The Fire's last trip to Houston on April 14 resulted in a 2-1 loss to the team that eliminated them from the playoffs last season. The Fire played relatively well in that game and if not for two individual plays by Brad Davis, would have left Texas with a result. In April, Davis dusted fill-in right back Wells Thompson to set up one goal and caught a bit of a break on a shot/cross that fooled Sean Johnson and found it's way into the back of the net to provide the difference in the match.
Davis has missed the last three games with a hamstring injury but he is now apparently healthy and ready to return to the Houston line-up. His dead ball skills will provide a challenge for a Fire defense that has struggled to defend set pieces and second balls after set pieces all season long. The Fire get a break of their own with Will Bruin away with the US National team but Dominic Kinnear will have most of his other first choice starters available for selection.
Frank Klopas is likely to stick with an eleven similar to the line-up that thrashed DC United last weekend. The biggest exception will probably be Patrick Nyarko starting in place of Dilly Duka. Nyarko is ready to go after missing the DC game due to illness but Duka is listed as questionable with a groin injury suffered sometime during the first half last Saturday. Daniel Paladini is also back after serving an additional game suspension for a red card tackle in the KC match.
Probable line ups
Tornaghi; Segares, Berry, Soumare, Anibaba; Lindpere, Larentowicz, Alex, Nyarko; Rolfe, Magee
Hall; Sarkodie, Boswell, Taylor, Ashe; Driver, Clark, Moffat, Davis; Barnes, Weaver
Anibaba at right back is an improvement over "El Diablo" and Davis shouldn't be able to beat him as easily as he did Thompson. The Fire have added some players since that first encounter, notably Magee and Soumare so there should be some optimism in terms of getting a result this time around. We'll have to wait to see Juan Luis Anongonó in action as arrival of his visa paperwork has ruled him out of this one although he did train all week.
Kinnear will opt to keep Andrew Driver, who has played very well on the flank in the line-up in lieu of Boniek Garcia who has started the last two games without Davis on the pitch. Omar Cummings is fit and ready but it seems that Giles Barnes and Cam Weaver will get the call up top. This is probably a good thing, seeing that Cummings has done some damage against the Fire in the past.
QUESTIONABLE: Steven Kinney (R quad strain), Dilly Duka (R groin strain)
Joel Lindpere was huge against DC but repeating that performance will be tough against the Dynamo. He'll get a chance to do so with Duka staying home for this one. The Fire are only 5 points back of 5th place Houston in the Eastern Conference playoff race so a win here would be monumental. Houston has won two in a row, beating Philadelphia and New England but they've surprisingly lost twice already this season at BBVA Compass Stadium so they're not as invincible at home as they have been in seasons past.
Houston has struggled to score at times this season but they are well coached and are legitimate contenders year in and year out. Houston in July is never a picnic with an expected high of 93 degrees but I think the Fire can get a point here. After trouncing the lower half of the MLS table the Fire need to prove they can hang with the top.
Fire 1 Dynamo 1
The rest of the league
Toronto 0 Columbus 0
Colorado 1 Los Angeles 1
DC United 1 New England 2
New York 3 Real Salt Lake 1
Montreal 1 Sporting Kansas City 2
Vancouver 3 Philadelphia 1
San Jose 1 Portland 2
Seattle 2 Chivas USA 0
Season record 90/192