Coming off a disappointing performance last week in league play, the Houston Dynamo appear set to return to their winning ways. The Dynamo travel to Kansas City to face the Wizards on Saturday night at CommunityAmerica Ballpark.
While Houston is shorthanded with players away with national team duty and others injured, don't expect the Dynamo to come into the game looking for anything less than three points.
"We have to get back to the winning mentality," said Dynamo forward Dominic Oduro. "I think we are ready."
"It's a game we want to win coming off LA," said midfielder Brad Davis. "We want to go to Kansas City and get back on the board with three points."
With the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the Dynamo expected to be a little shorthanded in these dog days of summer. Brian Ching and Stuart Holden will be representing the United States and defender Andrew Hainault will suit up for Canada. What they probably didn't expect was a rash of injuries over the last couple of months leaving the team even shorter of healthy bodies than normal.
Wade Barrett and Cam Weaver will both remain in Houston as the team travels to Kansas City for Saturday's game. Weaver has a groin injury and Barrett still hasn't fully recovered from his calf strain. With Ching and Weaver both out, the door opens for either Dominic Oduro or Ade Akinbiyi to log some significant minutes at forward. Oduro hopes to take advantage of the opportunity. "I'm ready to go, 110 percent," said Oduro. "If the coach needs me, I am ready to go."
Houston will be buoyed by the fact that even though they are missing several key players, the Wizards will be without the heart and soul of their team, Jimmy Conrad and Davy Arnaud. Add in Roger Espinoza who will be representing Honduras and both teams are entering their July 4 showdown with cupboards half-full.
"At this time, a lot of teams are missing good players," said Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear. "It's opportunities for others and making the most of those opportunities. Teams are always shorthanded and no team can cry about the schedule because everyone is affected by it."
Perhaps the more interesting question than the one at forward for the Dynamo is whom to match up with Ricardo Clark in the center of the field. If defender Craig Waibel is healthy enough to start, it seems likely that Richard Mulrooney will continue playing in central midfield. However, if Waibel can't go, Houston will likely play Mulrooney at right back and start Corey Ashe on the left, allowing Davis to play centrally.
Regardless of who pairs with Clark, the cozy confines of CommunityAmerica Ballpark will make the game a stern test for the league's leading defense.
"It's going to be hard," said Kinnear. "Another tough weekend, small field [and] you have to move the ball fast and they break pretty well. A lot of times on that field, you see a chance on one end, and you see the ball go back down quickly, so reaction to turnovers is huge."
"Maybe on their side, they're wishing they still had Jimmy or Davy," said Davis. "We're more worried about the things we have to [do]. If we can do the things we like to do, get back on the right track, put them under pressure, hopefully we can get an early goal and come up on top."
Dwain Capodice is a contributor to MLSnet.com.