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MLS Preview: Houston Dynamo at Columbus Crew

Sep 3, 2013, 11:30 PM EDT

DC United v Houston Dynamo Getty Images
  • Federico Higuain is still missing for the Crew
  • After a July in decline, the Dynamo was 4-1-1 in two competitions in August
  • Houston will play its seventh match in its sixth city in the last 26 days

These are busy, busy times for the Houston Dynamo, and these are desperate, desperate times for the Columbus Crew.

The sides clash at Crew Stadium as MLS Round 28 kicks off Wednesday; this is the first of 11 league contests during a week that’s busier than it should be during an international fixture date.

Houston is smack in the middle of that massive traffic jam in the Eastern Conference, as 8 of 10 clubs jostle for the playoff exit ramp. Columbus is at the tail end of the jam-up, still relevant, although just barely.

There is opportunity for both clubs, although this opportunity factor looks different from either side. Suffice to say, Columbus needs Wednesday’s match (7:30 p.m. ET) in the worst possible way. The club’s ability to reach the playoffs hangs in the balance, and with matches in coming days at Montreal and Sporting Kansas City (toughies, both), Wednesday’s contest in Ohio against the two-time MLS runner-up represents the best chances for points until later this month.

The problem is that vital playmaker Federico Higuain must sit out one more match for his ill-considered actions two weekends back at Real Salt Lake. That takes a lot of Crew offense off the table, and there wasn’t enough to begin with.

It’s impossible to tell how the men in yellow will deal with Monday’s big news; manager Robert Warzycha was fired after five years in charge at Crew Stadium. There could be some feel of “fresh start,” which is always a potential motivator. On the other hand, interim manager Brian Bliss seems less than likely to land the position full time, so perhaps the “fresh start” element is marginalized in this case.

From Houston’s side, the opportunity factor lies mostly in Higuain’s absence. About this time last year the Argentine playmaker made his MLS debut in the second half against Houston and very nearly took down the Dynamo with an inspired second-half performance. (It was a harbinger of things to come for Higuain, who very nearly drove his team from behind into the playoffs.)

Houston’s chances to collect valuable road points rises dramatically without Higuain to deal with. Meanwhile, the Dynamo is getting a bit healthier, with Omar Cummings and (even more importantly) Ricardo Clark (pictured above) getting closer to a return.

The returning players are critical to a club taxed extensively by travel; this will be Houston’s seventh match in six different cities (and three different countries) in the last 26 days. It is also Houston’s second road match in four nights.

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