Mired in their longest MLS scoreless drought and on the verge of a franchise-worst skid, the Houston Dynamo might have looked at a visit to the Eastern Conference's last-place team as an opportunity to break free of their woes.
The Montreal Impact, though, could prove a more formidable opponent Sunday night if Marco Di Vaio and Justin Mapp can return to the lineup.
Houston (5-9-2) has gone 389 minutes in league play without scoring a goal. The short-handed squad matched the 2010 club record with a fourth consecutive loss - 2-0 to Sporting Kansas City on June 6 - in its final game before the World Cup break.
The Dynamo will be without midfielder Brad Davis again Sunday as he's in Brazil with the United States team, but Boniek Garcia might return from his stint with the Honduran team.
The break also gave Ricardo Clark (concussion), Corey Ashe (knee) and David Horst (groin) a chance to get healthier. Leading goal scorer Will Bruin and Alexander Lopez could be available after dealing with hip pointers during the U.S. Open Cup, which ended for Houston with a 3-2 loss to FC Dallas on Wednesday.
"It's always refreshing to see guys come back from injury," Ashe told the league's official website. "We're focusing on the next 18 games we have. What we did the first half of the season, you can't change that. All you can do is change the approach to how we're going to start the second half of the season."
Montreal is also seeking a fresh start after going 2-7-5 before the break. The Impact have a league-low 13 goals and played to a scoreless draw at Vancouver on Wednesday in the league's first game since the two-week break.
Getting Di Vaio back from a hamstring injury and Mapp from an ailing groin might give them a boost. Mapp has a team-best four assists, and Di Vaio is hoping to regain the form he showed in 2013.
The Italian striker finished third in MLS with 20 goals but has one in his eight games this season.
"It gives us options, and we need these guys healthy," coach Frank Klopas said. "They're quality players and important players for our team."
Mapp played but Di Vaio was suspended for a 1-0 loss in Houston on March 15. Bruin scored in the 40th minute.
The Dynamo have outscored the Impact 5-0 in a three-game win streak in the series, but they've lost all three of their visits to Montreal while getting outscored 11-2. Houston suffered the most lopsided defeat in club history in the latest of those games Aug. 24 and Di Vaio scored twice in that 5-0 drubbing.