Tonight the Dynamo take on the Montreal Impact and both teams come in to this Eastern Conference Knockout round with issues.
During the regular season Montreal won twice north of the border while the Dynamo defeated the Impact 1-0 at BBVA Compass Stadium a few weeks back 1-0.
Then again this is the second season, a new life and like Real Salt Lake in 2008 teams can morph into something different.
Two solid goalkeepers in Tally Hall for the Dynamo and Troy Perkins for Montreal. Both are dependable and capable of pulling off the timely and important save.
Hall is clearly the Dynamo team Mvp this year.
Without him the Dynamo likely would not be in playoffs based on inconsistent season.
The Dynamo will have to deal with one major change in that being Eric Brunner in for Jermaine Taylor. The Dynamo will lose some athleticism here but not experience as Brunner has handled big game experiences before.
Ironically in the 5-0 loss in Montreal Brunner came on for an injured Taylor.
The center-back position for the Dynamo has been an issue all year long.
Brunner and Boswell must play together against a wily striker in Marco DiVaio the Bologna icon who is razor sharp.
Outside backs Kofi Sarkodie and Cory Ashe need to get in front of the ball and provide real penetration as opposed to settling for hitting crosses in front of defenses. If they can get to the end line the Dynamo will create chances dependent upon the final delivery.
The Impact one has to think will bring a more experienced Jeb Brovsky back into the lineup at the back along with former Parma man Matteo Ferrari, and Hassoun Camara.
If youngster Wandrille Lefevre starts at center back the Dynamo must test the Academy product.
Midfield: Yes it is cliche but it will be won or lost here. The Dynamo need to get the game widened out at times with Boniek Garcia and Brad Davis as key playmakers.
Boniek Garcia is flying high having just qualified for the World Cup with Honduras.
His infectious game can lift others.
Athletic and ground covering is the duo of Ricardo Clark and Warren Creavalle in the holding role. Balance is the key here between these two.
Clark scored the game winner vs. Montreal in their last meeting , incidentally the last time the Dynamo scored a goal from the run of play.
Montreal’s real question is how healthy is Patrice Bernier if he starts tonight with his hip. If so he would be partnered with Hernan Bernardello who is a busy, holding DP from Argentina that has played in La Liga. A good ground coverer and tackler, Bernardello is useful with the ball when he wins it.
This two will need to get the ball to the feet of Justin Mapp, Felipe, DiVaio and Arnaud early.
Arnaud and Mapp must produce plays and play into their top man Marco DiVaio to have a successful day.
FORWARDS Will Bruin and Giles Barnes for the Dynamo need to make plays. Bruin contributes but is lacking in confidence right now it seems in the striker position when it comes to scoring goals.
Barnes is the leading scorer with 9 goals and comes off making two big plays at DC United where the Dynamo to be fair were not completely comfortable. Barnes also is the biggest threat for the Dynamo in the aerial game where he has four goals. Can he get behind Bernardello and Bernier and find space.
DiVaio plays on the last line of a defense, looks to get between defenders and is slippery. Lapses mentally around him will be punished
At 37 he scores goals with his brain, movement, and precise timing and finishing.
The midfield match up is one of intrigue but if the Dynamo win this area and get penetration from wide areas it could be a good night. They will need to protect their center backs throughout the night and be quick to quell the counter attack.
Creavalle likely will be deeper than Clark and must make smart decisions.
For Montreal the question is can they match the Dynamo ethic and provide service, support and play into their talisman Marco DiVaio.
Goalkeepers, eliminating mistakes, desire all play a part in this.
The winner gets the New York Red Bulls .
The game will be shown nationally on NBCSN and is not blacked out in Houston to Dynamo fans.
A night of excitement beckons us as it is playoff time in the MLS!