The Houston Dynamo's slump has come at a terrible time as they compete for a playoff spot in a tight Eastern Conference race, though a home date with the New York Red Bulls could be just what they need to get back on track.
Houston looks to extend its home unbeaten streak in league games to six Sunday against New York, which has just one victory in eight all-time road meetings.
The Dynamo (10-9-7) are in a battle with New England and Chicago for the East's fifth and final playoff spot, but they've been outscored 8-1 while going 0-2-1 in their last three matches - all on the road - after falling 2-0 to Columbus on Wednesday.
"There's no real finger to point," defender Bobby Boswell told the team's official website. "You win as a team, you lose as a team."
Houston's only result in that stretch came when Adam Moffat scored in the 90th minute to salvage a 1-all draw with the Fire on Sept. 1.
"It's frustrating, but we're a team and we'll stick together," Moffat said. "Eight more games left. Five are at home and three on the road. We still feel it's in our hands."
It seems encouraging for the Dynamo that the majority of their remaining schedule will be played at home, as they are 3-0-2 in their last five league matches at BBVA Compass Stadium.
New York is 1-3-4 on the road against Houston, with the lone victory coming in the 2008 conference semifinals. It is 1-4-2 in its last seven road matches overall.
"At certain times in the season, away from home we have not been that great, and it's something we've been trying to address," midfielder Lloyd Sam said. "We've been working all week on how we're going to play, so maybe that's going to be a difference this week."
Sam and Tim Cahill each scored in a 2-1 home victory over last-place D.C. United on Aug. 31, ending an 0-2-1 stretch. The Red Bulls (12-9-6) are competing with Montreal and Sporting Kansas City for the top spot in the East.
"It was a complete performance,'' Cahill said. "That's what we're all about.''
The won't have a complete team Sunday, though, as Cahill won't play due to an injured ankle and center back Ibrahim Sekagya will serve a one-game suspension due to a red card. Defender Brandon Barklage is considered day to day with a hip strain.
New York should have Thierry Henry for the full contest after he was benched for the first 57 minutes against United because of a verbal altercation with coach Mike Petke at practice.
Henry was upset with the decision, but Petke said the two made amends.
"Sometimes it's like a tornado meeting a volcano," Petke said. "It's nothing serious, but it's being made a big deal about. It happens all over the world. It didn't affect the team at all."
The Red Bulls have won three of the last four meetings overall with Houston, including a 2-0 home victory June 30 as Fabian Espindola and Jonny Steele netted goals.
They're aware, though, that this road meeting will present a different test.
"We expect them to be a tough team to play against, especially at home," midfielder Eric Alexander said. "Expect them to come out flying, and it should be a good game."
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