With the midweek CONCACAF Champions League adventure behind us, it's time for the Houston Dynamo to turn their focus back to league play. It's another short turn around, but Saturday night, the Dynamo will be up north, playing the New England Revolution in another crucial late season fixture.
The Revs currently sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference - three points back of the fourth place Dynamo, and with a lead in goals scored, would jump them in the table with a win. Conversely, a result on the road in Gillette Stadium would enable the Dynamo to perhaps put some pressure on the clubs ahead of them in the race, to the point to which a win and favorable results in other matches would push them into third place. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
The Revs, of course, are a familiar foe throughout Dynamo history. They've traded off wins this season - though oddly enough, both clubs won on the road (a trend I don't mind continuing, to be honest). There've been red cards (Dimitry Imbongo and Bobby Boswell in the Revs' 2-0 win in Houston, Imbongo again in the Dynamo's 2-1 win in Foxboro), upsets, highlight reel goals - you name it, they've probably provided it. I expect little different on that end, but a few things have changed.
First off, the Dynamo have some momentum. They've won their last three matches, and they've done so in various styles - blowout, gritty and lucky. They're healthy - last Saturday's blowout of Chivas USA showed what they could do with their optimal starting XI - and they seem to be peaking at just the right time, as they are known to do late in the year.
You can see it in the last couple of matches. Servando Carrasco comes over in a trade, and 28 hours later he's subbed onto the pitch, ready to aid in a playoff push. Boniek Garcia comes back from a suspension and scores twice. Will Bruin and Giles Barnes both found the back of the net last week, and the set piece goals - something the Dynamo had been uncharacteristically lacking for much of the season - are slowly starting to come back.
To be sure, these are all just short trends at the moment - but they're trends in the right direction. Momentum has slowly been building, and it's up to the Dynamo to keep it going heading onto the turf at Foxboro, because the Revs will surely be ready and waiting. This match is every bit as important to them as it is to the Dynamo, and given the way the first two meetings went, one gets the feeling that this one could turn a bit ugly.
The fiery Imbongo will be waiting, as will Diego Fagundez, Jose Goncalves, Kelyn Rowe, and the rest of that talented (mostly) young roster. They'll also have the advantage of playing on more rest - though how much that will factor in is unknown, as the Dynamo did field mainly reserves Wednesday night. Still, every little advantage counts, from travel to turf, and it would be wrong to think that the Revs won't be looking to grab any advantage they can. It's what I'd do, were I in charge.
Because you can't forget: this is the race to the postseason. Eight clubs are left to battle for five spots. Someone (three someones, really) will be left out in the cold at the end of it all, and neither the Revolution nor the Dynamo want it to be them. This will be the battle à l'outrance I often mention, perhaps taken a bit too literally in this case.
I've mentioned it all, but I'll restate it. These are two clubs with a lot of history between them. They're in the thick of a playoff race where one single misstep could lead to disaster, and they're two clubs whose physical play could be the deciding factor, one way or the other. Knowing all this makes this Saturday night's match a must see event - is if we won't all be watching it anyway. Ninety minutes will determine this match, and possibly set the tone for the last month of the season. Here's hoping the Dynamo make it a good tone.