For coming off their first multi-goal victory, the Dynamo's performance against Montreal last weekend could hardly be considered comprehensive. With just 33% possession at BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston were able to find the net three times with impressive strikes while facing an Impact team with travel-worn legs. Now, the Dynamo will hit the road to face Eastern Conference's top team, DC United. Performance-wise, the Dynamo have fared surprisingly well on the road relative to previous seasons. Will that translate to the rare road victory?
Dynamo defender Raul Rodriguez sat out last weekend after suffering a nasty head wound in Seattle. According to Darrell Lovell, he was evaluated earlier in the week but no word yet on his availability. Boniek Garcia, after twisting his knee on Saturday, also sat out practices and may not be available.
DC United will be without several players including Finnish midfielder Markus Halsti, who continues to recover from a preseason injury. Defender Steve Birnbaum remains out with sprained ankle and his absence may be felt along the back line. Nick DeLeon, forward, is on his way to returning from injury and could be seen this weekend while forward Fabian Espindola will complete his six-game suspension this weekend and likely return in DC's next match.
Finally, Eddie Johnson looks close to an early retirement following the diagnosis of a heart condition. The forward has been out since preseason.
DC comes off a strong 2014 season and are off to a great start this year, rocketing up to first place in the East and looking to hold strong as their roster comes back from injury. Nick DeLeon could see his return this weekend, but with Chris Pontius and Michael Farfan, there may not be a need to rush DeLeon back from his hamstring tweak.
Perry Kitchen put in a 27-minute USMNT shift in San Antonio against Mexico on Wednesday so he should be clear to make a full-match run against Houston. Kitchen's solid defensive performances for DC have earned him minutes under Jurgen but his match last week against New York Red Bulls showcased his attack, where he netted twice in three shots in a 2-2 draw. Coming into the match against Houston, expect for Kitchen to be quiet on the statlines but a tough presence for Ricardo Clark and the rest of the midfield.
Speaking of which, if the Dynamo can weave through DC's defense, they'll deal with Bill Hamid. While Hamid was present in San Antonio this week, he didn't see the (barely recognizable) pitch and will be ready to go Saturday. Hamid's stats (.800 GAA, 22 Saves) rival Tyler Deric's as the pair are surely forefront contenders for Goalkeeper of the Year.
Three Goals and Still Looking for Answers
Owen Coyle seems keen to reward effort and this week's benefactor has to be Rob Lovejoy. The rookie put in a workhorse performance in his minutes against Montreal and was solely responsible for his goal, creating the chance out of nothing. Whether that translates to a start or perhaps an early substitution will be worth watching but could be a safe bet if the team goes into halftime losing or failing to click.
Lovejoy could be worth testing as we head closer to the summer's Gold Cup activities. With Giles Barnes out, the Dynamo need to find another avenue for their attack. Barnes has recorded 16 of the team's shots, good enough for a Top Ten in shots recorded throughout the league. With his likely absence upcoming, the Dynamo may find themselves struggling as they did during 2014's World Cup.
The Houston Dynamo travel to RFK Stadium in Washington DC to face DC United on Saturday, April 18th at 6:00PMCDT. The match can be seen on ROOT Sports and heard on 1560AM/850AM.