At last, the Houston Dynamo are on the verge of the playoffs. A win in New England on Saturday would edge them past Seattle and into 6th place - the last playoff spot. For one night, at least. The Sounders host Orlando City the next day but Houston can keep pace by collecting three points.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Houston has to check off "win" on their To-Do list first. The team has shown they're capable of as much in recent weeks but they'll be on the road, visiting an opponent who they have yet to face this season.
Houston is slowly getting their pieces back, giving Owen Coyle more options in the lineup. Tyler Deric, Ricardo Clark, Rob Lovejoy, Alex Lopez, and Taylor Hunter are all back in various stages of training but only Deric looks possible to play on Saturday.
Fans had a tough time swallowing backup goalkeeper Joe Willis' rough performance against San Jose, but the 27-year old doesn't make matches like that a habit. The team should be in secure hands if he's needed in goal again.
In truth, the Dynamo aren't hurting much from the injury bug. A well-built roster during this season has provided for plenty of talent particularly in the midfield and the attack. With Nathan Sturgis back from a red card suspension, the Dynamo could revert to their two-DM midfield to help stifle a relentless Revolution charge.
New England are dangerous and the Houston backline that has performed so well in recent matches can't afford to allow a drop in quality. The Revs have four players that are significant contributors to the team in Charlie Davies (9 goals), Lee Nguyen (5 goals, 4 assists), Kelyn Rowe (4 goals, 6 assists), and Teal Bunbury (4 goals, 4 assists). That kind of production across the forward line is rare in today's MLS and is a serious threat to the Dynamo's momentum.
In a way, the Dynamo are also a threat to their own momentum, too. Despite their favorable road record (2W, 5L, 4D), Houston has seen the referee's red card in each of their previous two away matches (Kofi Sarkodie, Nathan Sturgis). With the defense being truly the most vital aspect of Saturday's match, those facing the Revolution blitz must keep a cool head.
MATCHES TO WATCH
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS at SPORTING KANSAS CITY (SAT, 8:00PM): Two West heavyweights battle it out. Houston have no hope of catching Vancouver but if SKC comes up with zero, then they could be within striking distance if Houston can continue to climb.
PORTLAND TIMBERS at REAL SALT LAKE (SAT, 9:00PM): This one has HUGE implications for the Dynamo. Portland are currently five points ahead and, if Houston finds themselves in sixth, then the Timbers are the next target. RSL, on the other hand, are just two points behind the Dynamo. If Houston can't get it done and RSL does, then the two will swap spots in the battle for the No. 6.
ORLANDO CITY at SEATTLE SOUNDERS (SUN, 4:00PM): Did I say the last one had HUGE implications? This one is bigger. Seattle has been on a downward trend for a few weeks now and if they can't find their footing, then Orlando might earn a victory. That would give Houston prime position to take the sixth spot. Seattle's new defender, Panama's Roman Torres, won't be quite ready to go just yet making this a great opportunity for the Dynamo.
The Houston Dynamo travel to face New England Revolution on Saturday, August 15th at 6:30PM (CDT) in Gilette Stadium. The match will be broadcast on ROOT Sports, 1560AM, and 850AM.