D.C. United is facing a familiar opponent this Saturday. Just three weeks removed from United's 3-2 defeat of the Houston Dynamo at RFK Stadium, the two teams are squaring off again. This time though, its happening on unfamiliar terrain - at the Dynamo's new BBVA Compass Stadium.
But rather than our usual tri-question exchange between SB Nation bloggers, we're going in a different direction. After all, we just did that. So we just asked one question of Zach Woosley of the Dynamo Theory this week: How will this match be different from the last? Here's his answer.
The Dynamo team you see this weekend will look and feel much the same as they did two weekends ago, yet things will be very different. The difference of course won't be in terms of players or lineups, but simple the venue. It's the long awaited home opener for the Dynamo at their brand new "temple de futbol" BBVA Compass Stadium. The fans are excited, the players are excited, it's going to be a big day and the pressure will be on for Houston to get a win.
Therein lies the difficulty.
Houston has been making consistent mistakes in the defense for the last couple matches and I'm worried the additional emotions and stress from the home opener could make things worse. Of course it's always difficult to predict how a team will react to a situation like this so I could be completely off base.
The biggest difference in terms of personnel will be Brad Davis being back in the lineup. He played a little against D.C. the first time, went 90 minutes against the Red Bulls and should finally be getting back to his normal self come this weekend. He was a little out of sync on Wednesday night but I think that had more to do with rust than anything. Brian Ching was rested so he'll be fired up and looking to put on a show in the new stadium.
I took a more lineup-based approach to my preview of what will be different for United. Here's my answer:
The biggest difference for United will be the defense, and not in a good way. Since Argentine center back departed just before halftime in the previous meeting between these two teams at RFK Stadium, Ben Olsen has experimented with three different partners for Brandon McDonald in central defense. That defense gave up five goals to the San Jose Earthquakes before coming back to shut out Toronto FC last Saturday. That inconsistency may continue in Houston as we still don't even know who will start with McDonald. While Daniel Woolard did well in the middle against Toronto, and Robbie Russell has had some success there at times, they'll be needed on the outside. So Olsen might choose to start Dejan Jakovic, who has been out with an ankle injury for over a month and is now listed as questionable, or give Ethan White his first action of the year coming off hamstring surgery.
There won't be any inconsistency up top though. D.C. United has found a winning partnership in Maicon Santos and Chris Pontius. Since the two were joined together at forward, United has been averaging 3 goals per match. But a full-strength Dynamo will be the toughest matchup they've faced yet.
The other major change you'll see will be between the pipes. Bill Hamid reclaimed the starting goalkeeper job from Joe Willis by earning a clean sheet against TFC, United's first in almost a month, and it doesn't look likely that he'll give that job up again anytime soon.