Dynamo-FC Dallas Preview
With consecutive victories, the Houston Dynamo believe they have a late-season playoff push in them.
That push will take a hit Sunday in Dallas if the Dynamo can’t figure out an in-state opponent they haven’t defeated since 2012.
While FC Dallas (14-10-5) is near clinching a playoff spot as one of the Western Conference frontrunners, Houston (11-12-8) needs to pass two teams in its final three matches to make a postseason appearance in its first season in the conference.
The Dynamo won 3-2 over Colorado last Saturday and grabbed all six points from a two-game homestand leading into a daunting conclusion to the season. After visiting Dallas, the Dynamo face Seattle at home and end the season in Vancouver, though confidence isn’t an issue as the club tries for its first three-game winning streak since stringing five together in 2012.
"When we’ve got our team healthy we can beat anybody in the league," forward Giles Barnes told the club’s official website. "We’ve shown that all season. We’re so confident in ourselves when we’re healthy. We have everything going for us."
That’s not true in away environments. Houston has picked up just two points on a seven-match winless streak on the road and has been shut out in five of its last nine.
Its new conference rival has also been problematic. Dallas has won both meetings this season with a 6-1 aggregate to extend its winning streak in the series to four by a 13-4 margin.
The 2-0 final in Dallas on June 26 featured a goal from Fabian Castillo, and the winger has scored in both matches this season but has been limited to one in his last eight overall. This will be his last match before missing two while joining Colombia for World Cup qualifiers.
Dallas is likely more concerned with its back line after allowing three goals in consecutive defeats. In last Sunday’s 3-2 loss in Los Angeles, it gave up two in the first 14 minutes.
Once Dallas does clinch a postseason berth, the focus will shift toward chasing down the Supporters’ Shield or at least a favorable seed that allows it to avoid a play-in.
"You play the whole season for this," defender Matt Hedges told the club’s official website. "For me, I want to get first place and the body of work over our whole season is more impressive than just the playoffs, but it’s important we need to get a good seed to try and skip the play-in round."
The consecutive losses have both come on the road, and Dallas has three of its remaining five matches at home, where it has dropped just four points in the last 10 matches with a 21-8 scoring edge.
Dallas feels better prepared for a late-season push after going through it as a young group last year, when it returned to the playoffs after missing the previous two postseasons.
"I think it’s helping the team a lot," Hedges said. "It’s nice to know that we’ve been in this situation before and know what to expect from these games not only at the end of the season, but on the run into the playoffs. You’re not as nervous or anything and you know what to expect."