The Gold Cup is officially underway and that means that the Houston Dynamo now embark on as many as five matches without a handful of their starters. The first of that extended series of matches comes on Friday night against San Jose Earthquakes at the brand new Avaya Stadium.
Giles Barnes, Jermaine Taylor, Boniek Garcia, and Luis Garrido are on International duty so that means that Houston will continue to rely on the abilities of Alex Lopez, Leonel Miranda, and Alex Lima. For their part, San Jose are also without forward Chris Wondolowski who is out on national team duty. Wondolowski leads the team in goals with nine (and it's not even close).
The Quakes are coming off a 1-0 defeat in Portland on Sunday. In that match, head coach Dominic Kinnear employed ex-Dynamo Mark Sherrod but wasn't able to get his offense clicking as they were outshot 23-7. Along with the missing Wondolowski, the Quakes also dealt with an injured Matias Perez Garcia. His status remains a question for Friday night.
That could leave San Jose to host Houston without all three of their Designated Players (Innocent has been out since May with a torn meniscus). This would be a great leg up for Houston against a team that has posted recent victories over Western powerhouses LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders.
The Dynamo come off a 1-1 home draw with league cellar-dwellers Chicago in a match where Houston was unable to get a rhythm going throughout the night. Alex Lima scored against his former team but late substitutions that brought Leonel Miranda and Mauro Manotas into the fold wasn't enough to find the net again.
Defensively, the Dynamo will see some shifting with Jermaine Taylor out. That leaves a spot along what's likely to be a back line of Raul Rodriguez, David Horst, and DaMarcus Beasley. Kofi Sarkodie is the most likely candidate to see some time but AJ Cochran has found minutes in the Open Cup and could more naturally slot into a center position if Owen Coyle wants Rodriguez on the right.
Against San Jose, the Dynamo will face a team trying to fill slots left by injury and call-ups. This could provide Houston with an opportunity to control possession with most of the Quakes' attack out.
But it won't be easy. Central defender Clarence Goodson has been effective for San Jose in the last several weeks and a Houston team also missing attack-minded players will need to find ways to beat keeper David Bingham. The Quakes keeper has a solid goals against average this season at a flat 1.00, making for a difficult set of hands to beat.
The Dynamo kick off in San Jose at Avaya Stadium on Friday, July 10th at 10:00PM (CDT). The match will be broadcast on UniMás with Spanish and English commentary (check the SAP button on your remote). It can be heard on the radio at 1560 AM and 850 AM.