The last four weeks haven't been kind to the Houston Dynamo. Houston is hemorrhaging goals -- nine in three matches --and struggling to score goals of their own outside of the four against Sporting Kansas City. Here's hoping the Dynamo can turn it around against a surging Toronto FC team that finally gets to play at home.
Midfielder Nathan Sturgis will miss another match because of the dislocated shoulder suffered against FC Dallas and is out for the foreseeable future. The rest of the squad should be available for the match.
Four players are listed as out: D Clement Simonin (right knee surgery), D Steven Caldwell (Achilles injury), GK Joe Bendik (plantar fascia strain) and D Mark Bloom (quadriceps strain).
Caldwell and Simonin have combined for three starts this season but neither player played since March. Bendik missed TFC's last two matches after a breakout performance against Orlando City a few weeks ago. Backup keeper Chris Konopka delivered a shutout against the Philadelphia but ended the match with one save. Bendik's absence will have the biggest impact on this match.
Everyone should know Toronto's big three by now. Sebastian Giovinco is the heart of the TFC attack right now. Four goals and three assists is about as good as it gets in Major League Soccer right now. Jozy Altidore also has four goals that came in two different multi-goal games. Toronto will look to control possession in its first home match of the season, so Michael Bradley will have a large impact on this match even if he doesn't end up on the score sheet. Look for him to help dictate the flow of the game and, depending on how this team takes the field, to get forward and supply Giovinco and Altidore with chances. I expect Houston to plug the midfield in this game to stop Toronto from overloading Houston's back four.
What the Dynamo need to do to win:
Two things can help the Dynamo take three points on the road: First, shut down the possessive duo of Giovinco and Bradley. If Owen Coyle goes with Ricardo Clark and Luis Garrido again, the two have to make it a priority to cut off the midfield-forward combo. That means swarming Bradley when he's on the ball and keeping Giovinco off it. Clark's aggressive style could come in handy with keeping the Atomic Ant from creating scoring chances all over the Houston back line, which has had some spotty performances in recent matches.
Second, attack the flanks. TFC's looked the weakest down the sides and that happens to be the Dynamo's strength. Brad Davis and Oscar Boniek Garcia can control the game on the outside, with plenty of support from DaMarcus Beasley and Kofi Sarkodie, two attack-minded fullbacks. The blueprint to winning this one could be playing just like FC Dallas played against Houston: long balls and counter-attacking down the side.
One thing to watch:
Who's behind Giles Barnes? Brad Davis played more centrally last week and the jury's out on whether or not that worked. Alex Lopez can play as a creative midfielder, so there is a chance he gets the chance to do it against Toronto. Clark had some success in this role for a two-game stretch but most likely plays in a defensive duo with Garrido again. And there's always Will Bruin. Keep a watch on what happens in the middle of the pitch.
The Dynamo play Toronto Sunday at 4 p.m. CDT on ESPN 2.