Nov 10, 2012, 3:45 PM EDT
Both teams are coming off massive achievement, as fifth-seeded Houston upset top-seeded Sporting Kansas City in the Eastern Conference semifinals while United gutted out that memorable 1-0 win at New York to secure the other conference semifinal.
Houston is not a place where D.C. United has done well, and two matches this year year were dropped by a combined 5-0.
Then again, Ben Olsen’s club has that little feel of “destiny” around them, and they sure haven’t done much losing lately.
The clubs meet Sunday downtown in Houston to kick off the home-and-away, total goals series.
Eastern Conference finals: first of two legs
Sunday’s Kickoff: 4 p.m. ET, BBVA Compass Stadium, NBC Sports Network
On D.C. United
- Talk about getting things right at the exact, right time: United is 6-0-3 since early September. They’ve forgotten what it feels like to lose!
- This will be United’s third trip into BBVA Compass Stadium – and the downtown ground of abundant orange paint hasn’t been kind to Olsen’s boys. They were Houston’s first victims in the brand new ground back in May. And a meeting in South Texas in July went wrong in all kinds of ways for D.C., who finished on the wrong end of a 4-0 whuppin.
- Overall, United is 0-8-1 in Houston. Hard to feel good about something like that.
- United will be without Andy Najar, who received an additional two-game suspension following his unwise actions in the opening leg of his team’s series win over New York. That means Robbie Russell at right back again. He’s probably a better defender, but Russell doesn’t pose anything close to the threat Najar does going forward.
- Last time these teams met in Houston, Bill Hamid charged out wildly to take down Mac Kandji, leaving his team a man down and facing a penalty kick. He won’t be around to do so this time; against New York on Thursday, Hamid charged out wildly to take down Kenny Cooper, leaving his team a man down and facing a penalty kick.
- Here’s a recap of the 4-0 loss.
- Backup goalkeeper Joe Willis, based on his solid work earlier this year in Hamid’s absence, is not a huge dropoff in quality.
- If Chris Korb is healthy enough, he will start Sunday at left back, where he did so well as United opened the playoffs. If not, it’s probably Lewis Neal’s job again.
- Every day that goes by, we inch a little closer to a possible Dwayne De Rosario sighting in the playoffs.
- United has one day rest fewer than the home team; that’s courtesy of the second big storm to batter the East Coast over two weeks, this one a big snow dumper that forced a 24-hour postponement of the teams’ match, which was scheduled for Wednesday in New Jersey.
- What to say at this point about Houston, a team that simply knows how to grind out playoff results? The Orange went to Chicago and found a way to get by the Fire. They hustled and bustled their way to two goals and a sizeable mental edge in a mess of a match against Kansas City down in Houston, then held on for dear, sweet life in the return leg at Livestrong Sporting Park.
- Houston still has not lost a competitive match inside BBVA Compass Stadium.
- Center back Jermaine Taylor is back at training but remains questionable. Andrew Hainault, who played well in Wednesday’s series second leg in Kansas City will fill in again if Taylor, a Jamaican international, cannot make it.
- Starting forward Calen Carr, who left Wednesday’s match with a hamstring injury, looks in serious doubt.
- One man well rested for the Dynamo: veteran striker Brian Ching, who played just nine minutes over two legs against Sporting Kansas City. Given the injury to Carr, could we see a start from the veteran, former U.S. international? Either way, this will surely be Ching’s last match in Houston, as he seems set to retire at year’s end. (Houston is the one playoff team remaining that has no chance of hosting MLS Cup 2012.)
- Dominic Kinnear and his Dynamo are 180 minutes from appearing their second consecutive MLS Cup final. (They fell to L.A. last year at the Home Depot Center.)
- Houston has allowed 12 goals in 18 regular season and playoff games at BBVA. That’s just ridiculous.
- The Dynamo has arrived into a conference final for the fifth time in seven seasons.
- Just watch Sunday and see how much ground Ricardo Clark covers from his central midfield position.
