Columbus Crew (9-3-4, 31 points; 1st in Eastern Conference) vs. Houston Dynamo (5-7-4, 19 points; 6th in Western Conference)
All-time series: Tied at 2-2-5. Crew lead 2-1-1 in Columbus.
7:30 p.m., ET; Direct Kick, MatchDay Live
What's at stake?
It's been more than two months without an MLS win for the Dynamo, who head into Crew Stadium riding a six-game winless streak in league play. That streak includes a scoreless draw at Robertson Stadium against the Crew on July 10. The Crew want to end a three-game homestand on a positive note before traveling to Chivas USA, Philadelphia and Real Salt Lake.
Columbus Crew news
With defender Frankie Hejduk (red-card suspension) and MF Brian Carroll (right-ankle sprain) out expect a shuffled lineup. Adam Moffat practiced at right back and rookie defender Shaun Francis could see action. Forward Emilio Renteria will get an encore performance after scoring against New York last week. Said Carroll on this week's matchup with Houston: “It’s a solid team top to bottom and whether you play them home or away it’s just a tough game.”
Houston Dynamo news
Saturday will mark the Dynamo's seventh match this month, including the US Open Cup and SuperLiga. Their physical and hard-fought (12 cards, 35 fouls) 1-0 win against Mexico’s Puebla in the SuperLiga on Wednesday (12 cards, 35 fouls) gave the Dynamo a 2-1-3 record in all July games. The match also marks the debut for former New England standout Steve Ralston, who joined the coaching staff as an assistant after John Spencer left last week. Said midfielder Brad Davis: “He’s been a great ambassador to this league and a great player and I think he’s got a great soccer mind.”
Heroes & villains
Houston forward Brian Ching v. Crew defender Chad Marshall: Next week they will be All-Star teammates against Manchester United, but Saturday they will be locked in a duel that could decide the match. Ching is probably still wondering how he missed an open look against the Crew in the last meeting, while Marshall has overcome a stretch of injuries and is in the running for a third straight MLS Defender of the Year award.
Stat that makes you go “Hmm”:
Expect the flags to go up early and often. Houston’s 62 offsides lead the league. Columbus (59) are second.