After coping with dropped points on the road, the Houston Dynamo now fly to face the West's worst, Colorado Rapids, on Wednesday night. The second meeting between the two teams provides Houston a springboard to contend for the Western Conference's final playoff spot.
Following a weekend of results that didn't favor the Dynamo, Houston find themselves tied for 8th in the West. Three points ahead of the Dynamo are Seattle Sounders and San Jose Earthquakes, jockeying for the 6th spot. Houston does have a game in hand, but that only matters if they can start securing points in their last nine games.
Now as the team finds themselves outside of Denver, Houston has to ensure they head home on Thursday with three points.The Rapids are the only team in the league with a negative goal difference at home and if you're not able to beat a team with just six wins, then you're probably not capable of edging past a Wild Card round, either.
Colorado's central issues seem to stem from player management. Spending their offseason moving centerbacks in and out (not a major need), the Rapids ignored the dried-up attack that has produced a league-worst 22 goals. That excessive focus on defense has caused some promising attacking players to ride the bench, sparking widespread criticism of head coach Pablo Mastroeni's on-field tactics. One example is Dillon Serna, the third-year forward who has found the net three times despite playing under 500 minutes (5 starts total).
This should be good news for the Dynamo, as they're considerably less prone to dealing with the counter attack than with, say, Portland Timbers. Will Bruin, who notched a goal and assist this past weekend, has his third 10-goal season and could terrorize an older Rapids backline (the average age of defenders is 31). Any combination with Boniek (which worked incredibly well in Portland) or Barnes could open the scoring floodgates. This could also serve as a perfect opportunity to heavily involve Cubo Torres and boost his confidence with a goal.
The Dynamo defense, however, certainly needs DaMarcus Beasley back in rotation. Kofi Sarkodie struggled to defend in Portland while Sheanon Williams is trying to rediscover his terrific form that was displayed in his first two starts in orange. Having Raul Rodriguez back alongside David Horst provides some familiarity but, as Dynamo Theory writer Harrison Hamm points out, Houston is still prone to defensive collapses.
HOU: Jermaine Taylor (OUT; Quad tear)
Note: Ricardo Clark, DaMarcus Beasley, Giles Barnes have returned to training (via Darrell Lovell).
COL: Luis Solignac (OUT; Hamstring), Lucas Pittinari (OUT; Hamstring), James Riley (OUT; Concussion), Joseph Greenspan (OUT; Back injury)
The Houston Dynamo are in Colorado to face the Rapids at Dick's Sporting Goods Park at 8:00PM (CDT). The match is broadcast on ROOT Sports and can be heard on 1560AM or 850AM.