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Eastern Conference Championship

Columbus Crew vs. Houston Dynamo | MLS Match Preview

CLBvHOU, 8-23-2014

Photo Credit: 
USA TODAY Sports

COLUMBUS CREW vs HOUSTON DYNAMO
COLUMBUS CREW STADIUM, Columbus, Ohio
Aug. 23, 2014 (WEEK 24, MLS Game #226)
7:30 p.m. ET (TWCS-OH; CSN-Hou+)

It's a crucial match in the Eastern Conference playoff chase as the Columbus Crew play host to the Houston Dynamo on Saturday evening at Crew Stadium. The Crew come into the game holding down fourth place in the division, following their most impressive performance of the season in a 4-1 win against the LA Galaxy on Saturday. The Dynamo find themselves in eighth place in the East - but just three points out of the final playoff position - coming off a 2-0 home win against Philadelphia Union last week.

REFEREE: Jose Carlos Rivero. AR1 (bench): Sean Hurd; AR2 (opposite): Kyle Atkins; 4th: Kevin Terry Jr.
MLS Career: 30 games; FC/gm: 27.2; Y/gm: 3.9; R: 8; pens: 18

SUSPENDED: none
WARNINGS:
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: CLB: Tony Tchani, Wil Trapp | HOU: Kofi Sarkodie
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: CLB: Bernardo Anor, Federico Higuain, Giancarlo Gonzalez | HOU: Will Bruin, Ricardo Clark
DISABLED LIST: CLB: Matthew Wiet; Josh Williams; Kingsley Baiden (season-ending injury)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (18 meetings): Crew 5 wins, 23 goals | Dynamo 4 wins, 20 goals | Ties 9
AT COLUMBUS (8 meetings): Crew 4 wins, 15 goals | Dynamo 1 win, 9 goals | Ties 4
FUTURE MATCH: 9/13: Houston Dynamo vs. Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m. CT

2014 (MLS):
5/7: HOU 1, CLB 0 (Bruin 50)

  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Will Bruin scored the game's only goal early in the second half for a Dynamo victory, May 7 at BBVA Compass Stadium.
  • The Crew have not lost to the Dynamo in Columbus since June 10, 2007, a 2-1 Houston victory. Since then, the Crew have won four of the seven meetings at home, with three draws.
  • The Dynamo have won the last two meetings at BBVA Compass Stadium. Their 3-1 win on Aug. 3 of last year was the Dynamo's first win against the Crew in almost exactly five years, since Aug. 2, 2008. The victory snapped a nine-game Crew undefeated streak vs. Houston.
  • Coaches record: Dominic Kinnear vs. CLB: P22 W6 L7 T9 | Gregg Berhalter vs. HOU: P1 W0 L1 T0

LAST MEETING (MLS)

  • The game's lone goal came five minutes after the second-half restart. Brad Davis put a free kick into the middle of a group in the Columbus' penalty area and it was the back of Will Bruin's head that made the contact to fool Crew goalkeeper Steve Clark and loop the ball into the back of the net.
  • Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall was credited with five saves in recording the clean sheet, the second blanking in a row for the Crew.
  • HOUSTON DYNAMO (4-1-3-2): Tally Hall - Kofi Sarkodie, David Horst, A.J. Cochran, Corey Ashe - Servando Carrasco - Boniek Garcia (Omar Cummings 85), Brad Davis (Warren Creavalle 61), Andrew Driver - Giles Barnes, Will Bruin (Mark Sherrod 74).
  • COLUMBUS CREW (4-2-3-1): Steve Clark - Josh Williams (Adam Bedell 77), Michael Parkhurst, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Waylon Francis - Tony Tchani, Agustin Viana (Daniel Paladini 65) - Dominic Oduro (Justin Meram 69), Federico Higuain, Bernardo Anor - Jairo Arrieta.

COLUMBUS CREW
The Columbus Crew rebounded for their best victory of the season, rolling to a 4-1 win against the LA Galaxy on Saturday evening at Crew Stadium. The Crew are in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, with 30 points from 24 matches.

LAST MATCH

  • The Crew took the lead in the 23rd minute with a real golazo. After gathering a pass from Tony Tchani near the top of the penalty box, Justin Meram spun in a circle to avoid two Galaxy defenders and unleashed a curling blast into the top corner past Galaxy 'keeper Jaime Penedo.
  • The Crew added another in the 33rd minute. This time Meram played provider, first feigning a shot as he neared the top of the box before played a perfectly weighted through ball to a slashing Ethan Finlay, whose shot off the underside of the crossbar left Penedo no chance.
  • The Galaxy got a goal shortly after the halftime break when Dan Gargan?s cross from the right wing landed perfectly on the foot of Gyasi Zardes, and he showed great technique to side volley the cross first time low into the corner past a diving Steve Clark in the Crew goal.
  • But the Crew put the game away with two goals in the final quarter hour. First Ben Speas finished off a counter-attack, hammering home a Finlay pass in the heart of the penalty area to make it 3-1. Giancarlo Gonzalez provided the final scoreline when he headed home a Federico Higuain corner kick six minutes from the end.
  • Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter made one change to the team that fell 3-2 to Toronto FC at Crew Stadium. Justin Meram came into the team in place of Ben Speas.
  • COLUMBUS CREW (4-4-1-1): Steve Clark - Eric Gehrig, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Michael Parkhurst, Waylon Francis - Ethan Finlay, Tony Tchani, Wil Trapp, Justin Meram (Ben Speas 74) - Federico Higuain (Kevan George 88) - Adam Bedell (Aaron Schoenfeld 63).

