HOUSTON – At this time last year, LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena tabbed Corey Ashe as one of the best left backs in Major League Soccer. Now, the Houston Dynamo are preparing to open their Eastern Conference Championship series against Sporting Kansas City without him.
Ashe was shown a yellow card for a 93rd-minute foul on Fabian Espindola in Wednesday’s 2-1 victory over the New York Red Bulls. Already on a yellow card for his role in a late-game confrontation with the Montreal Impact's Marco Di Vaio in Houston's Knockout Round game on Oct. 31, the veteran left back will now have to make way for other options to try and slow down the Sporting KC wings on Saturday (2:30 pm ET; NBC).
“He’s been a pretty big part of what we’ve been doing,” center back Bobby Boswell told reporters at Friday's training session. “He’s an All-Star and there’s no real replacing a guy like that, but at the same time there are guys willing and able to step in and do the job.”
Houston and Sporting have a fractuous recent history. The clubs have met in the playoffs the last two years, with Houston coming out on top each time, and Ashe has been a big part of that success.
As far as who will step into Ashe’s spot this weekend, head coach Dominic Kinnear was not giving anything away and felt the foul did not warrant the caution.
“I thought it was a pretty harsh yellow card he picked up on Wednesday night,” Kinnear told reporters on Friday. “We knew the rules going in. We’ll probably name the team in the locker room tomorrow. You’d like to have Corey available. When someone moves out of the way it gives another guy another opportunity.”
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Options to replace Ashe would include traditional left back Mike Chabala, who has started just once this year, or a team re-shuffle that could send Warren Creavalle to the back line, something that has happened before this season.
“[Kinnear] seems to find guys who can come right in and get the job done,” Boswell said. “Tomorrow, we’ll have someone step in there that maybe some of you guys aren’t ready for, but we’ll be ready as a team.”
Added Omar Cummings: “We’re going to miss [Ashe] out there tomorrow but he has our back. He’s going to be in the locker room and he’s going to be there pumping us up. He’s not there, but we have to go out there and play like he is.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.