Peter Nowak's squad could catch a break ahead of their season opener at Houston. Perennial all-star Brian Ching is nursing a hamstring injury, and is not expected to be at 100 percent fitness for Saturday's match.
A hindered Ching would be a blow for the Dynamo, who were without the veteran striker for stretches of the 2010 season. But this is an experienced Houston side – with or without their top forward – skilled on set pieces and dangerous in the air.
At a Wednesday press conference, Nowak spoke to the media about neutralizing the Dynamo attack.
"Brian Ching was, for a lot of years, the crucial part of Houston's offense," Nowak explained. "With him and Brad Davis, you have two guys that are great on set pieces. [Ching] is great with his back to the goal. We have to [be ready for him]. The components next to him, whoever is next to him – I believe it might be Dominic Oduro, who has speed and is very dangerous in open space. We have to limit both guys."
In 2010, Robertson Stadium was the sight of the Union's first-ever road win. Danny Mwanga's stoppage time goal capped off a dramatic comeback en route to a 3-2 result.
Though a sparkling effort from Shea Salinas had given the Union an early 1-0 lead, Houston answered with two second half goals, both from free kicks. Davis and Ching connected in the 52nd minute, while Eddie Robinson latched on to another Davis ball just seven minutes later.
Nowak emphasized that it's all about limiting those set piece opportunities.
"Last year, the game we played, Brian Ching scored off the first free kick from Brad Davis," said the Union manager. "The other one was the defender, Eddie Robinson. Bobby Boswell is still very good in the air. We have to limit the free kicks around the box, make sure we contain those guys without making silly fouls and putting ourselves in bad situations.
"As I said, Brian is always critical in these kinds of situations. He's very difficult to handle and he's a very good finisher. I had the pleasure of working with him during my time with the national team."
Even without consistent action last year, Ching still led the Dynamo with seven goals. Davis tallied 12 assists, leading the team in that department. While Davis made 25 starts in 27 appearances, Ching appeared just 20 times, starting in 16 of those games.
Whether or not Ching makes an impact on Saturday, Nowak credits Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear for making the Eastern Conference newcomers an annual contender. 2010 was a poor year by Dynamo standards, but they'll be looking to rebound in 2011.
"They're a very competitive team, so we have to expect, from the beginning, that it's going to be a very difficult game," said Nowak. "If we go [to Houston] with this kind of mindset, we're still going to focus on our brand of soccer and play our game."