Honeymoon to Continue in Houston?

The Houston Dynamo may wear orange, but they're absolutely golden when on home soil. - Bob Levey

Undefeated through their first two matches, a clean sheet to start the season, and an attack last weekend that, if not wholly fearsome, should rightly command at least a degree of respect from most MLS sides. Yes, the Vancouver Whitecaps have much to feel good about to date. But while the euphoria continues, let's sit down, drop the hyperbole, and take a realistic look at things.

Thus far, the Caps have defeated two teams that, on paper, they were expected to dispatch: Toronto and Columbus. To their credit, Toronto has since edged Sporting KC, but just two matches into the season I'm not yet willing to concede that TFC is now an MLS powerhouse. And Columbus? They're a decent side, but then again almost anyone can be expected to knock off Chivas.

For whatever reason, some league prognosticators have now double-dipped into the cherry kool-aid, and have the Whitecaps ranked third - not in the west, but third overall in the MLS. As much as I love the Caps, I'm not putting any weight into a rating system that has anyone going from 12th, to 10th, to 3rd based on two one-goal margins of victory.

So much for looking back. The team is now in the midst of a bye week - a little too early in the season for my liking, but Garber & co. don't exactly come calling for my feedback. Then, it's off on a three-match road series before returning for a home date on April 13, versus Real Salt Lake.

The first of the away matches comes in the Lone Star state, where Vancouver will get their first tough test of the year, and it may come to pass that in Houston, we have a problem.

For starters, Kenny Miller will be away on international duty as Scotland has called upon him to help them in their World Cup qualifiers versus Wales, and then Serbia. Miller's been a man on a mission so far for the Caps, bagging the match-winner against Columbus on a chance he anticipated, created, and finished on his own.

Then there's the matter of the Whitecaps and their play on the road. Last year, as much as Vancouver improved, they still only managed three road victories in 2012. Their goal differential on the road last season? A rather uninspiring -14. Speaking of goals, the Whitecaps scored 35 times in all matches last season. The Dynamo found the net 31 times - in their home games alone. And home has been sweet indeed for the Dynamo, as they're now unbeaten in their last 26 matches on home soil.

Houston won back-to-back MLS Cups in 2006-2007, and played in the Cup Championship match the last two seasons. The Dynamo can legitimately lay claim to being an MLS dynasty.

The Dynamo have been relatively busy this off season. The calendar year kicked off for them when Brian Ching announced on New Year's Eve that he'd be back for his 12th year in pro soccer. He's no longer a starting threat, and at 34 his best years are well behind him. Still, Houston used him as a supersub of sorts last season, with Ching netting 5 goals and 5 assists.

Caps fans won't be seeing Andre Hainault this season as, after four seasons anchoring the Dynamo back line, the Canadian defender has signed on with Ross County in the Scottish Premier League.

Defender Jermaine Taylor has returned at centerback for 2013, and will try to fill the gap left over from Geoff Cameron's departure for Stoke City at the end of July last year.

At the other end of the pitch, the Dynamo will also very likely be without forward Omar Cummings, who was picked up via trade with Colorado in December. Cummings underwent minor knee surgery at the end of January, but recent reports indicate that his recovery has been slower than initially expected.

Houston opened their 2013 MLS campaign with a 2-0 win at home over D.C. United. Houston had 17 shots attempted, while holding D.C. to zero shots on goal.

Houston's had two CONCACAF Champions League matches recently, en route to being eliminated in the quarterfinals by Santos Laguna.

A little over a week from now we'll have a better idea of what to expect from the Vancouver Whitecaps throughout 2013. We'll know then if the romance continues, or if maybe some spring season infatuation had gotten the best of us.

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