The last time the Los Angeles Galaxy played Houston at Home Depot Center, the two clubs were at the top of their game.
At Home Depot Center on Nov. 15, the Galaxy and Dynamo battled for the 2009 Western Conference title and for a berth in MLS Cup ’09.
Now, the only club who looks anything like a title contender is the Galaxy.
Sporting the league’s best record at 9-0-2, the Galaxy will host a depleted and possibly demoralized Houston Dynamo side, at Home Depot Center on Saturday. Fresh off a 2-1 loss at New York, Houston will have had to endure a cross-country flight and will meet up against the league’s toughest defense in a place the Galaxy have not lost since late last season.
Overall, Houston have a 5-7-1 record and have yet to win consecutive games on the season. Despite that, Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said he doesn’t expect anything different from Houston.
“They are always difficult to play against,” Arena said. “They have one of the best forwards in the league in Brian Ching, an excellent ‘keeper in [Pat] Onstad, other experienced and quality players like [Brian] Mullan and [Brad] Davis, and they have some experienced center backs.”
Houston and the Galaxy have already met this year, on April 10 at Robertson Stadium, and the Galaxy throttled Houston 2-0. But to watch tape on how Houston played in that match wouldn’t make too much sense – at least not how their forwards worked together – since Houston did not have Ching in that match.
Ching brings an added dimension to the team.
“They’re a very different team with Ching,” Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez said. “Ching is a big guy up top and can hold the ball very well.”
Gonzalez did well stopping Houston’s forwards in the first matchup. He drew a foul that led to a red card as Houston’s Luis Angel Landin took a swing at Gonzalez after the two tussled near the end line late in the first half.
The match in general, and perhaps even their loss to the Galaxy in November, could cause Houston to have a little extra bite than they’d normally have.
“We already beat them at [their] home so they’re going to want to come and beat us over here," Gonzalez said. "They’re going to come fired up. I don’t think they’re going to let the game [Wednesday] slow them down. We’ve got to get prepared and get ready for Saturday.”
The Galaxy could rely once more on youngster Tristan Bowen in the attack. Bowen and Michael Stephens accounted for the Galaxy’s offense in that match as the club beat Columbus 2-0 last week.
WATCH: LA defeats Columbus, 2-0
Bowen said there were similarities between both Houston and Columbus.
“It’s going to be a good battle; Houston’s a physical team like Columbus,” Galaxy forward Tristan Bowen said. “But if we do what we need to do, we should be able to get a result out of it.”
Mostly, the Galaxy are cautious about their opponent and are approaching this match with the hopes of continuing both their own strong form as well as continuing to pile on Houston.
“They have a good team and haven’t found their rhythm yet,” Arena said. “[We’re] hopeful they don’t find it on Saturday and we could do a good enough job to put them under pressure to get the three points.”