Despite all the early season troubles, it would appear the Houston Dynamo are finally capable of achieving something in the final third. Entering into Saturday night's home match against the San Jose Earthquakes, the team in orange have found the net 28 times - behind only the West's top four teams (Vancouver, Dallas, LA, and Kansas City).
Houston now plunges into the final third of the season, needing to recover lost points if they aim to breach the playoffs. Currently sitting in the 8-spot, Houston are a point behind Real Salt Lake and four off sixth-place Seattle. Draws won't do much to help the team anymore and, at home, wins are critical with just six matches at BBVA remaining.
That said, Houston clawed their way into a point at Kansas City last weekend in a highly physical match that's become characteristic of the rivalry. Injuries, red cards, and suspensions highlighted a controversial finish that saw a handful of Dynamo players finish the match with knocks.
Ricardo Clark, immediately after notching the equalizer, pulled up on his hamstring and is expected to be out for a few weeks. Potentially joining him are Will Bruin and Tyler Deric who have nursed small injuries throughout the week but could be available as game-time decisions. Boniek Garcia, who has missed the previous seven matches due to a combination of injury and national team duty, looks to finally be available for selection. Lastly, Erick Torres could see a starting role soon as his fitness improves and maybe gets a look on Saturday if Bruin is unable to go.
Quakes coach Dom Kinnear continues to struggle finding answers among the absences of Designated Player Innocent and Steven Lenhart - both players have potentially season-ending injuries. Defender Clarence Goodson can be considered questionable after missing last weekend's matchup with Portland due to a leg injury.
The Dynamo defensive line consisting of DaMarcus Beasley, Raul Rodriguez, David Horst, and Sheanon Williams looks to probably get another run together while Joe Willis may feature in goal if Deric has not recovered. Given how they performed against Los Angeles (albeit with AJ Cochran in place of Beasley), the Dynamo may be favored against an attack that boasts Chris Wondolowski and Matias Perez Garcia.
But after four losses in the last five matches, time is beginning to run out and Dom Kinnear does have options off the bench - namely, Tommy Thompson. The forward featured in the MLS Homegrown match two weeks ago and has seen an upswing with occasional USMNT appearances as well. Kinnear still largely keeps the 19-year old to the bench but make no mistake; he has a talent and has proven time and again that he can be tough to handle. Even if he enters late in the game, Houston could face a difficult late push by San Jose. Getting a few goals early on may make for a less anxious finish.
MATCHES TO WATCH
Here are a few hand-picked selections from around MLS this weekend that could have implications on where the Dynamo end up in the standings.
Columbus @ Colorado (Saturday, 8:00PM CDT) - A Rapids win could put them breathing down Houston's neck.
RSL @ Vancouver (Saturday, 9:00PM CDT) - If Houston beats San Jose, then they'll leap over RSL for 7th as long as Vancouver wins or draws.
Seattle @ Los Angeles (Sunday, 3:00PM CDT) - Gotta root for the Galaxy in this match as a blank for Seattle keeps the Dynamo within striking distance for the final playoff spot.
The Dynamo host San Jose at BBVA Compass Stadium in their third and final matchup of the year on Saturday night. You can find it on ROOT Sports at 8:00PM CDT or listen in on 1560 AM/850 AM.