The Houston Dynamo and Chicago Fire expect to have key players back this weekend for what shapes up as a critical Eastern Conference clash.
Brad Davis will likely play for the Dynamo while Patrick Nyarko expects to do the same for the Fire in Saturday night's matchup in Houston.
Davis has missed the last three MLS games with a hamstring injury, but he entered in the 66th minute of Wednesday's 2-0 exhibition victory over English Premier League club Stoke City.
"It's been a little while for Brad," coach Dominic Kinnear said. "Just kind of wanted to get him with maybe about 25, 20 minutes (left). We knew the game was going to be a little slow (then) so he could work his way into it."
The playmaking midfielder has been limited to three assists in 12 matches this year after recording an MLS-high 33 over the previous two seasons. He has a goal and three assists in his last three games against Chicago.
Nyarko sat out last Saturday's 4-1 home win over D.C. United due to strep throat. He said he was OK to play but had to be kept away from the team because he was contagious.
"I feel pretty good," Nyarko told the Fire's official website. "I feel like the only reason I couldn't play the game was because I couldn't be around guys. I wasn't bed-ridden or anything."
Nyarko has two goals in his last three games, but he's never scored in five matches at Houston.
The Fire (7-9-3) are 0-4-2 in their last six visits there, falling 2-1 on April 14 in the only previous meeting between these clubs this season. Davis had a goal and an assist.
Houston (8-6-5) holds the fifth and final playoff spot in the East with 29 points, and Chicago is in seventh place with 24. The Fire are 1-5-2 on the road.
"For us it's a challenge because now we have to show we can get points on the road, go and get points against divisional opponents," Fire midfielder Jeff Larentowicz said.
Chicago presents a different look from the first meeting since Mike Magee was acquired May 24 from Los Angeles. Magee is second in the league with 12 goals - six in eight games with the Fire.
Chris Rolfe has been starting at forward for Chicago, and he will want to make a good impression Saturday since the club announced last weekend the acquisition of designated player Juan Luis Anangono. The Ecuadorian forward is not expected to play in Houston.
Rolfe's two-goal performance last weekend earned him MLS player of the week honors - but only took his season total to four. His first 2013 goal came in the first matchup with Houston.
The Dynamo followed that win over Chicago with an 0-2-2 stretch at home before beating Philadelphia 1-0 on July 6. They have not played a league match since a 2-1 victory at New England on July 13 in which Adam Moffat scored twice.
Chicago midfielder Dilly Duka is unlikely to play after straining his groin last Saturday. Joel Lindpere started in place of Nyarko and could remain in the lineup if Duka is out.
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