Match Preview: Caps vs. Dynamo

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Since the start of the 2013 season, BC Place stadium has been a veritable fortress for the Vancouver Whitecaps - a place where the blue and white have lost only three regular season matches in that span. If a team's home is indeed its castle, you can be sure that coach Carl Robinson and his men will be busy this week filling the moat, raising the draw bridge, and sharpening their spears. And it still may not be enough to stave off the Houston Dynamo this Saturday.

Vancouver and Houston have tangled four times in Major League Soccer regular season play - each side with a pair of wins, and the home team winning all four fixtures. It's a very brief history, but one that would have you thinking the Vancouver Whitecaps should be strongly favoured on home soil.

But recent form would suggest that the Whitecaps are in for a much stiffer test against Houston's orangemen. The Dynamo are undefeated (2-0), albeit on the strength of a pair of home dates against Eastern Conference foes Montreal Impact and New England Revolution.

Houston opened the current campaign with a 4-0 drubbing of the Revolution, a team the Whitecaps couldn't manage to score on even once last weekend. In the process of an easy introduction to 2014, the Dynamo appear to have hit mid-season form just a little early.

Dynamo striker Will Bruin, who had a bit of an off year in 2013, has been on fire right out of the gate this season, with three goals in two matches, and a very enviable average match rating of 8.51 according to whoscored.com. In terms of out and out strikers, Houston doesn't enjoy all that much depth. There's Omar Cummings, but he's four years removed from his career high of 14 goals, and didn't find net at all last season in his 11 starts.

Where Houston poses a real dangerous though, is in their midfield. In fact, it's midfielder Giles Barnes who plays up top with Bruin in the Dynamo's 4-4-2. The 25-year-old former Derby County and West Brom product led the Dynamo in goal scoring last season, with nine markers. CAM Boniek Garcia is a true playmaker, and will need special attention from Vancouver on Saturday. He's flanked by the very experienced Brad Davis, now in his 9th year with the Dynamo; Andrew Driver, who joined the Dynamo on loan from Hearts last season; and 31-year-old Ricardo Clark the 7th-year holding mid at the bottom of Houston's diamond. The Dynamo also have Tony Cascio to call on for depth.

If you're a Whitecaps fan, this is where and why you begin to worry. Over Vancouver's last two matches, as it was much of last year, it's been the midfield where the Caps have been out-played, and sluggish. Houston's good in the air, and if the Caps fail to keep the ball on the deck, it'll be Houston mopping up those balls all day. It looks as though Gershon Koffie may be stepping in for Nigel Reo-Coker this week, and the Ghanaian will definitely need to ensure he brings his "A" game to work with him.

At the back from left to right it's Corey Ashe (8th year with Dynamo), Jermaine Taylor (4th year with Dynamo), David Horst (acquired from Portland), and Kofi Sarkodie (4th year with Dynamo). Horst (6'2", 210) is the new piece in the back line, and by all accounts the centerback has acquitted himself very well so far.

Houston is backstopped by Tally Hall, now in his 6th year with the Dynamo. He's only been called upon to make five saves so far this season, but it's still a 0.00 GAA until the Caps can put one or more past him on Saturday.

Houston is a great counter-attacking team, and Dominic Kinnear's side can tear an opponent to shreds if they're slow to react, or push too far forward in numbers. They're an experienced side who are perennial playoff contenders, and have been Cup finalists two of the last three years. But they haven't played a decent side yet this season.

Vancouver, well...they're still figuring things out. We've seen the sublime once, and we've seen the sub-optimal twice. There are a number of new pieces at work this season, and there's no question that, on paper at least, it's a vastly improved team. All of this makes the Whitecaps unpredictable - for their fans and opponents alike.

Prediction: Houston 2, Vancouver 1

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