After almost a month of must-win games, the Dynamo could be forgiven for wanting a weekend off. But after a gratifying 3-1 win in KC they return home to another must-win game, and this time it’s even must-winnier. The only team below them in the Eastern Conference table is in town, and if Houston is going to make one of their patented late-season playoff runs, these are three points the Dynamo can’t afford to let slip away.
Thanks to the win against pantomime villain Aurelian Collin and SKC, the Dynamo remain 100% not dead yet*. But the injuries suffered by Hall and Bruin, along with the suspension of Sarkodie have the potential to blunt any momentum that might have been built. That can’t happen.
ROSTER CHALLENGES (WE'RE RUNNING OUT OF BODIES)
Since the game in KC (which we’ve dubbed the Bloodbath in the Breadbasket), most of the talk in Houston has been about Hall and his ruptured ACL, but he’s just one of Dom Kinnear’s many worries at the moment. He might not even be the most concerning - Tyler Deric is a capable stand-in and Hall hasn’t been at his best in a lot of games this season anyway.
The bigger problem is the loss of Bruin. Without him in the lineup the Dynamo will have to find new ways to attack the goal. As much as Dynamo fans are wont to criticize Bruin for his lack of creativity and for having a first touch the deftness of which makes Khal Drogo look like a ballerina, there’s no denying that he’s the fulcrum of the offense. And whether it’s because of his hard work and good positioning, or because the opposing defense gives him a gift, or because God just likes Will Bruin, he finds the net. He’s our leading scorer, and the focal point going forward. Who plays in his place? Cummings? Johnson? Neither fills his role exactly.
Then there’s the question of what to do with the back line. Sarkodie is suspended after picking up a yellow for pushing Benny Feilhaber.** Taylor is out, too. Houston’s options at the back seemingly decline by the minute. One of either Ashe or DMB could switch over to the right side with Brunner filling in for Taylor. Or they could switch to three at the back. Either way, Houston is stuck shuffling around a defensive unit that already has issues.
And because I’m what psychologists call "that annoying guy at the party who always has something negative to say," it should probably be noted that Boniek Garcia hasn’t been in top form since returning from the World Cup. It’s not exactly breaking news, but he looks leggy. While that’s totally understandable after his busy summer, if the playoffs are going to be in the cards, Garcia needs to find his feet.
The Dynamo have to replace at least 4 players tonight, one of whom is their leading scorer, another of whom is their fixture in the lineup goalkeeper, and one of their stars isn’t quite playing his best. I think that about covers it for the bad news.
But at least there’s some good news: Beasley is available, Cummings, too, and the Dynamo are really good at home.
THE IMPACT (NOT AS BAD AS THEY SEEM. NO, REALLY)
As far as the Impact go, they’re coming of a 2-0 win at Columbus. That win doesn’t look so definitive when you find out that they had less possession, less shots, less shots on target, and less corners. Montreal right back Hassoun Camara is suspended for a studs up challenge against Higuain. He was also fined, the amount of which was agreed upon via blind envelope in keeping with the front office’s updated guidelines. As the league leader in yellows, it’s not exactly out of character for Camara, but they’ll miss him. His back up is Eric Miller, a person I’ve never heard of and who frankly sounds made up.
Yes, Montreal is bottom of the conference, but they aren’t flat-out bad. Their new no. 10 Ignacio Piatta is magnificent. Since his arrival in August, they’ve won 3, tied 1 and lost 0. He scored a fantastic goal last weekend and he adds creativity, flair, and potency to their attack. That’s why some people call him the Montreal Messi.*** Or the Quebecoise Cruyff.**** Or Nacho Man Randy Savage.*****
His arrival also sort of coincides with an uptick in defensive form from the Impact. They’ve given up only 7 goals in the last 6.
So while Montreal may have dug themselves into a hole too deep to climb out of this season, they seem to be hitting their stride and looking to put the pieces together for next year. And this is the MLS, where any team can beat any other team on any given day.******
This is not the gimme it looks like on paper, but this is the kind of game the Dynamo need to win - injuries, suspensions, tired legs and all. We’re at home with our backs against the wall against the worst team in the East. Only 5 points separate 4th place and the Dynamo in 9th place.
There are 9 chances left to make up ground. This is one Houston cannot miss.
A FEW OTHER NOTES THAT GET LESS AND LESS PERTINENT AS YOU GO DOWN:
- The game is at 7:30. Set your VCR.
- Houston and Montreal have played 9 times and the home team has never lost. Only 3 away goals have been scored. For the record, that’s one more goal than there have been red cards in the series.
- Montreal hasn’t won a game away from home this season.
- Neither team has a player in the top ten in goals this season. The highest on the charts is Bruin, at 12th.
- The Dynamo scored two goals last weekend off of set pieces. They hadn’t scored off a set piece since early May.
- Marco Di Viao has been playing well for Montreal lately. Since the World Cup the 38 year old (that’s like 97 in soccer years) has scored 7 and added an assist.
- Houston Dynamo goals for vs goals against in 2014: 28-46
- Montreal Impact goals for vs goals against in 2014: 27-45
- Those two numbers are skewed by the fact that Houston has been so woeful away from home. Nevertheless, it seems like less separates these two teams than many Dynamo fans would feel comfortable admitting.
- It’s much harder to do opposition research on your opponent when all their fan blogs are in a foreign language. "L'Impact de Montréal bat le Crew de Columbus 2-0 grace à 2 buts d'Ignacio Piatti" you say? I’m just going to ignore you because this is America and I DON’T SPEAK CANADIAN.
- I’m listening to Drake’s new song ‘0 to 100/the Catch Up’ and it seems thematically apt. Maybe give it a listen, maybe don’t. I guess it depends on your feelings about Drake. Personally, my feelings are confusing. I mean, I don’t like Drake. But I find myself liking his songs more often than makes sense. Like ‘Marvin’s Room’ is incredible, but on the other hand he’s from Canada. My feelings toward Drake are messy and they change from moment to moment and teasing them apart into any sort of unified takeaway would be a whole other essay for a whole other day. But if MLS teams got to draft an honorary rappers, it comforts me to know that Toronto would get Drake and Houston would get Bun B.
*I wrote out a whole Monty Python scene with Brad Davis standing in for the dead body that’s not dead yet and Aurelian Collin playing the collector of dead bodies. But it got long. And convoluted. And needlessly complex. And really, there’s no improving on Monty Python.
***Nobody calls him this.
*****People may actually call him this, we have no evidence to the contrary.
******OK, maybe not Chivas.