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Houston hosts rival from Frisco, TX

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In-state rivals FC Dallas will travel to Houston on Friday for the first of three season matchups to determine who gets to take home El Capitan.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

[Note: The kickoff time for this game has previously been listed as 8:00PM CDT. The new kickoff time is 7:00PM CDT to allow for a national broadcast slot.]

From one rivalry onto the next. The Dynamo have finally shifted their focus away from a wild and unfortunate finish against Sporting Kansas City to their in-state rivals, FC Dallas. While this rivalry maybe hasn't been as intense as the one between Houston and Kansas, FC Dallas have staked ownership claim over the coveted El Capitan cannon since 2013. With the Houston offense finally clicking, Friday night will be the Dynamo's first opportunity to register a win in their three-game rivalry series with their I-45 neighbors.

Absences

Nothing new in the Dynamo camp. Boniek Garcia continues dealing with a knee twist and is now listed as "probable" for Friday night. Fans could expect to see him come off the bench if he isn't quite ready for the start.

Dallas veteran defender Stephen Keel suffered a minor injury setback a couple weeks ago, requiring an additional procedure on his foot that was operated on last December. Fellow center defender and captain Matt Hedges has dealt with a head blow suffered in training but looks as if he may be available in Houston tomorrow.

Finally, the driving force of Dallas' attack, Blas Perez, will sit out following a red card in their match against Colorado last week. FC Dallas filed an appeal for the card but the independent panel has rejected the request, signaling the likely start of forward Tesho Akindele.

Key Players

With Perez out, FC Dallas will not only be looking at Akindele but also relying heavily on Fabian Castillo.  The Colombian's speed and skill is a lot to handle down the wing and, with the way Houston's minimal possession game has played out, sure to run the Dynamo wings ragged all night. Castillo does have an issue with finishing, but is very capable in setting up attacks. Kofi Sarkodie will have his work cut out for him but, relative to the rest of the back line, is possibly best equipped to handle Castillo.

Zach Loyd has quietly been having a solid season this year in Dallas' defense. The 27-year old has stepped in with Matt Hedges out and led the back line and continues to be an immense help in scattering opposition attack. If Hedges returns (as he's expected), then the center tandem of Loyd-Hedges will be tough for Giles Barnes to crack.

Goalkeeper Chris Seitz has put in 7 starts for FC Dallas but was relegated to the bench in favor of ex-Chivas USA keeper, Dan Kennedy who did not disappoint against Colorado. In fact, Kennedy (80%Save, 1GA) played so well that he may have made his case for 90 minutes in Houston. The keeper has been battling back spasms over the last few weeks but now that he's found his way to goal, Dallas could very possibly continue with him for the long haul.

Plugging Gaps

In the excitement of last weekend's match, it may have been easy to miss that the Dynamo conceded as many goals in that 90-minute span as they have all season. Dropping from first in Goals Conceded to tenth, Houston is left with many defensive questions moving forward, regardless of the red card outcome.

One bright spot for Houston has been Nathan Sturgis, who has been the main conduit for Houston's minimal possession. Sturgis, who is quite adept in the air, is responsible for about 12% of the team's passing, placing him 16th among league leaders like Michael Bradley (14.3%), Mix Diskerud (13.8%), and Benny Feilhaber (11.6%). His continued play has relegated Luis Garrido to the bench (not a bad problem to have) and it's possible that Sturgis could solidify his place, particularly during this summer's Gold Cup.

Finally, Brad Davis got rolling on offense, notching two assists, while Giles Barnes (2), Will Bruin, and Raul Rodriguez got on the score sheet. Confidence is a big part of scoring and it's hard to point out many flaws in Houston's attack last week. Moving forward, one hopes that the goal tallies rack up and players like Bruin and Alex Lopez (who has impressed in two consecutive matches) can find the net.

The Dynamo host South Oklahoma's FC Dallas on Friday, May 1st, 2015 at 7:00PM CDT in BBVA Compass Stadium. The match is part of a Univision Deportes double-header and can may also be seen in English using the SAP button on your remote. Tickets are still available at HoustonDynamo.com.