HOUSTON, TX - MAY 26: Andre Hainault #31 of the Houston Dynamo celebrates what proved to be the game-winner against the Los Angeles Galaxy on May 26, 2012 in Houston, Texas. Hainault won't be duplicating that feat in Vancouver on June 10, when the Whitecaps host the Dynamo. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Well, it's reached the point in the MLS dance schedule for a highly movable object to meet up with a very resistible force -- and it's anybody's guess as to who leaves the prom crying.
The Vancouver Whitecaps, who started the 2012 season so strongly in going four and a half matches before conceding a goal, now have 10 days to prepare for their home field tilt against a Houston Dynamo side that spent the first seven weeks of the season on the road, going 2-3-2 over that span while their home venue BBVA Compass Stadium was being completed.
At first glance, the sides appear to fairly evenly matched: Houston's sitting at 4-3-4, while the Caps are slightly better at 5-3-4. Houston gets the edge on goal differential at 0, while the Caps are -1. Both sides are at 2-1-2 over their last five in league play. Digging a bit deeper, things start to get a bit more interesting. Perhaps not any more illuminating, but interesting nonetheless.
The Dynamo lost their US Open Cup match against San Antonio on Tuesday, and barely scraped past the L.A. Galaxy a few days earlier, so form is not one of their strong suits at the moment. More worrying for Houston, however, will be the absence of five key starters due to international duty.
They will be without defenders Andre Hainault (CAN), Jermaine Taylor (JAM), and Geoff Cameron (USA) along with midfielder Je-Vaughn Watson (JAM). Hainault's absence, will leave a big hole to fill at the RB slot. Now in his fourth year with the club, the 25-year-old started 31 matches for the Dynamo last season, and has over 600 mins logged so far this campaign. He and Davis together account for almost 40% of the Dynamo goals this year. Cameron, who was selected to the US national team just recently, is widely regarded as one of the best CBs in the MLS.
Davis fills the wide left position with Watson inside him in Houston's usual 4-4-2 scheme. Left side service to forwards Brian Ching and Will Bruin might be less than optimal at B.C. Place.
The vacancy in the midfield could see MLS bad boy Colin Clarke doing more than the 15-20 minutes of fill-in duty he's been relegated to since the March 23 incident, which saw him suspended for three matches after tossing a homophobic slur a ball boy's way in a match vs the Sounders.
The depleted Dynamo roster offers the Whitecaps their best chance in more than a month to return to their winning ways. The Caps are winless in their last five (all competitions), and haven't won an MLS match since May 5, when they edged the San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 at B.C. Place.
Fresh off the failed gamble to rest players for the Canadian Championship, and in view of the fact that the Whitecaps have a week and change to prepare for a severely weakened Houston side, this is now the second "must win" match of the year for the Caps -- but we all know how the first such match turned out in Toronto last week.
On paper, it would appear as if the blue and white might have lady luck working on their side. But any roster that features Ching and Bruin up front is a side that can pot goals.