Scouting report: Houston

Union writer Kevin Kinkead breaks down the Dynamo

Houston scouting

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Dominic Kinnear and his Houston Dynamo are pulling double duty at the moment, navigating a tricky Champions League group stage while battling for an MLS playoff position at the same time.

For the savvy coach? So far, so good.
Kinnear's club occupies the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. At 46 points, the Dynamo are fifth in the east, with a 12-7-10 mark.
Through the month of September, Houston is 2-1-1 in all competitions. A 1-1 draw at Kansas City on Sept. 14 was followed with a convincing home 4-0 home win over Champions League club CD FAS on Thursday.
Philadelpha is 2-3-2 all time against Houston. The Union lost this season's previous meeting with the Dynamo 2-1 at the new BBVA Compass Stadium.
Dynamo Attack
One of the bigger storylines in MLS this season is the new 4-3-3 that Houston implemented about halfway through the season.
Kinnear's club played the three pronged attack to perfection in a July unbeaten stretch that really turned the Dynamo into a serious contender.
Houston stayed with the 4-3-3 against Kansas City, with Mac Kandji and Oscar Boniek Garcia running on opposite sides of point man and leading goal scorer Will Bruin.
The midfield featured veteran danger man Brad Davis on the left, with Ricardo Clark centrally and Luiz Camargo on the right.
Kinnear reverted back to the 4-4-2 for the midweek game against CD FAS, using a number of bench players to keep his starters fresh.
On Wednesday, Brian Ching and Cam Weaver spearheaded an attack that included Colin Clark on the right and new signing Giles Barnes on the left. Adam Moffatt and Je-Vaughn Watson paired up together in the central midfield.
Maybe the scary thing about Houston, is that they can play successfully in both formations. They have the playmakers to keep the ball on the ground and play an attacking 4-3-3. But they still have the big guys to play old fashioned Dynamo "set-piece" soccer. As long as Weaver, Ching, and Davis are available, they're a threat on dead balls.
Dynamo Defense
Corey Ashe, the Dynamo's 2011 All-Star left fullback missed Wednesday's game but returned to training on Friday. Center half Jermaine Taylor is questionable for this game.
It's likely that Andre Hainault lines up at center back next to Bobby Boswell. That was the pairing Kinnear rolled out against CD FAS. Warren Creavalle should slot in at left back if Ashe is ruled out. Sophomore Kofi Sarkodie is able to slot in at right back where Hainault normally plays.
First choice goalkeeper Tally Hall got a midweek rest against FAS, but will be back in action between the pipes on Sunday.
Notes:
Philadelphia is currently on a three game losing streak against the Dynamo. Prior to last year's playoff series, the Union had not lost a single game to Houston. But back to back losses in the post-season, coupled with the June loss at BBVA Compass Stadium, have turned the team's 2-0-2 mark into a 2-3-2 mark.
Geoff Cameron, now at Stoke City, played in the middle of the park in the June 30 matchup between these clubs. Ricardo Clark had not yet rejoined his former club. That game at BBVA Compass Stadium was also Boniek Garcia's debut in a Houston shirt.
For the Union, Michael Farfan returns to the lineup after serving a yellow card suspension against D.C. United. Both Brian Carroll and Gabriel Gomez are one card away from serving their own suspensions.

Contact Philadelphia Union writer Kevin Kinkead at k.kinkead@hotmail.com . Follow Kevin on Twitter @PhilUnionKevinK