The Houston Dynamo will travel north of the border to face off against the Montreal Impact on Saturday at 6 PM Central. The match comes after a midweek game against W Connection on the island of Trinidad, and while fatigue may not factor in too much for some of the players - as the Dynamo fielded a mostly reserve squad, the roughly 2500 miles of distance traveled will surely leave some players in a different state of mind.
The big questions that Dynamo fans tend to be asking this time of year is are we primed for our usual late playoff push - the same kind of push that propelled the Dynamo into the MLS Cup the previous two years. The answer to that is really a matter of perspective. Our current drive since our early summer slump is 4-1-1 against league competition with the loss coming against Real Salt Lake, and 5-1-2 against all competition with the extra win against Stoke City and the draw at W Connection.
So what does all of this really mean? To me the Dynamo obviously are in a state of transition. They are getting results and points which has landed them in the last and final spot of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Sure, the Dynamo have a few games in hand - something many Sounder fans have echoed after their loss to us about their playoff picture, but that does not guarantee points and a higher spot up our Eastern Conference table. That means the next few games are crucial, and would really help define this stretch of the season as the turning point where things for the Dynamo begin to clicking.
The next 5 games the Houston Dynamo plays in the MLS are Eastern Conference teams: Montreal, Chicago, Columbus, NYRB, and Philly - 3 of those are above us in points, and 2 are trying to knock us out of a spot. Montreal over the last month and a half or so has struggled to get results the way it did so dominantly early in the season. Montreal currently sits in 3rd place in the Eastern Conference and is likely hungry to move up to a safer position.
While the Dynamo had a few regular starting players play the full stretch of the match against W Connection - Kofi Sarkodie, Jermaine Taylor, Tally Hall, and Andrew Driver - the Impact also played a CCL match in Guatamala against CD Heredia where they fell 1-0 with some starting level players logging heavy minutes as well. The Dynamo's schedule does not improve after this, but the additions of Calen Carr returning from injury will bring some relief up top.
Both defenses will have their hands full as the Dynamo duo up top, Will Bruin and Giles Barnes, are finally reconnecting and most importantly are finding the net. The Dynamo defense should also be wary of Marco Di Vaio who is only a single goal behind tying for the golden boot as well as the creative play of Felipe Martins, Patrice Bernier, and Justin Mapp all of whom are capable of playing clever through balls and making accurate long balls to other players. The defense and midfield for the Dynamo need to be accurate with their passing and possession to allow little time for these creative midfielders to do their work and feed Marco Di Vaio.
The Dynamo have never played well in Canada only earning 3 points once which was last year against Toronto FC. This has the potential for the midfielders and forwards to make this match a scoring fest, or tired legs and travel fatigue could make this a very slow game.
In the end, the Dynamo need a result at Stade Saputo in order to prove that they have turned things around and most importantly to increase the pressure on the clubs above them as well as put space between the clubs below in the playoff picture. Mental and physical exhaustion affect both sides, but the Dynamo go in with the extra burden of a lack of success on Canadian soil. A win would do more than push the Dynamo up to the top of the table (depending on results of other teams this week) - but it would alleviate to some degree whatever force that prevents them from winning against traditionally weaker Canadian sides on their soil.