HOUSTON – Texas Derby games have always been intense, physical and emotional. But Sunday’s Heineken Rivalry Week clash in Frisco (8 pm ET | FS1, TSN1) has an added twist: Both the Houston Dynamo and FC Dallas are fighting to clinch a playoff berth – and currently sit on the outside looking in at the Western Conference playoff places.
Under interim head coach Davy Arnaud, La Naranja don’t count themselves out of the playoff picture just yet, however.
“It’s a six-point game, it’s a rivalry game, against a team we are battling with for a playoff spot, so we understand all those things,” said Arnaud. “We have made that point this week, what this game is going to mean for us, and the importance of it now with eight games left. We understand.”
Even after all their struggles, Houston sit six points shy of the playoff line in 10th place with 31 points. Meanwhile, Dallas occupy the eighth position with 37 points.
A Texas native who’s served as an assistant coach for the Dynamo for the last three seasons, Arnaud, knows how competitive the rivalry is between these two cities. For Houston to put a dent in FCD’s postseason hopes, all while helping their own cause, would be even more satisfying.
“When you can directly affect an opponent that you’re battling with for a playoff spot, you need to take advantage of this,” Arnaud noted.
La Naranja players are treating the Texas Derby as a final, a must-win game not only for the three points, but for the city of Houston. The Dynamo see the match as a fresh start, a chance to leave all the struggles behind and focus on getting to the playoffs.
“Everything is going to be there, the adrenaline, the fans," said fullback Adam Lundkvist. "I mean, for us we want to win for the fans here at home [Houston], we want to win against Dallas, that means a lot. It's a big game and it comes at a really good point for us and could be a good stepping stone going forward.”
The last time these two faced each other, back in May, the Dynamo earned three points in dramatic fashion, holding off a late FCD rally to claim a 2-1 win.
At present "El Capitan," the replica 18th-century cannon that’s the trophy for victory in the season series, belongs to Dallas. But that can change if Houston secures a positive result this weekend.
“It's a derby, obviously, it's a game in which both teams want to win,” said Dynamo defender Maynor Figueroa, the 11th player to represent both teams in the Texas Derby. “After the first one we had this season, to have won here at home, that makes it even more interesting.”