El Capitan, of course. But for both teams, this represents a real key game before the slog that both teams will have to fight through during the Gold Cup, with both teams looking to be missing a number of players for much of July.
But also, oh my how the fortunes have changed between the teams since Dallas took Houston to the woodshed in their first meeting of the year. Since then, both have played seven matches. Dallas had 2 of 7 at home whereas Houston had four. As we have consistently seen in MLS, home field matters (we use The Pace in our Power Rankings for a reason), so to a degree, the resulting change in results for both teams has been somewhat predictable.
But now Dallas gets home and has pretty much everyone back and reasonably healthy, especially this deep into the year. Houston, on the other hand, has to go on the road against a proud team that has had to eat a lot of crow of late. It would be shocking to see either team come out flat.
Does Houston need to win today? No. Not in the slightest. In fact, while I doubt they will come looking for a tie, sharing a point with Dallas would be fine for the South Texans as it would keep them within striking distance of FCD with so much of the season remaining. So after Houston presses for much of the game for the win, do not be surprised if they turn a bit conservative late if a draw can be protected. Then again, if they get the sense that Dallas is vulnerable, make no mistake, they will go for the win.
Does Dallas need to win today? “Need” is a strong word, but it is pretty close. For a team that spent much of the season at the top of the conference and the league, to be on the bottom end of playoff eligibility is a tough place to be in. Tie today and it is not a good result. Lose, and that is a very bad sign.
To me, the question is this – can Dallas recover in one week and get their mojo back, as they bring back a ton of players from international duty and get back home. Remember, the team that beat up on Houston earlier this season was not a full speed team – far from it. But this is absolutely a better, more confident Houston side that comes to Toyota Stadium tonight, so if Dallas wants a result, let alone a win, they need to shake off the frustration of the last five MLS matches and get after it.