For the past three years, the Houston Dynamo has struggled on the road while being mostly dominant on their home pitch.
Now that the Dynamo has eradicated the huge monkey off its collective back with a road win in Chicago last week, it returns home to face New York City FC on Friday at BBVA Compass Stadium in downtown Houston with the goal to further their momentum and flex their muscles at home.
The Dynamo (4-3-3, 15 points in 10 matches) are seeking their first-ever win over NYCFC. Houston has grabbed wins in two of its past three games, the latest a 3-2 victory over Chicago that was secured by Alberth Elis' second-half brace.
Houston coach Wilmer Cabrera made two changes to his starting XI from the team that tied Vancouver in its previous match, with DaMarcus Beasley returning to left back and Oscar Boniek Garcia filling in for the injured Darwin Ceren.
Elis saved the day for Houston, which trailed 2-1 at halftime, as he tied the match from the penalty spot before netting the game-winner on a breakaway in the 74th minute.
As good as Houston has been for 18 months, the road win -- coming after they've struggled away from home the past two seasons -- could propel the Dynamo into the upper echelon of MLS.
"The biggest thing for us is to get the three points on the road, which we haven't been able to do the past three years, not just this one and last," Beasley said. "It was very important win for us because we were able to implement our game plan and be smarter with the ball. We wanted to press them as hard as we could and try to get then to make mistakes."
The Dynamo has scored eight goals in their past two home games -- both wins -- after losing both of their previous two home games while tallying just one goal.
Meanwhile, NYCFC heads to the Bayou City after a resounding 4-0 home win in the rain over Colorado last Saturday, as David Villa (on David Villa Day in New York City) scored two goals and had five other key passes that helped garner the victory.
"I'm a striker -- it's my job to score," Villa said. "I always try to do my best, and it's important. We need to keep working and get better. We have a long flight to Houston and a tough game, because the Dynamo is a good team."
NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira made three changes to his side that forged a 2-2 tie at Los Angeles FC the previous week, with Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, Ebenezer Ofori and Ronald Matarrita returning to the lineup in an altered 3-4-1-2 formation.
After a slow start in the first half, which saw NYCFC (7-2-3, 24 points in 12 matches) lead 1-0 on a goal by Villa it exploded for three goals after halftime as Matarrita, Maxi Moralez and Villa finding the net as City improved to 5-0-0 at Yankee Stadium this season.
"I was really annoyed and really frustrated at halftime because we had some opportunities to play together but at times made some selfish decisions," Vieira said. "Our collective game was much better in the second half and that allowed us to score those goals."
NYCFC is winless in its past four road games (two losses, two draws) and have conceded an average of 2.8 goals per game over that run.
NYCFC and Houston played to a 1-1 draw last Sept. 23, at Pratt & Whitney Stadium in East Hartford, Conn., in the lone matchup between the teams -- the second 1-1 draw in NYCFC's home games in the all-time series.
The lone victory in the series came Sept. 30, 2016, at BBVA Compass Stadium, a 2-0 win by New York City FC.