HOUSTON – As the Houston Dynamo prepare to face the Philadelphia Union (Sunday, 4 pm ET, watch on MLS LIVE), the goal is to get out of a bit of quicksand they have gotten themselves into in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
The Dynamo took a big step on Thursday night toward advancing in the CONCACAF Champions League. But back in MLS, their playoff aspirations took another hit that same night, when D.C. United eked out a late win over the Union and leapfrogged Houston in the standings.
“It’s not frustrating, but you see it, and it's like ‘Come on, really?’” defender Corey Ashe said with a laugh. “You don’t want to rely on other teams … but [teams] keep pulling out these wins and then you think that we really haven’t lost but we just keep dropping further down. We’ve got to start winning.”
Winning hasn't been happening regularly in the league for the Dynamo of late. They have one win, two losses, and three draws in their last six MLS matches.
And, despite Philly's poor position in the standings and eight-game winless streak, things aren't easy for the Dynamo against the Union. Since Philadelphia joined the league in 2010, Houston have a 1-2-2 regular-season record against them, plus a difficult playoff battle in 2011.
Not that any of that matters on Sunday.
“It’s going to be a tough game, but we have to win,” said Jermaine Taylor. “We’re going in to get the win because it’s coming down to the wire and we have to make the top five and we’re hoping for the best outcome.”
Houston will likely have some reinforcements on the back line after Taylor -- who was held out on Thursday for precautionary reasons -- and Ashe returned to the training pitch Friday.
“It’s huge because they’ve both been great players for us,” head coach Dominic Kinnear said about possibly having the pair back. “We’ll see. We have to go in and talk to [head trainer] Theron [Enns] as far as where those guys are and have to figure it out.”
A familiar foe
Philadelphia will have a blast from recent Dynamo past on the field: Danny Cruz. The former Dynamo fan favorite has already faced Houston three times this year when he was with D.C. United and before he was traded to Philly. By the end of the season, he could make it five times as the Union and Dynamo are set to do battle once more after Sunday.
“I like Danny a lot, but I didn’t realize we’d see him that many games,” Kinnear said. “He steps on the field and gives his all every time he plays, and off the field he’s very popular because he’s so good as a person. I’m looking forward to seeing him."
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @DarrellLovell.