- Goalkeeper Tally Hall has allowed four goals in six playoff matches. That’s heady stuff, especially considering Hall is just a second-year starter, having apprenticed under Pat Onstad. (Onstad, by the way, is now a D.C. United assistant.)
Who could blame either team for not finding their best level in this one? Given the physical demands on both teams in matches that stretched their limits in intensity and stamina, there’s every reason to expect cautious approaches and probably some sluggish legs Sunday.
Temperatures in the 80s with typical Houston mugginess won’t help, and it could be a particular hindrance to United, a side coming from a match where kickoff weather was about 40 degrees cooler.
Dynamo playoff matches don’t tend to deliver many goals, so this one has 1-0 written all over it. Considering history and the additional day of rest, this one certainly leans toward the Dynamo.
Bonus: the way EA Sports sees it playing out
.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
Apr 18, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT
Spurs and Fulham set for derby scrap, with both team desperate for three points:
Apr 18, 2014, 10:27 AM EDT
Rooney and Fellaini fit to face their old team, as United aim to scupper Everton’s top four:
Apr 18, 2014, 9:13 AM EDT
Hammers’ youngster loses battle against cancer:
Apr 18, 2014, 8:23 AM EDT
Six nominees for PFA Player and Young Player of the Year award announced:
Apr 18, 2014, 7:51 AM EDT
Beckerman and Bradley; the perfect midfield combination for the USMNT?
Apr 17, 2014, 11:33 PM EDT
MLS’s nine-match Saturday kicks off Saturday at 4:00 p.m. ET, with Chicago hosting New England on NBCSN.
Apr 17, 2014, 9:03 PM EDT
Think MLS’s conferences are unbalanced now? Let me offer you a glimpse at 2017.
Apr 17, 2014, 7:44 PM EDT
An American consortium has a deal to buy the club from Randy Lerner, if it can avoid relegation.
Apr 17, 2014, 6:38 PM EDT
The 21-year-old U.S. international appears to have underestimated the impact of an in-season tattoo.
Apr 17, 2014, 6:02 PM EDT
U.S. number one signs extension that will take him through the next World Cup cycle.
Apr 17, 2014, 5:54 PM EDT
Gunners playmaker back fit, as Arsene Wenger expects big things from the German next season:
Apr 17, 2014, 5:24 PM EDT
Real Madrid has the easiest path, with the next two weekends potentially knocking the holders out of contention.
Apr 17, 2014, 5:14 PM EDT
England international a doubt after hamstring injury, why would Liverpool risk him?
Apr 17, 2014, 4:53 PM EDT
Which MLS teams can join New York in leaving the ranks of the winless?
Apr 17, 2014, 4:24 PM EDT
Unstoppable Reds continue to roll, but where did the contenders shake out in our latest rankings?
Apr 17, 2014, 3:28 PM EDT
Both players should be back by the time their national teams start preparations for this summer’s World Cup.
Apr 17, 2014, 2:46 PM EDT
Thousands of flares engulfed Greece’s Toumba Stadium as a bench was lit on fire and covered in anchovies. And that was all before the match…
Apr 17, 2014, 1:58 PM EDT
With Guardiola not taking kindly to criticism from the front office, could the former Barcelona boss return to the Camp Nou?
Apr 17, 2014, 1:02 PM EDT
For decades Manchester United have been the top dogs in Manchester, now that’s changing. PST’s Editor and Lead Writer went behind the scenes to see what Mancunians are all about:
Apr 17, 2014, 12:31 PM EDT
Can Brendan Rodgers and company make it through the rest of their schedule unscathed to the prize at the end? Chelsea seem like the biggest hurdle. Our very own Joe Prince-Wright and Mike Prindiville discuss.
- Three Liverpool players on PFA Player of the Year shortlist 0
- Week 7 Preview: Fire look for first win vs. Revs; Dallas gets its crack at Toronto 0
- Report: Aston Villa ownership will change hands if club stays up 4
- Tim Howard inks Everton extension, signs through 2017-18 season 2
- Premier League Power Rankings: Liverpool or Chelsea for the title? – Week 34 0
- Neymar, Jordi Alba to miss the rest of Barcelona’s season 1