The Houston Dynamo can clinch their sixth playoff appearance in seven seasons Saturday night. They also could become the fourth club ever to complete an entire regular season without a home loss.
Captain Brad Davis could return to help the Dynamo extend the second-longest home unbeaten streak in league history to 26 as they face the Philadelphia Union.
Currently holding the fifth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference - one point ahead of sixth-place Columbus - Houston (13-8-11) will be postseason-bound if it wins this game and the Crew loses or ties at D.C. on Saturday.
Columbus can't afford to think about anything but a win, considering the Dynamo are 10-0-6 at home in 2012 and 17-8-0 since falling 2-0 to the Crew on June 18, 2011.
Houston's home unbeaten streak trails only Real Salt Lake's 29-game run from June 6, 2009-May 14, 2011.
If the Dynamo move closer to that mark Saturday, they'll join the 2005 San Jose Earthquakes, 2010 Real Salt Lake and 2011 Los Angeles Galaxy as the only MLS teams to finish a season without a home loss.
Having Davis back in the mix could help Houston achieve that distinction. The veteran midfielder missed the team's last match - a 1-all draw versus Montreal on Oct. 6 - with a calf injury, but he's improved during training.
Davis, who has a career-best seven goals, is tied for fourth in MLS with 12 assists and recently moved into seventh place all-time in that category with 92.
"He's a great player and obviously he's been a part of everything in terms of our success," defender Bobby Boswell told the Dynamo's official website. "We need everyone who's available and healthy to play, so getting him back to healthy is the goal. ... He's a very important piece of this team."
Jack McInerney should be a big part of the future for the Union (10-15-6), who are out of the postseason chase. The 20-year-old forward has scored in three straight matches to take over the team lead with eight goals.
"In the games he's played this year, he's been really important on both sides of the ball," coach John Hackworth told the Union's official website. "To put it in context, he is a guy who is our first line of defense, he sets our pressure and he understands that role. He's put himself in a great position going forward in the future with this club."
Former Dynamo midfielder Danny Cruz, an Aug. 16 acquisition from D.C., has three more games to show the Union he belongs in their 2013 plans.
"The first thing on my mind is, 'Let's finish the season the right way,'" said Cruz, who is expected to play after missing a match with a toe injury. "The second thing is, 'Let's give our fans what they deserve.' And the third thing is, 'We're all playing for jobs and that's the bottom line.'"
If the Union can get the job done Saturday, they'll improve to 4-1-0 since a season-worst 0-4-4 skid.
Freddy Adu hasn't played since scoring two goals in Philadelphia's 3-1 victory over the Dynamo on Sept. 23, but he could return after missing three games with a quad strain.
The Union fell 2-1 in their last trip to Houston on June 30, but they're coming off their first road win in seven tries, 3-1 over playoff-bound Chicago on Oct. 3.
- Houston Dynamo
- Real Salt Lake