Preview: United vs Houston
MLS MATCHDAY 9
D.C. United vs Houston Dynamo
Saturday, April 28 - 7:30 PM ET
TV: Comcast SportsNet (CSN) Washington
If the Houston Dynamo are any worse for thewear that comes with opening a season with seven straight road contests, D.C.United's Saturday evening opponents aren't showing it. Having lost just once while they await the completion oftheir new stadium, the Dynamo are displaying the remarkable consistency thatpropelled Houston to the MLS Cup final a year ago.
While that same trait - consistency - escapedthe Black-and-Red in 2011, United have gone six straight unbeaten since themiddle of March. D.C. enters thisweekend's tilt with high expectations after dismantling New York a week ago,and - with the club in second place in the Eastern Conference - United arepoised to begin chipping away at the nine-point gap between the Black-and-Redand first-place Kansas City. Though an easy victory over the Red Bulls gave Ben Olsen's side confidence, it admittedly didn't prepare them for Saturday's impending dogfight.
"Houston is going to be a very different opponent than New York," confirmed captain Dwayne De Rosario, who played for the Dynamo from 2006-2008. "They are definitely a lot more physical, and they battle and scrap for every ball. [It's] another in-conference team, so another big three points are sitting there for us."
If United is to take full points on Saturday, the Black-and-Red must dominate one area in particular. In a trend on display when the two teams squared off last season, the Dynamo are known for their excellence on set pieces. Of the six goals Houston scored on D.C. in 2011, half came via dead ball situations (including two in a 4-1 Houston win at Robertson Stadium).
"They are obviously very good at set pieces," defender Emiliano Dudar acknowledged in a Spanish language interview earlier this week. "We can't commit dumb fouls, those unnecessary fouls that will put is in a bad spot. When we are defending a set piece, we just have to commit to finding a mark and not losing it. We are professionals, so we can handle that responsibility."
Saturday's meeting is the first of threebetween two conference foes that should know each other extremely well. D.C. midfielder Danny Cruz arrived inWashington via a January trade from Houston while Dynamo defender Bobby Boswellplayed the first three seasons of his MLS career in black and red. Even United's coaching staff has a hintor orange in it, as assistant Pat Onstad served the final five seasons of hisdecorated playing career in Houston.
No one, however, has had a bigger impact on thetwo rival franchises than the aforementioned De Rosario. Like Onstad, DeRo won back-to-back MLSCup titles with the Dynamo in 2006 and 2007. Those in orange haven't forgotten De Rosario's specialtalents, and are preparing for an inspired performance from the reigning MLSMVP.
"He is a guy we know that is crafty and a guy that definitelysteps up in big games," said Houston forward Brian Ching. "I think you'll see this weekend,he'll [want to] have a pretty good game against his former team."
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 Saturday night at RFKStadium. Saturday will be D.C.United’s 13th annual Armed Forces and Veterans Appreciation Day anddiscounted tickets are still available.
» ANALYSIS: Breaking down Houston Dynamo