[MLS: Playoff Push] The Houston Dynamo starts a busy two weeks on Saturday when it hosts Clint Dempsey and the Seattle Sounders before a sell-out crowd at BBVA Compass Stadium.
Playoff Push Series:
It's the first of five games, including the Concacaf Champions League opener at DirecTV W Connection in Trinidad and trips to Montreal and Chicago in key Eastern Conference matches.
THE STORY SO FAR.In the past two seasons, strong finishes have propelled the Dynamo all the way to the championship game. It is 3-1-1 in the last five games so a third such push might be in the cards.
RECENT MOVES. Honduran midfielder Alexander Lopez joined the Dynamo last week as a free agent. In addition to adding some creative spark, the Young DP signing should lift the mood and performances of countryman Oscar Boniek Garcia. Forward Calen Carr, sidelined since suffering a serious knee injury in last year’s MLS Cup, played an intra-squad match Tuesday and is nearing a return to competitive play.
STYLE POINTS. Though Houston has scored the fewest goals, 26, of any team in the playoff tiers, it has conceded the second-fewest in the league (22). The back line of Corey Ashe, Bobby Boswell, Jermaine Taylor and Kofi Sarkodie has been intact for most of the season. The numbers are down for the go-to guys: Will Bruin, scorer of 12 goals last year, has just five; Brad Davis, who hit double-digits in assists the past four seasons, is second on the team to Bruin with four. Average crowd at BBVA Compass Stadium is 19,916 and Saturday’s game against Seattle is sold out.
NEEDS WORK. The attackers -- Giles Barnes, Andrew Driver, Garcia, Davis, Bruin -- sometimes run aground through poor decisions. The partnership of Barnes and Bruin up top that started so promisingly has lost some of its steam. Despite the low goals-allowed average, Houston trails nine teams in number of shutouts with six.
FINAL ANSWER. The addition of Lopez and return of Carr should invigorate the attack, and more bodies are needed with Concacaf Champions League group play starting next week against W Connection of Trinidad & Tobago. Depth will be tested with seven games in September.
August 17: Seattle
August 20: @DirecTV W Connection (CCL)
August 24: @Montreal
August 27: Arabe Unido (CCL)
September 1: @Chicago
September 4: @Columbus
September 8: New York
September 14: @Philadelphia
September 21: Chivas USA
September 25: DirecTV W Connection (CCL)
September 28: @New England
October 4: Montreal
October 9: Sporting KC
October 20: New York
October 24: @Arabe Unido (CCL)
October 27: @D.C. United