HOUSTON – One week after facing the dangerous Juan Pablo Ángel and Chivas USA, the Houston Dynamo venture to the West Coast again, this time to San Francisco’s AT&T Park to face striker Chris Wondolowski and the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday (5 pm ET, MLS Live).
The former Dynamo striker has proven to be the ultimate opportunistic forward, creating space and opportunities in the 18-yard box few others do in MLS on his way to scoring 34 goals in the past two seasons. With his track record of punishing teams for giving him opportunities around the goal, limiting the forward’s chances will be job No. 1 for the Dynamo defense.
“He’s not scoring goals from 50 yards, he's scoring goals from inside the box,” Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear said. “His movement’s very good and very sharp so when the ball goes wide, you have to make sure you’re tight to him because he doesn’t give up.”
Knowing Wondolowski’s knack for finding space in front of goal, one of the keys to stopping him will be Houston’s ability to keep tabs on his now trademark runs that come from multiple places on the field.
“You’ve got to be switched on the whole time,” said midfielder Adam Moffat. “He’s a smart player and likes to ghost off of you and if your attention’s in one place then he’ll go in another space and a lot of the time the ball does find him and he always seems to be in the right place at the right time.”
This will be the sixth time Houston have returned to the Bay Area in regular-season play since the club relocated from San Jose in 2005. But this return has a new twist. Instead of venturing back to Buck Shaw Stadium, Houston will face the Earthquakes at AT&T Park, home of Major League Baseball’s San Francisco Giants. The new venue comes with some unique circumstances including, more fan support and an unfamiliar terrain.
“I’ve played on a baseball field before and so have most guys who’ve been around the league, and you have to adjust and play accordingly,” said center back Bobby Boswell who, along with Brian Ching, was part of a US national team that beat Japan 3-2 at AT&T Park in a friendly in February of 2006.
“Anytime you play on a different field, it takes some getting used to. It definitely affects the game, but it doesn’t give either team an advantage. It’s not an excuse, so you just have to go out and take care of business.”
While the venue adds a different slant to the game, it does not change the task at hand.
“I’ve never been to the stadium, but I hear it’s beautiful,” Kinnear said. “To be in San Francisco, it’s one of my favorite cities in the world, but the reason we’re there is to play soccer. … All in all, it’s 90 minutes and it’s a chance to get some more points.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com and can be reached for comment at Darrell.A.Lovell@gmail.com.