team for what could be a month of Gold Cup play, and you get the feeling that both players would love to show up to that camp on a high note. Ashe's play has been fairly solid, though Bruin would undoubtedly like to break the scoring slump he's been in lately.
It might be a tough task - the Dynamo haven't scored at Red Bull Arena since 2 April 2011 (they were shut out in both visits last season) - but you have to believe that they're ready to end this slump. This will be their only visit to Harrison this season, and I get the feeling that if they're able to leave with at least a point on Sunday night, it'll be a big boost of confidence heading into a vital stretch of the season.