Chivas USA-Dynamo Preview
Five teams have a legitimate shot at claiming the final two Eastern Conference playoffs spots, and the Houston Dynamo are in the thick of that race.
Facing a Chivas USA team they have dominated in recent years - especially at home - should only help their chances.
Houston (11-10-7) currently holds the fourth of the five available postseason spots in the conference heading into Saturday night's match. It leads Chicago and Philadelphia by one point, New England by three and Columbus by five.
The Dynamo, who fell to Los Angeles in each of the last two MLS Cup championship matches, snapped a four-game winless streak with last Saturday's crucial 1-0 victory over the Union as Brad Davis assisted on Ricardo Clark's goal in the 53rd minute.
"It was huge for us,'' Davis said. "Things haven't been going the way we've wanted them to lately. It's important for us to get three points and jump up in the standings.''
Coach Dominic Kinnear likes his team's position as it heads toward the end of the regular season.
"You look at the group - us, Philadelphia, Chicago, New England, even Columbus - that's a group of five right now that are fighting for two places," Kinnear said. "Everyone's kind of playing each other so there's a lot of excitement going on, it adds to the pressure and brings the best out in players."
He's also looking for solid contributions from midfielder Servando Carrasco, who was acquired from Seattle on Sept. 13 in exchange for Adam Moffat. Carrasco came off the bench in the 72nd minute last week after a long travel day to be with his new team.
"We're pushing for a playoff spot and I couldn't really ask for much more than that," Carrasco said. "The team came off a huge win in Philadelphia and now we're just focused on picking up three more points against Chivas this weekend."
Houston has done that plenty of times in recent meetings, going 10-1-3 while outscoring Chivas 24-7 in the last 14 league matches. It is 8-0-2 all-time at home against Chivas, which will be looking to end a 12-match winless streak on the road.
Last-place Chivas (6-15-8) went 1-0-1 in its first two road games, but it is 0-9-3 since winning at Chicago on March 24. It is 2-1-2 in its last five matches overall, though.
"We have to keep doing what has brought us results over the last few weeks and keep training the way we have, being consistent," midfielder Edgar Mejia said. "That is going to give us what we need to also have good matches as visitors."
Chivas settled for a 1-all draw with Vancouver at home last Saturday after scoring the first goal for the 10th time in 12 games, but it is just 3-5-4 in that stretch.
Still, Kinnear said his club doesn't plan on taking Chivas lightly despite its place in the standings.
"They're actually playing pretty well right now," Kinnear said. "It's not going to be an easy one so we have to understand that. The work that we applied to the game in Philadelphia has to carry over to the game on Saturday if we want to get anything out of it."