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Dynamo-Chivas USA Preview
By MATT BECKER
(AP) -- The Houston Dynamo had little success away from home last season but still managed to reach the MLS Cup.
To get back to the championship round, they will likely need to find ways to win on the road with their home opener still two months away.
Playing at The Home Depot Center for the first time since losing last season's MLS Cup, the Dynamo try to win their first opener in six years Sunday against Chivas USA.
After playing at Robertson Stadium on the University of Houston campus since their 2006 inaugural season, the Dynamo will move into the start-of-the-art BBVA Compass Stadium in downtown Houston for 2012. Unfortunately, their first game there isn't until May 12 after playing seven times on the road.
"We're going to have to be sharp from the start on the road, because we don't want to go into our home games way behind other teams," defender Bobby Boswell told the league's official website. "We're not worried about the seventh game in this stretch or the May home opener. We're looking at March 11 against Chivas USA. If we can go out there and get a good result it will start us off well for the year."
The only problem with that is Houston historically hasn't enjoyed much success in openers, or on the road.
The Dynamo are 0-2-3 in openers since 2006, and they went 2-6-9 away from Houston last season, the worst road mark of the 10 playoff teams.
Despite last season's road struggles, the Dynamo went 12-9-13 and finished in second place in the Eastern Conference. They beat Philadelphia in the conference semifinals and Sporting Kansas City in the conference finals before losing to Los Angeles 1-0 in the MLS Cup.
A major concern for Houston entering this season is where its offense is going to come from. The club did little in the preseason to answer that question, tallying one total goal while going 0-2-2 in the Disney Pro Soccer Classic.
Brian Ching led the Dynamo last season with six goals, the fewest for a team leader, while Boswell, Will Bruin and Geoff Cameron had five apiece.
Brad Davis, who finished second in last season's MVP voting, had four goals and tied David Beckham for the league lead with 18 assists. He suffered a torn quadriceps in the conference finals, however, and it is expected to take a little time for him to return to full strength.
While Houston returns a similar lineup from a year ago, Chivas USA added 16 players to its roster in the offseason after going 8-12-14 to finish eighth in the West for a second straight season.
Miller Bolaños and Oswaldo Minda were the biggest offseason acquisitions for Chivas. Both were strong two-way players in Ecuador, and Chivas is hoping they can provide some consistency to the midfield position.
Chivas is also hopeful Juan Pablo Angel can duplicate his impressive scoring from a year ago. The 36-year-old forward had seven goals in nine games with Chivas after being acquired from Los Angeles.
Justin Braun and Nick LaBrocca led Chivas with eight goals apiece in 2011, but Braun was traded to Montreal in the offseason. He had a hat trick in a 3-0 win over the Dynamo on July 23, leading Chivas to its first win in the series since 2006 following an 0-9-3 stretch.
Chivas concluded the preseason with a 5-0 loss to San Jose last Sunday to finish 1-4-1 against MLS teams.
"We have a number of things that we have to clean up in a week," coach Robin Fraser said. "A lot of it comes down to team defending. When we've defended well, we've attacked well and we've played well. And when we don't defend well, then the opposite is true. We have to look at our commitment level, our organization, our willingness to get into battles and to be able to fight through adversity."
Updated March 10, 2012