HOUSTON – Must-win. It is a term that gets thrown around a lot and while the Houston Dynamo are not willing to employ it just yet, Sunday’s match against joint Eastern Conference leaders D.C. United certainly carries a sense of urgency.
Just past the halfway point of the season the Dynamo currently sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, six points out of one of the three automatic playoff spots and eight behind D.C., making the match (9 pm ET; Galavision) a chance to start to turn the table in their favor.
“There’s plenty of pressure,” Designated Player Boniek García told MLSsoccer.com through a translator about the tilt with first-place United. “We know the type of team we’re going against and know we have to perform at home. We know D.C. is a difficult team and the other two teams we play this week as well are very difficult. We know what we have to do.”
With this being the rubber-match against D.C., Garcia’s point about knowing how tough they can be is well earned.
The Dynamo and United split their previous two matches this season with each defending their home field. With Houston having the advantage of playing the final regular season meeting on their pitch, where they 6-0-1 all-time at home against D.C. including a 1-0 win in the inaugural match at BBVA Compass Stadium on May 12.
In short, the Dynamo know that this match is a prime opportunity to kick start their push to the playoffs.
“Yes, and we’re going into the second half of the season knowing it’s better that we turn it on now rather than later and put ourselves in a position where things truly become must-wins down the road,” said striker Will Bruin when asked about the sense of urgency about the weekend. “It’s big for us to get some points against [D.C.] and close some ground and get close to them in the standings.”
For Bruin the key to pulling out the victory will be “putting in a full 90,” something about which the forward talked to MLSsoccer.com earlier this week. Putting together that complete performance will be a big boost to Houston’s playoff chances, especially considering the point they pulled out of Livestrong Sporting Park last weekend in a 0-0 draw against D.C.'s co-leaders in the East, Sporting Kansas City.
But however crucial the game is, don't call it a must-win. Not yet, anyway.
“We know where we are in the standings but you play all these games to win,” head coach Dominic Kinnear said. “We’re still close enough and if make a good run, starting with this game, it puts us in a better position. But we put pressure on ourselves to win as many as we can during the season.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.