Preview: New York Red Bulls vs. Houston Dynamo

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU, EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by MARK FISHKIN
Staff Writer

Oh, the Houston Dynamo: a club tied up in so much New York history. 

The win at Houston in 2008 kickstarted the Red Bulls’ MLS Cup run.  The nine points won against Houston last year lifted New York to the Supporters Shield. And of course, the Dynamo knocked the Red Bulls out of last year’s playoffs. 

To no surprise, Houston comes into Red Bull Arena Saturday with a typical late-season head of steam. The Red Bulls want to quickly forget last week’s disaster and kickoff October’s homestand on a good note. 

With the playoffs still up in the air, they need to.

Match Information:
Saturday, October 4th at Red Bull Arena, 6:00p ET kickoff, TV/Streaming: NBCSN/NBC Live Extra

Referee: Jair Marrufo

Record, GF/GA, Division and League Position, Recent Form:
New York, 41 points from 30 matches, 48GF/46GA, 5th in the East, 9th in MLS, WWDWL
Houston, 36 points from 29 matches, 35GF/50GA, 8th in the East, 14th in MLS, WWDDW

New York’s front line vs. the Dynamo defense:
Bradley Wright-Phillips vs. DaMarcus Beasley, AJ Cochran, David Horst, and Kofi Sarkodie (and Tyler Deric).

No New York player has scored more goals against Houston as BWP. In fact, the heel-clicking striker has six of the Red Bulls’ last seven goals against the Dynamo, with five scored this season.  With Wright-Phillips’ goose-egg against Los Angeles, tomorrow is a perfect chance to resume the chase for the single-season scoring record. Houston has shut out its last two opponents (Philadelphia and Chicago) and a big reason why is homegrown goalkeeper Tyler Deric. Despite 2014 being Deric’s fifth season in the league, the 6’ 3” keeper has started only nine MLS matches playing behind injured started Tally Hall. DaMarcus Beasley quietly joined the Dynamo after the World Cup, and Houston is 4-1-2 in matches when Beasley sees the field. Horst (1G/1A) is the giant centerback that’s found a home with the Dynamo after stints at RSL and Portland. Sarkodie (3G/1A) often pushes up into the attack.
Advantage: New York

Houston’s attackers vs. the Red Bulls’ defense:
Giles Barnes and Omar Cummings  vs. Roy Miller, Armando, Ibrahim Sekagya, and Chris Duvall (and Luis Robles).

With leading scorer Will Bruin working his way back to fitness with a foot sprain, look for stalwart Barnes (8G/5A) to be joined up top by perennial Red Bulls thorn Omar Cummings (2G/3A), who famously knocked New York out of last season’s playoffs.  Neither forward has scored in Houston’s last two matches. The defensive story for the Red Bulls is the suspension of Jamison Olave due to yellow-card accumulation.  This season, New York is 8-7-10 with Olave in the lineup, and 2-2-1 without him.  Armando returns and will surely be a target of both Houston forwards. Chris Duvall looks to rebound from his howler against Los Angeles. October is the time of year that tests first-year players’ fitness, so look for a possible spell in favor of Kosuke Kimura. Given Olave’s absence, Robles will surely be tested often.  
Advantage: Even

The Midfields:
Thierry Henry, Eric Alexander, Peguy Luyindula, Dax McCarty, and Lloyd Sam v Brad Davis, Ricardo Clark, Luis Garrido, and Oscar Boniek Garcia.

New York’s midfield (read: Henry) helped generate a few chances on LA’s goal last week, and had BWP hit the net, last week’s match may have ended up differently. With Sam’s return from injury, Alexander thankfully slides back into his new defensive mid slot that helped New York go on a 3-0-1 run in September.

The strength of the Red Bulls’ midfield is the connection between McCarty and Luyindula.  If the two can turn defense to offense quickly, New York should be fine.  The Houston mainstays of Davis, Clark, and Boniek Garcia have been joined Honduran National Team defender Garrido on loan from CD Olimpia.  Garrido has started the Dynamo’s last nine matches, and Houston has gone 5-2-2 over that span. Davis has four assists in Houston’s last five games. Clark (4G/4A) scored in back-to-back matches earlier in the Dynamo’s current unbeaten run. Garcia (2G/1A) scored on his only shot last week in the home win against Chicago.
Advantage: Even

The Coaches:

Mike Petke has got to get his team to not only forget last week’s disappointments but bring his team down from the twice-a-week cadence of September.  Petke needs at least seven points during this three-match homestand to reach the playoffs. A win tomorrow would put the fan base at some ease.  Dom Kinnear is playing out what may be his last season in Houston, after reports surfaced that he may return to his beloved San Jose to coach the Earthquakes next year as they move into their new home.  As usual, Kinnear’s club is in the middle of its late-season kick to the playoffs. They may not get there, but his team knows it can win at Red Bull Arena. They’ve done it before.  
Advantage: Houston

Intangibles:

New York has won its last six matches at Red Bull Arena, and will be happy to settle into this nearly month-long homestand.  The Red Bulls are 10-4-10 against Houston all-time, and 7-1-4 against the Dynamo at home, with the lone loss coming in last season’s Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Red Bulls are averaging 2.4 goals per matches at home, and have scored 4 goals at home five times this season, including a four-nil drubbing of the Dynamo on April 23rd. Houston concedes 2.1 goals per match on the road. New York will try to give BWP as many chances as possible to break the scoring record during the homestand.  After selling out RBA for Seattle two weeks ago, look for a much smaller home crowd tomorrow night. The weather may play a factor in the fans staying away, as thunderstorms are expected in the area through tomorrow afternoon. The game-time forecast, however, is for partly cloudy skies and 65 degrees.   
Advantage: New York

Prediction:

Houston is a vastly improved side from the one that New York pasted in April in Harrison.  With Garrido blowing up opponents’ attacks, Davis and Boniek Garcia in great form and Beasley contributing, tomorrow will be a battle. A loss by Houston will devastate their last-season push, and  the Dynamo will push hard for three points.  I don’t think last week’s loss will dwell on New York, and they’ll be energized by the return of Lloyd Sam. Saturday will be a battle on a wet pitch, but I think the Red Bulls squeak by with a one-goal victory. It’s hard to call a match with Armando playing a shutout, but New York will win one-nil.