Bridgeview, IL – The Houston Dynamo have already accumulated six points three games into their seven-game season-opening road trip and play the Chicago Fire on Sunday with the their new stadium set to debut next month.
Last season, Sporting Kansas City totaled just six points via just one win and three draws on a 10-match road trip to start the year, and the Dynamo are well on their way to a more impressive start.
Considering Dominic Kinnear's side was winless in its first 15 road games last season, it's been an incredible start for the Dynamo.
With four more games left until BBVA Compass Stadium opens May 12, Houston can position itself for a run at the Eastern Conference title with a strong finish to the road trip.
Houston (2-1-0) opened the year with road wins at Western Conference opponents Chivas USA and the San Joe Earthquakes, both 1-0 wins. A 2-0 defeat at Seattle Sounders FC followed, and the Dynamo have been off since that game March 23.
Houston has had two weeks to prepare for Chicago (1-1-1), which did not play a match last week. While both sides should be fresh, Fire coach Frank Klopas was not sure the week off was good for his side, especially after a loss.
"We're looking forward to the match," Klopas said. "Any time that you lose a game, you want to make sure you get back in there and collect some things that didn't go right."
Chicago started its season with a 1-1 draw at the Montreal Impact, then downed the Philadelphia Union 1-0 in its second match. Its last game was a 2-0 defeat at the Colorado Rapids on April 1.
Klopas believed the club could lose some "rhythm" during the bye, but that has to be a concern for Kinnear as well ahead of the match at Toyota Park.
Although Houston has played well early, it can not expect to escape Chicago on Sunday with three points. But even a point would set up the club for its final three matches of the road trip, at Columbus, D.C. United and New York.
Chicago lost center back Corey Gibbs for four to six month earlier this week, but former German international Arne Friedrich could make his MLS debut.
Friedrich played 88 minutes in an exhibition against Louisville, and will make the loss of Gibbs much easier for Klopas and the Fire. Friedrich could play an important role, as Houston is very strong on set pieces.
"They're very good on set pieces, so that's an area that we have to alert," Klopas said. "Our box defending has to be really good."
Klopas also believed "when there are opportunities in transition to use our speed, we have to be good at that."
Dominic Oduro is the key player in that plan and the former Dynamo player will likely be motivated to face his former club. He had 12 goals and two assists last season after joining the Fire, and will be part of the reason Houston has to work hard for more road points this weekend.