The Houston Dynamo didn't see much of Dwayne De Rosario in last year's playoff series against D.C. United and won't have to worry about the former league MVP in the season opener for both teams.
De Rosario is suspended for United, who will try to become the first visiting team to defeat the Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday night.
Houston (14-9-11) captured its second straight Eastern Conference crown by eliminating D.C. 4-2 on aggregate in the conference finals. The Dynamo lost MLS Cup to Los Angeles, 3-1.
De Rosario endured an injury-plagued 2012 as he did not see action past Sept. 1 due to a knee injury until entering as a substitute in the 62nd minute of the second leg.
The 2011 MVP and former Dynamo striker has drawn a two-game suspension for a head-butt on Philadelphia midfielder Danny Cruz in the 60th minute of a preseason match Feb. 23.
D.C. (17-10-7) closed the regular season by going 5-0-2 without him, and is counting on that experience to pay off as 2013 starts.
"We've done it before," coach Ben Olsen told United's official website. "Nothing's going to change. We will go about our business in a similar way that we did last year."
Olsen will decide who to replace De Rosario at forward alongside Lionard Pajoy, who had four goals in three preseason matches.
United also received only 12 minutes in the Houston series from Chris Pontius, who scored a team-high 12 goals before leaving the first leg with a groin injury. Pontius is healthy now.
Houston went 13-0-6 in its new stadium last season. The Dynamo outscored D.C. 8-1 in three home games in 2012, with a 27-7 advantage in shots on goal.
D.C. will be tasked with trying to slow down Will Bruin, ninth in the league with 12 goals in 2012. Bruin scored four times and had 23 shots - 11 on goal - in five overall matches versus United last season.
"Bruin is a big boy," D.C. defender Brandon McDonald said. "He works hard for 90 minutes. It's one of those things, as I said, Dejan (Jakovic) and I, we have to stay on the same page for 90 minutes. Bruin is kind of tricky, but I think if Dejan and I play our cards right, we should be able to handle him."
Bruin's strong season led to his first appearance with the United States national team in a scoreless draw with Canada in a January friendly. He expects to fare even better in his third MLS season.
"I always want to challenge myself to surpass what I did the previous year," he told the Dynamo's official website. "So yes, I look back and say it's a good year after my first year but I know I can do better."
All eleven starters who faced the Galaxy in last year's MLS Cup are back for Houston. Goalkeeper Tally Hall was tied for second in the league with 12 clean sheets while playmaking midfielder Brad Davis was tied for fifth with 12 assists.
This marks the final season for veteran Brian Ching, who will retire after serving as a player and assistant coach for Houston in 2013.