Being back home after a brutal travel schedule could help the Houston Dynamo snap a winless skid in their next game. So could a visit from Real Salt Lake.
The Dynamo will try to match the second-longest home unbeaten streak in MLS history Thursday night against Real Salt Lake, which is winless in eight all-time trips to Houston.
Houston traveled to Honduras for a CONCACAF Champions League match last Thursday before hitting the road again for Sunday's game against Chicago. The weary Dynamo fell 3-1 to the Fire and dropped to 0-2-2 in league play since a run of five straight victories.
Houston (11-7-9) has earned ties in its last two home games but could use better results as it battles for the playoffs in the competitive Eastern Conference. The Dynamo are among seven teams vying for five spots, and a home matchup with Real Salt Lake could help.
Houston has gone 14-0-7 in its last 21 home contests and 7-0-1 at home against RSL (14-10-4).
"We're confident at home and we're really extra motivated to get a result and put ourselves back in a position where we want to be. That's kind of the mentality for the week," forward Calen Carr said.
The Dynamo, though, are expected to have four players missing for this game - Boniek Garcia, Andre Hainault, Jermaine Taylor and Je-Vaughn Watson - as they'll be away for World Cup qualifying matches.
Salt Lake is expected to be without leading scorer Alvaro Saborio, Kyle Beckerman and Will Johnson. Goalkeeper Nick Rimando, a member of the U.S. national team along with Beckerman, will likely play Thursday before heading to Columbus for a match with Jamaica on Sept. 11.
Rimando's presence could prove key to RSL's chances of breaking its drought in Houston. He's posted shutouts in back-to-back league games and three in a row across all competitions.
He helped his club snap a four-game winless stretch with a 1-0 win over D.C. on Saturday, as Johnson scored early in the second half.
Salt Lake will next try to end an 0-4-1 road skid by denying Houston a chance to draw closer to its MLS record. RSL went unbeaten for 29 straight home games from June 29, 2009-May 14, 2011, and Columbus for 22 in a row from June 28, 2008-Aug. 26, 2009.
Salt Lake is trying to remain among the top three teams in the West and avoid having to play in the first round. RSL is two points ahead of third-place Seattle and three in front of Los Angeles.
"We're stressing to our players that we don't want to end up in fourth or fifth place in our conference," coach Jason Kreis said.