Houston comes into this match with a perfect 1-0-0 record in Major League Soccer, beating D.C. United in the season opener two weeks ago. They had last weekend off to prepare for the CONCACAF Champions League battle with Santos Laguna. They won the first leg but dropped the second leg this past week in Mexico.
The CCL Hangover
We've seen it in the past, clubs that go into the CCL and have to battle with clubs in Mexico, Costa Rica or Honduras that they come back into league play with a bit of a hangover. For Houston it will help that they are going from a tough game against a big Mexican side like Santos to a rivalry game like this in Dallas.
But saying that too, this is still a very early stage in the season for Houston. While they looked good in Week 1, how they handle the quick turnaround from Thursday to Sunday remains to be seen. Not to mention the travel from Mexico to Frisco.
Dallas will want to come out in this one with loads of energy. Having Blas Perez back in the lineup helps as he could be a big spark up front with Kenny Cooper (or even Eric Hassli). An early goal in this one out of one of those guys would be huge to keep the hangover of losing down in Mexico an on-going thing. Momentum is key for both clubs and right now seizing it early is an absolute must.
Pressure, pressure, pressure
One thing I noticed in the D.C. game and the second Santos game was the pressure that both teams put on Brad Davis and more importantly on Oscar Boniek Garcia. Being tight on Boniek Garcia, keeping him from getting more than a couple touches on the ball at a time is huge. Being able to limit him and what he is able to do for guys up front like Will Bruin will go a long way in keeping this game in Dallas' favor.
But with the pressure goes keeping your head in check (we'll touch on that in a second). Houston is a very dangerous free kick team with Davis. Basically, you don't want to give up any silly fouls in the defensive third against this club. Andrew Jacobson, Bobby Warshaw, or Je-Vaughn Watson will need to have been outings in this one and most importantly they will need to keep Davis and Boniek Garcia away from being able to have set pieces.
Staying smart, level headed
This is probably the biggest key to victory in this game with the Dynamo. Keeping a level head and playing smart. Cards are the enemy more than the Orange themselves.
While we may not see Jair Benitez start tomorrow, guys like him have to be smart in this one. There is always a certain level of intensity to rivalry battles like this one and the center official will know from the second he enters the stadium that he'll have to call it tight.
Just as we've seen in the past, Dallas won't win this game if they are down to 10 men for something stupid.
I can't stress enough how playing smart and direct will be a good plan for Dallas on Sunday. I think having Perez back should help the attack in a big way as it will make the formation more of a 4-4-2 for the first time this season. David Ferreira needs to be active, as does Jackson.
Spreading out the Dynamo is also a good course of action. But let's also not forget the vital subs that Schellas Hyndman will have on his bench in Hassli and Fabian Castillo. Adding a game-changer like Castillo late could be the home run type sub that Dallas has lacked so far this season.
A win is a possibility here but this club has to show the desire to get the result and play a complete 90 minutes. If they do that, the El Capitan cannon will come back to Frisco.