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Dynamo takes on defending Champs
Wednesday, 31 March 2010
Defending MLS champion Real Salt Lake makes it way to Robertson Stadium for the Dynamoís home opener this Thursday at 8 p.m. on ESPN2. Both teams will be coming off a short week as Houston returns home after their 1-1 draw with FC Dallas and RSL continues its season opening road trip after pasting San Jose 3-0 at Buck Shaw Stadium. If history is any indicator, the game should be filled with goals and controversy.

© Nigel Brooks

Even before Real attained its current status as league champions and was better known as a league doormat, itís usually given the Dynamo a good game at Robertson. The Dynamo has never lost to Salt Lake at home, and in fact, has won five of the six games.Included in those six games are two 4-3 wins, a 3-2 win, and several valiant comebacks from Salt Lake that nearly produced a point for the visitors in spite of being down by at least two goals. This RSL team will be confident that they can produce a franchise first and take three points from the Men in Orange.

What Real brings to the field
Other than losing forward Yura Movsisyan to Europe, Real has kept together most of its championship-winning side while adding wunderkind Luis Gil and Costa Rican Alvaro Saborio to fill the void left by Movsisyanís departure.

However, itís clear that the teamís fortunes will be based on how effective their core of veteran players are and no player is more important to the team than Javier Morales. The Argentine was spectacular in 2008 for RSL netting six goals and 15 assists and while his production in 2009 declined, he was still the engine behind the RSL offense.

In last weekendís opener, Morales seemed to prove that he was back to his top form scoring two exquisite goals in the victory over San Jose. Whether veteran Richard Mulrooney starts at defensive midfield after his good performance against Dallas or new signee Lovel Palmer, it is imperative for the Dynamo to limit Moralesí touches and time on the ball.

Defensively, RSL will rely on the dread-locked Kyle Beckerman, Jamison Olave (aka ďColombiaís answer to Eddie RobinsonĒ) and MLS Cup hero Nick Rimando to stifle the Dynamo attack. Realís physical style wonít intimidate Houston who can throw their bodies around with the best of them and players like Brian Ching will be called on to bear the brunt of the physical burden.

Back home for the Men in Orange
For Houston, the team is hoping that an extra game and the cozy confines of Robertson Stadium will lead to continued improvement on the offensive end. While the team enjoyed good spells from time to time against FC Dallas last week, itís clear they are still looking to develop the chemistry that has made them into a perennial power at the top of MLS these past four seasons.

It will take more time for Geoff Cameron to become accustomed to his new role in the midfield which only increases the pressure on Brad Davis and Brian Mullan to be effective on the wings. While star forward Brian Ching can always be counted on to work diligently at winning headers and holding the ball for his team, the Dynamo must give him more opportunities in front of goal. In defense, Ryan Cochrane looks likely to get his first start of the season as defender Eddie Robinson left hamstring injury rules him out for this weekís game. The silver lining to the injury is that it isnít an injury to Robinsonís recently surgically repaired knee and that the Dynamo has a fair bit of depth at center back with Cochrane, newly-acquired Adrian Serioux, or even Cameron in the starting lineup.

As with most games, this game will be decided in the midfield. Can Houston stifle Morales and Co. while creating clear chances for Ching? I think they will. No game in this series has ever been decided by more than one goal and I expect that trend to continue with Houston getting their first win of the season.

Dynamo 2, Real Salt Lake 1