DC has owned the bottom of the barrel for the entire year, but has scraped closer to respectability lately, while Houston kept their heads above water most of the season until their current one win in the last thirteen games eventually dropped them like a stone into the second to last position a mere five points ahead of United.
Incredibly, DC will actually be facing a team with a worse defense than their own for the first time all season. Even before KC hung a cruel 4 spot on the Dynamo midweek, Houston had surrendered a stunning 40 goals so far this season. For a team that prides itself on its defense, being the league worst has to sting nearly as much as the fact they will miss the playoffs for the first time ever.
However, with both teams playing only for pride it will be interesting to see how intense this match will actually be. With no real pressure on or bragging rights at stake in this one, and the two worst defenses in the league, this game could be a real barn burner or a lifeless 0-0 draw depending on how each approaches the game.
For DC, they are now officially eliminated from the playoffs, but they have know for weeks that they would not be playing for any trophies this year, so they will are purely focusing on not finishing last and using these last games of the season to see who is worth keeping around for next year. With a couple new players and some guys clearly on the bubble and a double expansion draft looming, DC will surely be doing some juggling of players in the second half like they did in LA to their detriment.
Houston is not officially out, but they’d need 13 points in five games to pass Seattle or SJ (also assuming either of them don’t win again this year) to miraculously make the playoffs. Two brutal late game collapses in their last two games has just slapped them upside the head like a wet fish and essentially knocked them from the playoffs in the last week, so how they respond to that is up in the air, as how well their somewhat aging and inbred roster handles their third game in 7 days, the last two on the road.
So, let’s get down to brass tacks. It seems likely DC plays a similar roster to the LA game, because they pretty much only have so many healthy bodies, but quite possibly mix in Junior and Varela more as well as feature Boskovic again. Houston has their own issues with Ching still out with a knee injury, and it took a Ching hat trick for their only win in the past three months remember, as well as Boswell out from yellow card suspension, and they traded arguably their most dynamic midfielder not named Davis for an injured Colin Clark. Talk about throwing in the towel.
So, looking at the matchups, DC has some startlingly good matchups on offense and shoul score on a tired and disheveled Houston defense. Allsopp and Hernandez should trouble Serioux and probably Cameron back to replace the suspended Boswell and it wouldn’t shock me at all to see Junior come in off the bench like a bolt of lightning completely upsetting the balance of power in the second half. Then Najar and later Varela will certainly cause concern for Chabala, who is very promising but defensively dodgy and he will not get help from the midfield in this one. I expect Quaranta to play in the middle and Boskovic on the left, but even if it’s the other way round, Houston’s Palmer is a wild card in central midfield and Hainault is a red card waiting to happen because he constantly chooses brawn instead of brains, so DC has tentative edges there too.
Defensively for DC is a bit dicier, but still manageable. Oduro and Weaver are tough matchups for Jakovic and James as Weaver’s size or Oduro’s speed might trouble DC’s double J defense, but then again neither is exactly consistent for Houston or they’d be a lot better this year. Then assuming Cameron moves back to defense, Davis takes over central midfield and that’s trouble for DC since Simms is not 100% and neither Morsink or King has the chops to hold back Houston’s best player for 90 minutes, especially if they resort to fouls, allowing Davis’ killer free kicks the chance to swing the game. However, Ashe shouldn’t be any trouble for Zayner, and Cruz is a good match for Graye, so maybe DC hangs on by their fingernails since Houston will be mentally and physically tired coming into this match.
Looking at the trends, DC is in good shape too. Houston has obviously been bad overall as has DC, but the Dynamo has been particularly horrendous on the road this year with only one win and two ties in twelve games this year while being outscored 27-10 counting the 4-3 loss in KC Wednesday. And they’ve been shut out on the road 4 out of their last 5 matches and not garnered a point on the road since July 1st. Admittedly, DC has their record share of shutouts too even at home, and hasn’t been shooting particularly straight of late, but they did beat Philly a couple weeks ago and is beginning to look like they can actually defend their own house, at least against the bad teams.
Even the intangibles seem to favor DC a bit. United is 3-1 against Houston in RFK in league play outscoring them a cool 5 to 3. Perkins even saved a PK a few years back if memory serves. As long as the RFK lights stay on and no freak storms ruin the proceedings, odds are DC does well against a tired team with nothing to play for in front of hundreds who care little for them.
On form, this has the makings of an ineptly played 0-0 draw or a heartbreaking single mistake game that could go 1-0 either way. But, I think each team summons up some of their old pride and goes toe to toe for a wild 3-2 thriller as even pathetic offenses can often find the back of the net against pathetic defenses. Since DC has the slight edge of defense, let’s go for a DC win pulling them to within two of Houston for the worst record in the league.
Hey, that’s progress.