OK, DC has never won a game in Houston. They had never even scored a goal in that sauna in five tries until last year when they scored three in a belated comeback that fell short 4-3. So, predicting a DC win under this year’s hideous circumstances would be the height of homer-ism, but there you go. This space exists to rationalize ways to win in situations that are certain losses and this is so obviously one of those that Mr. Sunshine has probably done himself a mischief in trying to dial up reasons this match might go DC’s way.
So here we go. First and foremost, Houston is a lesser team without Ching than they are with him, and he’s gone with the US team searching his slot on the World Cup finals team. They are also without last year’s revelation, Geoff Cameron in midfield or defense and if Serioux is to be his replacement, he’s already in the outhouse with his hideous play last time out in Houston’s 3-1 loss in RSL last weekend.
Plus, they have some other personnel problems with Eddie Robinson out again long term, as well as a quandary over what to do with their gigantic Mexican albatross, Luis “Baby Huey” Landin. He’s not really been much of a factor lately as Houston’s more fleet elements up front have been carrying the load. Oduro, Ashe, and newly signed Appiah have been the speedsters that have sparked Houston’s offense, and while they are good players they have not been very consistent, so Houston’s attack has mirrored their form. It’s either light’s out good or anemic bad leading to their up and down year so far.
In fact, Houston has lost two of their last three including a home loss to their in-state rival FC Dallas, which also lost them “El Capitan” for the first time ever. Overall, they are certainly not the world beaters they have been at home. Their home record is a meager (for them) 3-2-1 at Reliant stadium, which includes a miracle double PK win over RSL in a match that should never have garnered them a point, much less three.
Now, as you’ve no doubt noticed, I’ve been cleverly avoiding my normal routine of singing the praises of DC United or explaining how they will earn a victory in Houston. Yes, clearly that is the fly in this big bowl of whipped cream as DC simply has no chance of earning a win down there unless Houston screws the pooch. That’s the bad news as no matter how you slice it, DC has no chance since even the anemic Dynamo are likely too strong and well coached to lose to DC’s paper tigers without divine intervention on the side of the Black and Red.
Looking at the matchups is truly frightening. Oduro and Ashe blazing by Talley and Pena could be burned into retinas all over the DC area, well those with Galavision and a strong constitution anyway. Then it will be Davis and Mullan bewitching and bursting past Graye and Wallace and Palmer and Mulrooney outplaying Simms and Morsink leaving no part of United’ defensive third where DC has an advantage. So all things considered, Houston should cruise to three or four goals easily. This could also be Hamid’s Waterloo too if he gets shelled and made to look bad.
Going the other way, since United’s midfield will be outplayed overall and Pontius is unlikely to make much, if any, contribution in his first match back in almost two months, United has a snowball’s chance in Houston to score. Castillo will be frustrated and probably goaded into a red card by Mullan and Waibel (or Hainault), and Chabala will easily negate Boyzzz on the other side. With Simms and Morsink reticent to attack already, and United’s attack overall this year being pretty ineffective to boot, DC will be lucky to even threaten Houston’s goal, much less find the back of the net.
Now, I have no doubt Allsopp and Cristman will work their tails off, but with no midfield support speak of, they have almost no chance of getting the better of Boswell and Serioux (or Cochrane, since Serioux played so badly last week). Even their not having Onstad (playing for Canada) won’t be much help because since we took Bambi Wells off their hands, they got a much better backup in Talley Hall. He doesn’t have much MLS experience, but his CONCACAF experience has been impressive the last year or two, so United’s 2010 attack shouldn’t give him any reason to worry.
I won’t even tell you the intangibles as they are so one sided for Houston. Suffice it to say, it would be a statistical improbability for United to win given the history and current or recent trends. A United win would definitely be the exception to the rule, well more like the cow jumping over the moon or the dish running away with the spoon, but you get the idea.
So, there you have it. It’s a stone cold lock that DC loses by two to three goals. But, that’s the biggest reason why DC might actually pull this off. MLS is a wacky world and results sometimes just fall off a truck. United hasn’t stumbled onto any results on the road in a while, and it’s a shame that they have no real chance unless Houston gifts them a point or three. But Houston might be a lot more Jekyl than Hyde this week and as long as DC works as hard as they have these past three weeks, they might just pull off a miracle.