HOUSTON — To kick off the final stage of the season, the Houston Dynamo are faced with a tough challenge: Navigate through three games in seven days.
Houston overcame the first hurdle with a 2-1 win on Sunday over the Portland Timbers. They’ll now travel to face the New England Revolution on Wednesday (8 pm ET, watch LIVE online) before returning home for a game on Saturday against Real Salt Lake.
In speaking with the team, two main components of their plan to deal with the dual threat of travel fatigue and fitness are to rely on their depth and improved passing to get them through. Houston have developed a good selection of reserves thanks to some transfer window activity, and head coach Dominic Kinnear is not afraid to use them.
“We have to be very aware of the guys' fitness and where they’re at physically,” Kinnear said. “We said before the game Sunday that it’s not going to be the same lineup every night. We told them to be ready and rest up. It tests the depth of your squad both mentally and physically.”
While putting fresh legs on the field helps, conserving energy during the game is just as important. To do that, the Dynamo are looking to continue to take the advantage in possession as they have done the past three weeks.
In the last three games — two wins and a draw — Houston have enjoyed long stretches of play where they controlled the pace and flow of the game by keeping the ball with precise passing, and in the process, the Dynamo have mostly shaken off the poor giveaways that plagued them early in the season.
“It’s a big two games, but the more we possess the ball, the easier it is for us because of less running,” said Geoff Cameron. “We just need to keep the same attitude and confidence and the same way we’ve been playing, and hopefully we’ll set the rest of the season up.”
Heading into the final two of this three game stretch, Houston are very aware of what is at stake. With 10 games left in the season, they stand on the fringes of the playoff chase and need to put together a solid run of results in order to continue their climb up the standings.
“We’re playing some good stuff and this week’s going to be a test of our character with games back to back to back, ending with one of the better teams in the league in RSL,” said Brian Ching. “Hopefully we continue to do well and put our stamp on the Eastern Conference.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.