Houston Dynamo: After what was almost certainly the Houston Dynamo's worst performance of the season, it's difficult to pick out any on form player. However, because of the circumstances of Houston's awful 3-0 loss to the Colorado Rapids, the strikers weren't allowed to play their game. A second minute goal and 10th minute red card effectively ended Brian Ching's impact of the game, so he gets a pass. The previous week, Ching scored a hat trick against Chicago, so it's fair to say he is still the most on form player that the Houston Dynamo have. Unfortunately, Ching has picked up a calf strain and is listed as doubtful for the match against San Jose. If Houston want to win, they will need Joseph Ngwenya, Cameron Weaver, or Dominic Oduro to step into this category.
San Jose Earthquakes: It's difficult to point out a section of the team that didn't struggle against New York, but individually, youngster Omar Jasseh looked bright when he came on, while Khari Stephenson and Tim Ward put in decent performances. Looking back to the previous games, the midfield has started to come together well, while the 'Quakes ever-changing back line has held firm.
Houston: Lovel Palmer's red card last weekend makes him the obvious candidate for this distinction. Colorado's Pablo Mastroeni was not completely innocent in the incident and should have been shown a red card as well, but the fact still stands that Palmer made a stupid decision by raking his stud across Mastroeni, effectively ending the game for the Dynamo last week. Everyone puts in poor performances, but there is a big difference between having a bad game and completely ending the match for your team after 10 minutes.
San Jose: The 'Quakes ended a mostly successful August on a down note, falling to the New York Red Bulls. Although the team played well at times, the normally stingy back line let in two goals -- the same amount of goals they let in over the four previous games. Bobby Burling was burned on the first goal, while the entire back line fell apart for Thierry Henry's goal. Up front, you can't fault Cornell Glen for lack of effort, he simply is not getting it done in terms of finishing, having spurned good chances not only against New York but in the weeks prior, too. New DP signing Geovanni, a possible replacement for Glen up top, did not look spectacular when he came on, but is still working to get fit after an inactive summer.
Houston: Despite having Mike Chabala and Brad Davis available, Dominic Kinnear chose to stay with both Anthony Obodai and Lovel Palmer in the center of midfield, Richard Mulrooney at right back, and Andrew Hainault out of position at left back. Based on the result of the game, it's fair to say that Dominic Kinnear made mistakes with his selection. Most expect to see Davis replace Palmer and Chabala replace Mulrooney with little other tactical adjustment. However, with Houston's playoff hopes now close to dead, don't be surprised if Kinnear goes back to putting Geoff Cameron in the midfield. Ching is expected to be unavailable and the closest thing the Dynamo have to a like for like change is Weaver, but for the same reason we might see Cameron in midfield, don't be surprised to see Kinnear experiment with a Ngwenya-Oduro tandem.
San Jose: Frank Yallop must seriously consider whether to keep Glen up top or possibly start Geovanni in his place. The diamond midfield looks comfortable, with Stephenson fitting in nicely in a more attacking role while Sam Cronin focuses more on the defensive duties. In the back, Yallop will have to mix and match, as he lost Bobby Convey through yellow card accumulation, but can welcome back Jason Hernandez, who finished his two game suspension. Tim Ward will most likely switch to left back, while Yallop can count on the services of the recovering Steven Beitashour at right back. Hernandez could replace either Brandon McDonald or Bobby Burling in the center, with McDonald also able to play in Cronin's holding midfielder role if Yallop decides to use all three.
Houston: Simply put, off the ball red cards for unsporting conduct are absolutely unacceptable. Colorado's early goal went a long way towards ending Houston's playoff hopes, but Palmer's red card was probably the nail in the coffin. When a team gives up a second minute goal and picks up a 10th minute red card, it suggests a lack of focus and discipline. This, of course, is out of character for Kinnear's teams. The chances that he lets something like that happen in consecutive weeks are exceptionally slim. Even if the Dynamo are now out of the playoff race, expect them to be focused at the very least.
San Jose: The Earthquakes ground out some good results at home, but struggled on the road in August, looking out of sync many times. The team currently holds the last playoff spot, and although they have played fewer games than every team except Chicago, they will need to rediscover some positive form on the road and hope new signings Geovanni and Khari Stephenson start to gel with the rest of the team.
Houston: If Houston cannot get three points from San Jose this weekend, their playoff chase will finally be completely done and dusted. San Jose played very poorly against New York last week, so it isn't outside the realm of possibility, but I can't see it happening without Ching. 1-1.
San Jose: Houston have been in less than inspiring form, so I think the 'Quakes can get something out of this match. Lack of goals (only two in four August games) could hurt the team, though, so I'm going for a 1-1 draw.
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