The New York Red Bulls are closing in on the first major piece of silverware in club history, but the Houston Dynamo won't make things easy when the East rivals meet on Sunday.
The Red Bulls have a chance to win the MLS Supporters' Shield, as well as re-take first place in the Eastern Conference, with a win in Houston, where they posted an impressive 4-1 victory just last month.
Much has changed since that Sept. 8 meeting. The Dynamo are unbeaten in five matches since then, with Oscar Boniek Garcia and Ricardo Clark leading a resurgence for Houston, which is looking to get in position to reach a third straight MLS Cup.
The Houston midfield will look to contain a Red Bulls attack that has looked sharper in recent weeks thanks to the stellar form of Tim Cahill. The Australian star combines with Dax McCarty to form one of the best tandems in the league, and containing them will be key to limiting the Red Bulls' chances.
Just as important to Houston's chances will be dealing with Thierry Henry, who notched a goal and assist in the last meeting between these teams. Henry has had an up-and-down season for the Red Bulls, but has provided a consistent threat in recent weeks and he will look to test a Houston defense that has allowed just two goals in its past five matches.
A Red Bulls win would set them up with a chance to clinch the Supporters' Shield, and top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, while the Dynamo need a victory to move back ahead of the Montreal Impact for third place in the East. Montreal's 2-1 victory versus Philadelphia helped the Impact climb a point ahead of Houston for third place.
For Houston, beating the Red Bulls at home will also help avoid giving New York a psychological edge by winning at BBVA Compass Stadium for a second straight time. The teams could very well meet in the East playoffs, and the Red Bulls have won both of their meetings in convincing fashion this season.