Dynamo-Crew Preview


The Columbus Crew have shifted their attention toward advancing in the Eastern Conference playoff race now that they've overcome a lengthy scoring slump.

A matchup with the Houston Dynamo, mired in their worst ever road stretch, could aid their cause.

The resilient Crew seek their fourth win in six matches overall while trying to extend a seven-game home unbeaten streak against the Dynamo on Saturday night.

After totaling 14 goals during a 1-7-8 stretch from the beginning of April though the middle of July, Columbus (7-8-9) has scored 11 times while going 3-1-1 to move within two points of third-place Toronto in the East.

Federico Higuain has three goals and two assists in that span, while Bernardo Anor, Ethan Finlay and Justin Meram have scored two apiece. Finlay has emerged as one of the Crew's most potent threats with six goals over his last 13 matches.

"What he has, he can sprint at high intensity all game," coach Gregg Berhalter told the team's official website. "You see it towards the end of the game and in plays where he's just accelerating by guys because of that ability to do that."

Finlay and Meram both provided a goal and an assist last Saturday, though Higuain's three-game scoring streak ended in an impressive 4-1 home win over Los Angeles.

"We can't ride this wave too long," midfielder Wil Trapp said. "We have to put it to good use and build off it."

Columbus appears to have a good chance to continue its strong play at home versus Houston (7-12-4), which is trying to end a team-record six-game road losing streak.

The Dynamo have also gone 1-9-1 while being outscored 26-7 away from BBVA Compass Stadium this season, and are 0-4-3 dating to their last victory in Columbus in June 2007.

They've won two of three to get within three points of an Eastern playoff spot since adding DaMarcus Beasley and Luis Garrido earlier this month.

The defensive-minded Beasley and Garrido have had an immediate impact, helping secure two shutouts in the three matches after Houston had allowed 21 goals over a 0-6-2 skid.

Will Bruin has stepped up with three goals in his last four matches, but only one of his team-high nine have come on the road. The forward had the go-ahead score last Friday before Houston got a late own goal in a 2-0 victory over Philadelphia.

Bruin also scored the winner on an assist from Brad Davis in a 1-0 victory over visiting Columbus on May 7.

"I think now, especially with the win over Philly, we look again, we say: 'Wow, we have the opportunity to jump right back in the mix, we're not far off,'" defender Kofi Sarkodie said.

The Dynamo are trying to avoid missing the playoffs after reaching the conference finals in three straight seasons.