Houston will be playing league lagging Chicago on their home turf in what is the start of a rough couple months of road matches. Chicago is struggling in multiple facets but is hosting a Dynamo team which has rarely found success on the road the last few years.
Chicago’s struggles are many and various. Holding down last place in MLS with a meager 7 pts they have faced a goal shortage to the tune of 8 goals in 10 matches, including two outings without a single shot on target. Luckily for the Fire they should see the full return of forward David Accam, though his presence alone is likely far from the solution they need. The team’s leading goal scorer last year has missed several games due to injury but returned for a half during the club’s last outing against the New England Revolution. Though the Fire have struggled they certainly have not let any opponent off easy, keeping each game but one within a single score. The defense seems to have stepped up by only allowing 13 goals on the year. How much of that is due to defensive prowess and how much is due to opponents letting up after notching the go-ahead score is up for debate, but regardless they certainly won’t make it easy on the Dynamo attack.
Houston, coming off a solid pair of home appearances, has built some steam ahead of a June and July that will largely be spent away from home. The club doubtless will need to earn some points while on the road, games they historically have been deficient in. There will be no better chance during this stretch than this weekend against their fellow 10th place team. Sitting just 6 pts behind their latest victim in the west, Real Salt Lake, the Dynamo have shown steady improvement since a devastating loss to the LA Galaxy in April. The strength has been built from the base with Ricardo Clark and Alex Lima layered above David Horst and Agus. The hustle of Clark and Alex is making it troublesome for opposing playmakers to get an uncontested look into the box. Horst and Agus, being the big and aggressive center defenders that they are, have been doing a fine job of shutting down the attack near the goal. The midfield as a whole has certainly stepped up their game, increasing valuable possession, making more accurate passes, and continuing to push and create goal scoring opportunities. Chaco Maidana has begun to make his presence felt again, Giles Barnes is back to doing his thing on the left wing and also scoring a sweet goal or two, and Wenger...can’t say enough about this guy. Persistence and a bit of finesse. Dude is good. Cubo as well. The team has certainly performed better when he has gotten the start.
Though several key players have stepped up the most important member of the team in the last two wins has been Hustle. It seems opponents are simply beat back by the effort put forth. Houston has got to go into this road environment with a home field advantage on the mind. Even a single point in a draw may be troublesome as the other two points will need to be made up during the difficult coming months. Tyler Deric should be back in goal, which is
always usually a good thing. Will Bruin has shown that he will work as hard as ever when coming on as a sub. Looks like all Owen Coyle needs to do is get the right crew on the field and not let the lackadaisical attitudes rear their ugly heads again.