While the Columbus Crew have been playing well of late, keeping things going could prove difficult without Eddie Gaven.
In their first game since losing Gaven to a season-ending knee injury, the Crew try to extend their unbeaten streak against the visiting Houston Dynamo to nine Saturday night.
Columbus (4-4-4) pulled out a 2-1 win over Dayton in a U.S. Open Cup match on Wednesday, but that result came at a steep cost. Gaven, who put the Crew on top in the 52nd minute, was stretchered off the field just minutes after setting up Justin Meram's goal in the 84th.
Leading the team with four assists, Gaven is just the fourth player in club history to play 200 matches for Columbus.
"He's the face of the organization, one of the best players here," Meram told the Crew's official website. "It's certainly a disappointment."
Though Gaven will be missed, the Crew are hoping to continue their improved play. Prior to beating Dayton, Columbus won 1-0 at Toronto on May 18 and played to a 2-all draw at New York on Sunday.
Dominic Oduro and Federico Higuain both scored before the Crew allowed the game-tying goal during injury time.
"The big picture for me is we won in Toronto and tied New York," defender Tyson Wahl said. "Those are positive away results. ... While the reality is we want to do better on the (tying goal), we should take the positives and use the away results as momentum."
The Crew surely like their chances of doing just that against the Dynamo (6-4-3). Columbus, 4-2-8 all-time versus Houston, has scored 14 goals during a 3-0-5 stretch in the series.
The Dynamo are also coming off a U.S. Open Cup victory, beating FC Tucson 2-0 on Wednesday. Alex Dixon and fellow midfielder Giles Barnes provided all the offense.
"It meant a lot. We just wanted to come out and show well and get the win," Dixon said. "It's always good to score, but I was just happy the team got the win."
Dixon and the Dynamo now try to get back on track in league play. Houston failed to score in back-to-back home losses to Sporting Kansas City and New England before playing to a 1-all draw at Kansas City on Sunday.
"We would have loved to get all three points," Brad Davis said after scoring his third goal. "I'm a little disappointed we didn't get more from it, but also happy at the way we played."
Davis, along with Oscar Boniek Garcia, is on international duty and won't play in this game. Bobby Boswell, meanwhile, will serve the final match of his two-game suspension for headbutting the Revolution's Dimitry Imbongo.
The Dynamo could also be without Corey Ashe (groin) and Jermaine Taylor (left shoulder).
"It's kind of funny when you look back at the times when this team in its history has really come together," goalkeeper Tally Hall said. "It hasn't been when we've had all the players available. It's usually when we need guys to step up. In those moments, when your backs are against the wall, you figure out how good of a season you'll have."