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Houston travels to New Jersey to tame the Red Bulls

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Thanks to a little help from Chicago, the Dynamo can make a real push this weekend if they can overcome a difficult New York squad.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

In case you hadn't heard, Philadelphia Union keeper Rais M'Bolhi gifted the Dynamo last night. With his team scoring at the 88', M'Bolhi sent a horrible clearance into the feet of Chicago's Robert Earnshaw. A skillfull chip later, and the Union have put a serious dent in their playoff run with three games to go.

Chicago stealing those two points also gives Houston enough room to make a statement this weekend against New York. In light of reports surrounding the future absences of Hondurans Boniek Garcia and Luis Garrido, the Dynamo will only be happy with three points Saturday night. They'll be going into Red Bull Arena where New York has kept a command on the final playoff spot with 41 points amid what is quickly becoming an Eastern Conference bloodbath. Houston remains in 8th with 36 points and a game in hand but, with a win, will find themselves directly in the thick of it along with New York, Toronto FC (40), and Philadelphia (39).

New York hosts the Dynamo following a brutal 4-0 blowout at the hands of LA Galaxy last Sunday evening. That match came on the heels of a midweek elimination from the CONCACAF Champions League in El Salvador. To say the Red Bulls have been tired is an understatement after facing 7 matches in 23 days and putting plenty of travel on its players. These compact minutes have taken their toll on the Red Bulls roster, seeing attacking threats Lloyd Sam and Ambroise Oyongo fall to hamstring injuries. Their absences were a chief reason that Landon Donovan and the Galaxy were able to carve through New York so swiftly.

Having employed the 4-2-3-1 formation so effectively in recent matches (Red Bulls are 3-1-2 in their last six), the likely return of Sam against Houston will allow New York to produce a more cohesive team with speedy threats. Having Lloyd Sam and the nightmarish Golden Boot leader Bradley Wright Phillips (24 goals this season, 5 of which against Houston) will require the Dynamo's David Horst and AJ Cochran, who continue to settle in together, to be on the same page all night in what is sure to be a difficult physical and mental test.

Lloyd Sam's return could also signal the rejoining of New York's defensive midfield between Eric Alexander and Dax McCarty. The two have proven to be effective as an obstacle to opposing teams but no Oyongo (who continues to nurse his hamstring) could expose the left side of New York. Pushing Kofi Sarkodie and Boniek up the right midfield should overwhelm Oyongo's replacement or cause one of the McCarty/Alexander duo to break from the center of the pitch, exposing more holes for Ricardo Clark or Brad Davis to exploit. Considering the adept wide play the Dynamo utilized against Chicago, Houston should be up to the task.

And once the ball is ready to send into the box, New York will have to find ways to defend without Jamison Olave, who picked up a yellow card accumulation suspension for this match. New York's defensive depth may be a question mark, as well, with Olave's replacement likely to be either a rookie or a defender coming off a failed CCL campaign.

The Dynamo, however, seem to finally find a defensive combination that works. The midseason miscues are beginning to fade and certainly a second consecutive shutout helps. Last week's 2-0 defeat of Chicago puts our season total to 9 shutouts, tied for second place in the league (DC United has 11). Jermaine Taylor, who has been out the last month with a concussion, does not seem likely to return so AJ Cochran will probably continue to work in tandem with Horst in the center of defense.

Even if the speedy Wright-Phillips or Sam get through the defense, Tyler Deric has proven more than capable minding the net, posting two Save-of-the-Week candidates in previous weeks. Deric will need to continue his run of performances against the crafty skill of New York midfielders Tim Cahill and Thierry Henry, as well. With the Dynamo defense finally clicking, a sound game against New York will go a long way with difficult matches looming.

Finally, it appears Will Bruin may be ready to make a return this weekend. The striker has been out for nearly a month with a mid-leg sprain and has rejoined full training this week. Bruin may be eyeing a start but insists that he wants to come back only if he's at 100%. In lieu of that, he and the rest of the coaching staff feel confident in the abilities of Omar Cummings, who has stepped into the position quite ably. Having an unpredictability in our forward formation with Bruin being a target man and Cummings being a quick attacker could help to rack the mind of RBNY coach Mike Petke as he picks his squad for Saturday night.

Outcomes
WIN - Three points puts us where we need to be going into our last four matches and right back in the discussion.
DRAW - One point will have the Dynamo relying heavily on other results. It's not death but it's close to it.
LOSS - Not quite out but would likely mean the Dynamo need to win all four remaining games of the year. A tall task without Boniek and Garrido for half of them.

Other Matches to Watch
New England vs. Columbus (6:30PM on MLS Live)
Los Angeles vs. Toronto FC (9:30PM on MLS Live)

The Dynamo travel to New York to take on the Red Bulls at 5:00PM CST on Saturday, October 4th. The match can be seen on NBC Sports Network.

UPDATE

There is some RBNY drama that has sparked up this afternoon. Whether or not any of it carries weight will be seen tomorrow night. According to Empire of Soccer, Cahill's decision to prioritize Club over Country in upcoming friendly matches has led to rumors that he might be benched against the Dynamo.