With a 32 game home unbeaten streak on the line, the Houston Dynamo return home for a Saturday night encounter with the Vancouver Whitecaps on March 23. The 7:30p.m. match-up features one the most potent attack attacks in Vancouber against a team that has one of the top keepers in MLS play last yaer.
For Houston it will be an uphill battle as three key players are missing due to international call-ups. Team captain Brad Davis is with the USMNT, while midfielder Oscar Boniek-Garcia is with his Honduras teammates and defender Jermaine Taylor suits up with Jamaican squad.
The Dynamo enter the match having surrendered three goals to FC Dallas in their last outing but even more disturbing is the way the goals were scored. Each of the goals came off of set pieces which is totally uncharacteristic of a Houston squad. Despite that thought the Dynamo are not without capable and proven replacements. On defense Dominic Kinnear can replace Taylor with second year pro Warren Creavalle or choose between veteran defenders Eric Brunner Mike Chabala. Each brings his own set of skills to the table.
Creavalle has a physical defender has improved with each outing and looks ready to take his place on the backline.
Brunner is just a season removed from leading his former team, the Portland Timber, in minutes (2,795) and games played with 32 including 31 starts.
Chabala brings the comfortablity of having played in the Dynamo system from 2006 to 2011 before being traded to Portland.
In the midfield, Kinnear has choices as well. First is the possibility of moving Giles Barnes back from the front where he has teamed with Will Bruin this season. The Englishman has shown he is more than up to the task of playing anywhere on the field. In addition to moving Barnes back, look for Scotsman Andrew Driver to get his first start in orange. Driver has demonstrated a quck acclimation to the Houston weather and looks to be healthy. His energy as a sub has helped the Dynamo already this season. He led the Houston comeback with the team's first goal in Dallas this past Sunday. The door may also be open for Luiz Camargo or Alex Dixon, the Atascocita High School graduate to see some time on the pitch.
If Barnes moves back to midfield that could open the door for Cam Weaver to get a start up front with Will Bruin (questionable with hamstring strain) or maybe even Omar Cummings who seems to be ready to step and see some action. If Cummings and Bruin can't go, its possible Jason Johnson could see some action.
One good thing is that the combinations and versatility at Kinnear's disposal are endless. This is one of the strengths of the 2013 Dynamo.
Vancouver on the otherhand doesn't have quite as many questions to answer. Yes they will be wthout the servces of striker Kenny Miller but Daigo Kobayashi, Nigel Reo-Coker and Darren Mattocks (2 goals in last meeting between these two teams) the offense will be as potent as ever.
Can the Dynamo offense take advantage of a Vancouver defense is still coping with the loss of team captain and defender Jay DeMerit will be a key question in the search for a victory.
Although all good things come to an end it's not likely that the home unbeaten streak that began on June 20, 2011 ends on Saturday against Vancouver. First, the Whitecaps will be hitting the road for the first time this season and if last season is any comparison Vancouver isn't very good away from BC Place. The posted just three road wins last season.
Brian Ching may have said it best when he told houstondynamo.com writer Tom;
" I think they're playing well. Having said that we're a confident team especially here at home. We always come to play - we know what's on the line with the home record," he said.
"We're not over-confident, we know we have to put the work in, we know they're a good team - but if we approach the game the right way I think we have a great opportunity to win."