It’s the same story really.
Houston is next on the docket for the Union and like D.C. United, the Dynamo are a team fighting for a spot in the postseason. Courtesy of a 1-0 win over the Union Thursday, United (14-10-5, 47 points) leapfrogged both Houston and Columbus for the fourth spot in the East. Houston (12-7-10, 46 points) enters PPL Park looking to do the same as a win over the Union coupled with a United loss Sunday to Chivas, puts it back in playoff contention and thrusts D.C. back in bubble, specifically if Columbus snags three points on Saturday at Chicago.
A lot of scenarios to remember, but the one that’s most important is the Union looking to thwart the plans of a team that bounced them out of the MLS playoffs in the first round last season. It sparked a run that led Houston all the way to the final against Los Angeles, something the Union haven’t forgotten.
“Houston is another good team, we have to be ready for them,” said captain Carlos Valdes. “We have some history and memories with Houston and they are coming here to a place where we need a win. For ourselves, for the fans. It’s an important game.”
The last time these two met, it was the Dynamo who celebrated a 2-1 victory at Houston on June 30. Brian Ching broke a 1-1 deadlock in the 83rd minute to hand the Union their eighth loss of the season. Houston has been dominant at home, ranked second in the league (9-0-5) while showcasing a dismal 2-7-4 record outside of BBVA Compass Arena. Just Thursday, United came in with the same issues, dominant at RFK (10-1-4) but soft on the road (2-9-3). However, it took a late defensive lapse for the Union to go down, moments that has occurred far too often this season.
“I think as a team we need to have a little bit more fight,” said goalkeeper Zac MacMath. “Bring it all out on the field [and] not let up a goal against. We just need to find that urge to go get a goal and win games. I think that’s something we all need to work at.”
Houston hasn’t had much problem finding the back of the net this season. Spearheaded by forward Will Bruin (12 goals), the Dynamo have tallied 41 goals this season (1.41 per game). Conversely, they don’t let up very many either, just 33 all year (1.17 goals against) good for fourth best in the league. The Union which have allowed 32 goals this season (1.19 GAA) rank sixth.
The Dynamo will be coming off short rest however. Like the Union, Houston also played Thursday in CONCACAF Champions League action against Ecuadorian side CD Fas, and celebrated a 4-0 rout in group play. Six days prior, Houston battled to a 1-1 result against Eastern Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City. CJ Sapong scored in stoppage time to preserve a point.
In his weekly press conference Wednesday, Union manager John Hackworth used the words “spoiler” to describe what’d he’d hoped to have accomplish with wins over United and Houston.
At this point, a win would make his aspirations half complete, but would go a long way to restoring some confidence in his young locker room, and some faith that greater things are to come from this young group.
“All we can do right now is give guys opportunities, see what our combinations are,” said Hackworth. “The one thing I’ll say about this team is that they certainly didn’t give up…guys are doing everything they can to put themselves in a position to get something off, but that’s not the smartest way to go about bringing yourself back into a game. So that’s something we have to work on.
The work begins now for the litmus test that arrives Sunday in the Dynamo.