HOUSTON – For fans looking for drama, don't head West. Because heading into the final third of the season, the race in the Eastern Conference is shaping up as the one to watch.
And the Houston Dynamo are right in the thick of it.
Houston are streaking at the moment, winners of four in a row and undefeated in their last seven. The run has propelled them into second place, just one behind the New York Red Bulls, a side the Dynamo will play twice in the next two weeks, including in a nationally televised clash at home this Friday (8 pm ET, NBC Sports Network).
In a conference that was pegged to be the “weaker” of the two in MLS at the outset of 2012, there is no lack of excitement as the Dynamo and their conference rivals battle as they enter the stretch.
“I jinxed us earlier in the year,” defender Bobby Boswell said Monday. “It was the first or second week that I made a comment to [Dominic Kinnear] that it may be a blessing to be put in the East because last year the West was just a complete powerhouse. I made some comment and everyone seemed to turn it around, and now the East is a force to be reckoned with.”
The points list is evidence of the East’s 2012 renaissance. Houston currently sit on 37 points with 22 games in the books. That is 10 points more than they had at this time last year and just 12 behind their 2011 total that placed them second.
With 12 games to go the Dynamo know that 2012 will come down to the wire in the East. At this point, it is about taking care of business against their conference opponents, who with the unbalanced schedule, have rivals more than just opponents.
HIGHLIGHTS: Toronto 0, Houston 2
“When you play a team once you don’t really create a bad-blood situation," Boswell said. "But you play a team three times and it’s going to create some animosity. I think you’ll see it create some inner-conference rivalries and that’s good. We want to win and beat everyone we play. And the reality of it is your conference determines your playoff situation.”
Houston are 6-3-6 against their East rivals this season. Their next five league matches are against in-conference foes. With that challenge comes opportunity, and the Dynamo know that the best way to get where they want to be – the MLS Cup – is to put together the results against their conference brethren.
“It has turned into quite a battle with the way things are going,” said goalkeeper Tally Hall. “We’re not going in saying, ‘Oh, we have to get first in the East.’ It’s almost like going back to basics, and we’re looking back and asking what we can do better.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.