TEAM NEWS

  • The Crew scored a season-high four goals in the victory vs. LA, their most since opening the season with a 3-0 win against D.C. United all the way back on March 8.
  • "I think guys realized that it's time to perform," head coach Gregg Berhalter said. "Obviously the Galaxy are a team that it's easy to get up for, because of the quality that they have. But the guys were up for it today. Going through it quickly, I don't think there's anyone who had a subpar performance, including the substitutes."
  • It was also a third win in the last five league games after going seven games without a victory from May 31-July 16.
  • "I think it was a great result for us. I think it is a game that we can look back come November and say that it was a turning point for us," Ethan Finlay said. "That is a really good team over there with a championship pedigree, and we took it to them for 90 minutes."
  • While Federico Higuain did see his three-game goalscoring streak put to an end, he recorded his sixth assist of the season, his first since May 24, when he set up both goals in a 2-0 win vs. Chicago.
  • Justin Meram scored for a second consecutive game, making the start wide in the midfield following three consecutive substitute appearances. Meram has two goals and two assists over his last four matches.
  • "Assistant coach Josh Wolff told me last game subbing on that I have to have the will to score and do something. He told me 'Why don't you start like that every game - Start with everything that you got. - So I took that approach," Meram said.
  • Ethan Finlay scored a goal and added an assist in the same game for the first time in his MLS career. He has two goals and three assists over the last four matches, as he has started eight games in a row.
  • "If you look at our roster we have the youngest roster in the league. The guys are getting used to it. They guys are trying to find their way. They are learning how to get consistency. That is the hardest thing in professional sports is to be consistently good," said Berhalter. "We are working on that. I think part of that is to get the guys to believe in themselves week in and week out."
  • Over the final 10 matches, the Crew will face Eastern Conference clubs nine times. Their opponents, the Dynamo, have games only against conference opponents remaining.
  • "From now on, we just need to beat all the teams in the Eastern Conference," Tony Tchani said. "We're playing against them; we're not playing against the Western Conference. It's always good to have those wins, but if we can beat the Eastern Conference teams, that will help us push it into the playoffs." Said Justin Meram: "Now it's Houston, and that's probably 10 times more of a game than LA, with [Houston] creeping up and us trying to separate from them."

HOUSTON DYNAMO
The Houston Dynamo returned home and gained a victory, defeating Philadelphia Union 2-0 on Friday evening at BBVA Compass Stadium. The Dynamo are in a tie for eighth place in the Eastern Conference with 25 points from 23 games.

LAST MATCH

  • The Dynamo took the lead six minutes into the second half. Brad Davis released Giles Barnes down the left flank, and he drove a low ball across the face of goal. Will Bruin beat his defender to the ball and poked it home for the opener.
  • The Dynamo were gifted an insurance goal in the dying minutes of the match when Omar Cummings sent in a pass from the left and an unsuspecting Raymon Gaddis directed the ball past his own goalkeeper for an own goal.
  • Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear made no changes to his team for a second consecutive week, keeping the group that fell 2-0 to Seattle Sounders FC at CenturyLink Field.
  • HOUSTON DYNAMO (4-4-2): Tally Hall - Kofi Sarkodie, Jermaine Taylor, David Horst, DaMarcus Beasley - Boniek Garcia (Brian Ownby 90), Luis Garrido, Ricardo Clark, Brad Davis (Andrew Driver 76) - Giles Barnes, Will Bruin (Omar Cummings 87).

TEAM NEWS

  • The Dynamo won their second match in a row at home, coming off an eight-game winless streak, and extended their undefeated run at BBVA Compass Stadium to four matches.
  • "We are not a team that should have 25 points," said forward Will Bruin. "We have all the right pieces at all the right positions, and it's time to put it all together. It's enough messing around, enough saying, 'Oh next time, next time.' I think we?ve realized it's now or never, and we're playing like every game's a must-win."
  • Bruin scored his third goal in the last four matches after going more than two months, from May 11-July 12, without scoring in league play.
  • "We were trying to force it a little too much. We knew they were going to be tired and we I think we were trying to force it down the middle," Bruin said. "We came in and had a good talk in the locker room and said we would have a lot of the ball, be smart with possession and when we go we've got to go."
  • The Dynamo also had a second shutout in the last three games, and have not allowed a goal at home in 225 minutes. They have six defensive clean sheet for the season, five of those coming at home.
  • "Everybody but Montreal is above us. There's really nothing for us to hold back," Brad Davis said. "There's nothing to lose. We know where we sit, so we have to start climbing the table and win games. To do that, you have to have a bit of confidence and the belief we can win games, and I think we've done that."
  • Davis recorded his sixth assist of the season, his first since May 11. Since returning from the U.S. national team and the FIFA World Cup, Davis has three goals and one assist in six matches.
  • "I think there's a new-found confidence there," said Davis. "We've been losing games, but we're playing better than we were. I don't think we were putting together some very good games. There were some games we didn't deserve to win, but the past few weeks I think we've played some very good ball."
  • The Dynamo head to Columbus riding a six-game away losing streak, the longest in the club's history since its inception in 2006. The previous long was five in a row in 2010. The Dynamo did go 15 road games without a victory during the 2011 season.
  • "Scoring first I think would go a long way and maybe give us some confidence," Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear said. "Maybe getting some early chances would be helpful, but being defensively smart is a good thing."
  • Said Davis: "When you're on the road, and you get a chance to score - you're not going to score three or four on the road - when you get your chances you have to take them. I really and truly feel that we'll create chances, and it's just a matter of putting those away."