Conditioning could be crucial in Minnesota United-Dynamo match

Defense and fitness in the Texas heat will be at a premium for the Houston Dynamo and Minnesota United FC when the sides square off Saturday at BBVA Compass Stadium in downtown Houston.

Houston’s strong home form will make this matchup a tough task for Minnesota United, and with points on the road at a premium in MLS, it will be crucial in the pursuit of a playoff spot.

The Dynamo will try to expand on one of MLS’ best home records after snatching a draw out of the jaws of defeat Wednesday by scoring two goals in second-half injury time to stun the Los Angeles Football Club, coming back in a match where they were thoroughly outplayed for 85 minutes to forge a 2-2 home tie.

Philippe Senderos scored the tying goal almost six minutes into second-half injury time after Mauro Manotas connected two minutes earlier to give the Dynamo life.

The draw extended Houston’s home unbeaten streak to seven matches across all competitions and five straight league games and improved the Dynamo’s record to 6-6-4 overall and 5-2-1 at home.

Houston coach Wilmer Cabrera said that while the Dynamo’s win only resulted in one point, it could be a turning point for his team, which has faltered in late-game situations in 2018.

“We’ve been talking about losing points in the last 10 minutes of the game and losing games the last 10 minutes of the games and in this match we were able to change that,” Cabrera said. “We scored in the (94th) and the (96th) to come back, which shows character and shows our mentality.”

Senderos, a three-time World Cup veteran, said Houston is happy to get a point because of the circumstances of the game, but that there needs to be a better performance.

“We know we have to get better,” Senderos said. “The Western Conference is a tough conference, and we know we need to pick up points at home.”

Minnesota heads to the Bayou City in the heels of a 4-3 home win Wednesday over defending MLS Cup champion Toronto FC that allowed the Loons to snap a three-match winless streak.

Minnesota also got its first MLS hat trick via impressive performance from Darwin Quintero as the Loons improved to 6-10-1.

Quintero said after the win that his son picks out all of his goal celebrations, but he didn’t have three planned for Wednesday. So just his first dancing celebration was for his son. The others were for his wife, whose birthday was Wednesday.

“I told her I was going to score a hat trick and that I was going to get her the ball,” Quintero said in Spanish through a translator.

Like Cabrera, Minnesota coach Adrian Heath wanted to emphasize the positives coming out of the match.

“This is like a new start, a fresh start for the second half of the season,” Heath said. “Let’s see what we do. This team is capable of winning 13, 14 games in this league. I know it is. And that’s what we have to aim at. So the second half of the season, we’re going to have to pick up a lot of weight, but we are capable of it.”

The Loons were victorious in this season’s previous MLS meeting with the Dynamo, winning 2-1 at home on April 28. However, Houston emerged victorious in the U.S. Open Cup matchup with a 1-0 win on June 18 in the Bayou City.