- Posted: 6:13 PM, August 2, 2012
The next week will go a long way into shaping MLS’ Eastern Conference race, with the top two teams – the first-place Red Bulls and runnerup Houston Dynamo – facing off in a home-and-home. And New York captain Thierry Henry called tomorrow’s road tilt (8 p.m., NBC Sports) at BBVA Compass Stadium a huge one.
“Massive. You know it’s going to be a difficult game. They’re strong at home, they’re amazing on set pieces and they can pass the ball well,’’ said Henry. “They’re used to playing in that heat. It’s going to be a tough one. We’re right in front of them, and I’m sure they’re going to want to put a statement out there by winning the game.’’
The Red Bulls come in atop the East, with 38 points from 22 games; Houston is just a point behind, tied with Sporting Kansas City. And with the streaking Dynamo about as hot as high noon Houston heat, Henry showed he wasn’t just paying them lip service. The Red Bull captain willingly sat out Tuesday’s high-profile game against Tottenham to rest for tomorrow.
“I played a lot recently. I didn’t want to get into trouble playing Tottenham. Those games are nice and everything, but they don’t give you any points for the league. My focus was on Houston,’’ said Henry, who started five games – including the MLS All-Star game – between July 15 and 28. “The most important thing is the Houston game, no disrespect to anybody.’’
That Dynamo team is arguably the hottest in the league, riding a four-game winning streak and a seven-game unbeaten run. Their 7-0-3 home record is identical to the Red Bulls’, and the only two unbeaten home marks in MLS. And their MLS-leading home unbeaten streak is actually 18 games, dating back to Robertson Stadium.
“They’ve been flying,’’ said coach Hans Backe. “It’s only Houston and ourselves that are unbeaten at home.’’
The Red Bulls will play without keeper Ryan Meara, Rafa Marquez and Brandon Barklage.