HOUSTON (11-7-6) vs. REAL SALT LAKE (4-11-6)
Saturday, 8:30 p.m. ET, HDNet
With Chivas USA holding four games in hand and trailing the conference leader by just three points, and second-place Dallas also three points back having played two fewer games, the defending champion tries yet again to match last season's win total of 12.
Houston has tied its last two home matches, 1-1, against Columbus and Kansas City, and after hosting RSL plays four of its last five on the road. Against both the Crew and Wizards it fell behind and had to rally with a goal in the second half.
It is 9-0-0 when scoring the first goal, as it did in beating D.C. United and Dallas in its most recent wins. Yet both those games ended, 1-0; the Dynamo hasn't scored more than once in a league match since tying New England, 3-3, July 22.
RSL revived its season, somewhat, by beating Houston, 1-0, Aug. 4.
After battling scoreless for 85 minutes, it nicked a goal by Robbie Findley.
It has won two of four since, and its meager playoff hopes won't lessen its zeal to knock off the defending champion, again.
The Argentine trio of Matias Mantilla, Fabian Espindola, and Javier Morales gives RSL plenty of flair to complement the two-way work of Kyle Beckerman, the attacking impetus of Herculez Gomez, and some sharp goalkeeping by Nick Rimando.
Houston forward Nate Jaqua returns after serving a one-game suspension. Teammate Brian Ching is laboring with a strained calf and hasn't played since scoring the goal that beat Dallas Aug. 19.