HOUSTON - MAY 28: Brad Davis #11 of the Houston Dynamo fends off Ricardo Villar #11 of FC Dallas as he brings the ball up the field in the second half at Robertson Stadium on May 28, 2011 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
FC Dallas finally returns to MLS action to day after over half a month off as they travel down to Houston for the absolutely enormous Texas Derby. FCD heads into the derby looking to improve their dismal 3-8-4(13 points) record against a Houston Dynamo team that hasn't really found its stride yet and sits at 4-4-4 (16 points). This is unconfirmed, but I believe anything other than a 0-0 draw or loss brings the cannon back to Dallas. In years past, away goals has been the tiebreaker, though I will try to confirm that later.
Futility Streak Should FCD fail to win tonight, they'll tie the franchise winless streak with 10 games without a victory. The good news? That streak came in 2005 when FCD made the playoffs.
M*A*S*H Update Shea, Ugo, Villar, Ferreira, Warshaw and possibly Perez/John. An amazing number of injuries, though Hernan Pertuz is likely to return to the lineup while Andrew Wiedeman could make the bench. Houston is almost completely healthy with only a couple bench players out for this one.
Second half pressure FC Dallas has given up a well-documented 20 goals in the second half while nine of the 13 goals Houston has scored came in the second half.
Goals at a premium There have only been four goals scored in the three games on the tiny field at BBVA Compass Stadium while just one goal has been allowed to the opposing team. What this all means is that the first goal is absolutely massive and whoever scores first is likely going to take this one.
Keys to the game
Defensive Communication With a likely starting center back pairing of Matt Hedges and Hernan Pertuz, defensive communication is going to be absolutely vital. When you're going up against two big and strong forwards like Will Bruin and Brian Ching, you've got to be smart in the air and not give a half-chance away.
Keep Your Cool It's going to get heated tonight in more ways than one and guys like Jair Benitez and Daniel Hernandez have to keep their cool. FCD hasn't been opposed to picking up a red card or two this season and if you go down a man in Houston, it's pretty much a death sentence.
Use your speed Bobby Boswell and Geoff Cameron are fantastic center backs, but speed has been known to expose the Houston defense before. That means Fabian Castillo needs to be unleashed in this one like he hasn't been this season and I wouldn't mind switching him over to the right side to keep Brad Davis busy.
No silly free kicks The Dynamo are not a team that will beat you from open play that much, they only have 5 goals from the run of play in 12 games. However, they will absolutely torch you on set pieces which means don't give up silly fouls 30 yards outside the box.
FC Dallas - L L T L L
Houston Dynamo - W T T W L
REFEREE: Jair Marrufo.
SAR (bench): George Gansner; JAR (opposite): Brian Dunn;
4th: Mark Kadlecik
Prediction 8-7 on the season
Winning in Houston has only happened once since the rivalry started, but FCD has had three weeks to prepare for this one. For me, this is an extremely difficult game to predict as I could definitely see Dallas breaking out in this one if everything comes together, but with so many pieces still out it could be the same ugly game we've seen for the past month. I predict a cagey affair that sees each team score and Dallas hold on for a wild point.