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Matchday Preview 21: Dynamo vs. Columbus Crew

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A little over two months ago, a Houston Dynamo side depleted by injuries, suspensions and international absences went up to Ohio and played the Columbus Crew to a 1-1 draw. The two sides meet again Saturday night, but will a Dynamo side near full strength be able to take all three points at home?

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Well, Dynamo fans, it's that time of year again. August is upon us, and with it come the dog days of summer. I've mentioned elsewhere how the race for the playoffs has already heated up, and we're at the point in the season where the schedule will do so as well. Put I get ahead of myself - that's a post for another day. For the moment, the concerns of the Houston Dynamo (and their supporters) should be with the Columbus Crew. Fresh off their change in ownership, the Crew come to visit BBVA Compass Stadium at 7 pm local time Saturday evening in the second meeting between the two sides this year.

Their last meeting was a 1-1 draw in Columbus on 1 June, but there's not really that much that can be taken from that match in preparation for this one. Why is that, you may ask? It was in the middle of what I will generously call "patch and kitchen sink" time for the Dynamo - that point where between injuries, suspensions and international callups, the Dynamo were fielding a patchwork XI. Jason Johnson was starting - in the midfield. Ricardo Clark was playing centerback. Eric Brunner collided heads with Dominic Oduro and was replaced by Anthony Arena (in what would be his only appearance in league play so far this season).

There were other differences, of course, but they're beside the point. Aside from Andrew Driver's ACL (still no news yet, as far as I know) and injuries to Arena, Omar Cummings, and Brian Ching, the Dynamo will be at full strength. Will Bruin is back after winning a gold medal in the Gold Cup (where he saw exactly zero minutes), and you have to wonder whether or not the fact that he hasn't played in a match since before the tournament started will simply prolong the slump he was in when he got called in to the national team. Driver's injury early on against Chicago meant that Brad Davis had to return from his injury a bit earlier than anyone expected, though his play there (and for the first half of the MLS All Star Game) leads me to believe that if he's not yet back to 100%, he's close to it, which is a good thing. After all, we're going to want all hands on deck in the coming weeks.

But again, I'm getting ahead of myself. The gist of what I've said so far means that I'm not going to do much extrapolation from the match on 1 June, because this will be a completely different test. Instead of facing a patchwork Dynamo side on the road, like they did two months ago, the Crew will be facing a Dynamo XI near full strength - and do so here in Houston. Bruin will be in the fold, as will Davis. Boniek Garcia has looked better since his return from duty with Honduras, and the continuity in the back four has led to much better play on that end of the pitch, as well.

Everyone has been bemoaning the low number of goals scored (23, more than only DC United and Toronto FC in the East), but even with that low number, they've still kept a positive differential - the 20 goals the Dynamo have allowed in league play are second in the conference to New England's 19. Now, I'm not too thrilled over not scoring many, but it's a lot easier to take when you're not conceding many, either. Scoring goals will, of course, help when it comes to any tiebreakers that may be needed, but points help more - and not conceding goals makes getting points more likely.

Columbus may be sitting eighth in the East, but they're still only seven points back with about a third of the season left to play. They'll need help, that's for certain, but it's much too soon to count them out of the playoff race. And even if we could, that doesn't mean that the Dynamo can just sit back and take it easy. Remember what I said last season around this time: the playoff race is a charge à l'outrance - a fight to the end, with quarter neither offered nor accepted. And unfortunately, the Dynamo are currently sitting on the outside looking in - though they have a match in hand on four of the five sides ahead of them (only Montreal have played fewer) - so every point they can grab is needed.

That's why Saturday night is so important. BBVA Compass Stadium should be filled with Dynamo supporters ready to cheer their side to victory. Yes, it's hot. Yes, it'll be a fight - after all, to quote a movie enjoyed by several of us at Dynamo Theory, "you don't get points for trying." The Columbus Crew are going to come in and play as best they can, just as Chicago did, and it'll be up to the Dynamo to play well enough to earn all three points. With the heat forecasted to be in the mid-nineties and the humidity turned up as well (you know, normal weather for August in Houston), it should prove to be a scorcher both in the stands and on the pitch. I was never much of a fan of the nickname, but this is when BBVA Compass truly does become "The Oven" - and it's hoped that when the ninety minute cooking time is up, the result is a Dynamo victory.