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Y'all To Play For: Houston vs Fire, MLS #29, Preview

Men in Red kick off a quick pair of road games with a matchup against fellow Eastern Conference strugglers Dynamo; suspensions compromise Fire's right side against left-leaning Houston attack

Beasley in orange - just plain wrong, but whaddayagonnado?
Beasley in orange - just plain wrong, but whaddayagonnado?
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

When: Sunday September 28th at 2PM CST

Where: BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, Texas

Where to Watch: Unimas

Hey, What Happened?

Déjà vu? Well, we tied the tie record (drew the draw record?) last week when the Fire ended knotted with DC United, 3-3, for the 16th tie of the season. The Fire had a 2-0 lead thanks to a Quincy Amarikwa curler and a Jeff Larentowicz PK - but like many times this year, the Fire gave up that 2-0 lead. The first two goals from DC were courtesy of questionable calls from the ref, who graciously gave the visitors a penalty kick late in the first half, then gave them a free kick right outside the box in early in the second half. Luis Silva was able to put both away, and the game was tied at 2 apiece. In the 68th minute, Bobby Boswell was able to put home a loose ball after some shoddy defending in the Fire's box from a long free kick. The Fire were able to even things up thanks to a deflected blast from Matt Watson late in the game. That, in a nutshell, is how Yallop and company tied the record for mediocrity.

Hey, What's Happening?

Today the Fire begin a quick two-game road trip in Houston against Dynamo. This is the first meeting between the two Eastern Conference teams this season. Houston, over their seven-plus seasons in the league, has been a powerhouse team, making the playoffs every year except 2010. They seem likely to miss the postseason dance as Dominic Kinnear has led them to a 9 win, 13 loss, and 6 draw season through 28 games which see them seven points out of a playoff spot. In short, this is a game for hard-core fans of the two sides, not a showpiece for the general public.

So what happens when you have the 8th-place team in the east hosting the 9th-place team in the East, with both teams begging for a win in order to keep their slim playoff hopes alive? Your guess is as good as mine - but it's unlikely to be inspirationally lovely.

Hey, What Should Happen?

Who's going to start in the back for the Men in Red? With Lovel Palmer and Bakary Soumare both suspended for Sunday's game, that leaves the Fire's backline options very thin. The likeliest scenario at center back is that Patrick Ianni will slide into Soumare's spot; Ianni is the only other center back on the Fire roster. Replacing Palmer becomes more difficult as the Fire have no other true right back on the roster. (Some might say 'the Fire have no true right back on the roster,' as Palmer is a converted defensive midfielder.) Clearly, someone will be playing out of position, which will definitely handicap the Fire on the right side.

Yallop could play Grant Ward at right back, with any one of Patrick Nyarko, Harrison Shipp, Sanni Nyassi or Alex taking the spot in the midfield. The only problem is that Ward is an attacking player and may leave the backline exposed on the right. Yallop could instead choose to play Ritter in the back, which would hurt the Fire going forward on the right side, as the rookie Ritter is a defensive-minded player and may be too hesitant to push forward to join the attack. Whomever Yallop decides will fill in at the right back spot, they will have to play a near-perfect game against two of the most dangerous players on the Dynamo roster - which leads us to our next point.

How will the Fire contain Brad Davis and DaMarcus Beasley? Everyone in MLS understands the service and stability that Davis brings for the Dynamo, as he has been one of the most consistent players in league over the years. Davis' service has burned the Fire again and again over the years, and the calming effect that he has on the Dynamo can be felt at other positions. What I mean by that is that he is the type of player that can control the ball and make the correct plays instead of trying to force a play. Since the acquisition of Run-DMB, the left side of the Houston field has been playing a lot better than it did in the beginning of the season. Since moving to the left back position, Beasley has evolved into a solid wing back that brings everything to the game. Even at the ripe age of 32, he has a higher work rate than most other players on the field and can still out pace most wingers in MLS.

Hey What's Going to Happen?

I'm not terribly optimistic about this matchup. The Fire are out of the playoff picture and have only pride to play for; I just have a feeling that today will be one of those games where the Fire bring an ugly game. Houston has always been a tough place for the Men in Red to steal three points, and this time around is probably not going to be any different, especially with the matchup problems presented by having two starting defenders suspended.

I'm going to go with a 2-1 Houston win. Personally, I'm not going to say a tie, because I would like to see the Fire break the tie record at home next week.