HOUSTON – Three days after clinching a spot in the MLS Cup playoffs, the Houston Dynamo are ready to duplicate the feat on a regional scale.
Heading into their final match in the group stage of the CONACAF Champions League against Olimpia (8 pm ET, Fox Soccer), the Dynamo only need a result to advance to next spring’s knockout stages.
In an attempt to balance Tuesday’s match – which comes between bookend MLS matches and a potential Knockout Round game on Oct. 31 or Nov. 1 – the club will likely stick to the formula that has put it in pole position heading into Tuesday’s affair.
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“You look at the players on the field not starting the game [this past Saturday vs. Philadelphia], those were some good players we put in,” head coach Dominic Kinnear said at training on Monday. “We do know Saturday is important as well. But you always have to look at the game ahead of you. You want to make sure you put the freshest team that you can, and that's what we're going to do tomorrow."
The Dynamo have taken great pride in showing that their team is much more than just the “regulars.”
Kinnear has built a squad from top to bottom with a healthy mix of experienced veterans and eager youngsters. Nowhere has that been more prevalent than in CCL play, where veterans including Brian Ching and Colin Clark line up next to youngsters such as rookie Warren Creavalle and 24-year-old goalkeeper Tyler Deric – all of which have started every CCL match.
Throw in players such as Andre Hainault, Calen Carr and Giles Barnes – none of whom started this past Saturday against Philaelphia – and it's a strong group to lean on.
The Dynamo’s performances in CCL play are evidence that the formula is working. They beat El Salvador’s CD FAS twice already and the same group notched a hard-fought 1-1 draw in Tegucigalpa against Olimpia in August.
“It's everything for us to show what we can do," Deric said. "It's what we play for every day. It's what we do. It's our job, so when you go out there, you want to play your best and win games for the Dynamo."
That mentality drives home that the club will not be looking to squeak into the knockout stages.
“Going in, we’re going for the win,” said Nathan Sturgis. “I think you go in and try and win by as big a margin as possible. Obviously if in the last couple of minutes it’s tied, we’ll be smart about it but I think you always have to have the mentality to go for the win.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.