First home game in about three weeks. Really it almost feels like a new home opener as it's been so long since we've seen the Portland Timbers play at home. This weekend's foe happens to be the Houston Dynamo, a team that the Timbers have not fared well against in the past. In three games through 2011-2012, the Timbers are sitting at a 0-2-1 (W-L-D) record and a -3 goal differential. Of course, those two losses came in 2011 and the draw came during their singular meet up in Houston. So take it for what you will.
As with the Timbers, and most MLS teams, Houston is not the exact same team as they were in 2012, however, as such I spoke with Richard Willis of SB Nation's Houston Dynamo blog Dynamo Theory to catch up on what the Texas side has been up to.
Coming off the pre-season, give us a bit of a rundown on what's changed with the Houston Dynamo. Who are the major additions? Who are the major absences, either due to injury or trade?
Calen Carr's out for the foreseeable future with a knee injury, and with Macoumba Kandji leaving for the lower tiers of Greek football and Brian Ching in a largely substitute role, the team brought in Omar Cummings...who proceeded to injure himself in the preseason, though he appears to be pretty much back to full health.
Defender Andre Hainault also left, going to Scotland, and his place was filled by Eric Brunner, a guy y'all probably know. Mike Chabala - who I believe also played in Portland - was also signed to bolster the fullback depth, and winger Andrew Driver came over from Hearts in a loan-to-own deal.
Also, Colin Clark's departure for the Galaxy and Je-Vaughn Watson's trade to Dallas means that our midfield is a little less cluttered.
Looking ahead to the match, aside from Brad Davis, who will be the impact maker for the Dynamo? Who should Timbers fans keep a sharp eye on throughout?
Giles Barnes. With Omar Cummings out to start the season, Barnes was slotted into what's basically a trequartista's role. It took him a few matches to get used to it, but he's been on fire lately. If he's in the match (and I don't see how Dom could sit him), he'll do his best to feature.
The Houston Dynamo have gone to two MLS Cups back-to-back, but last year they just barely made it into the play offs. Is there a reasonable expectation that this team can make the MLS Cup once again? Are they better or worse than they were in 2012?
I think - and this opinion is shared by many - that they're better than last season. Calen Carr is the only starter from the Cup final not with the Dynamo, and that's due to injury. They lost pieces, but they picked up more than they lost. They're definitely a contender, and a lot of people here would probably consider anything less than a Cup a failure.
My personal thoughts are that they need to get better at picking up points on the road (as well as beating the teams they should beat at home, not settling for draws) before anything else. If they can pick up points on the road and the Dynamo get that far, there's a chance that Houston hosts the Cup final - and I'd love their chances in that scenario.
Predicted starting line up? (First and last names please!)
4-2-3-1: Tally Hall; Kofi Sarkodie, Bobby Boswell; Jermaine Taylor, Corey Ashe; Adam Moffat, Ricardo Clark; Oscar Boniek Garcia, Giles Barnes, Brad Davis; Will Bruin
Huge thanks to Richard for taking time out of his day to answer my questions. Read more about the Houston Dynamo at Dynamo Theory.
What do you think about this Houston Dynamo side? How do you think the Timbers compare?