FC Dallas begins its bid to retain possession of El Capitan on Saturday when it faces the Houston Dynamo in the first of their two Texas Derby matchups this season.
The Hoops (5-2-2) claimed the 18th-century mounted howitzer cannon last year for the first time since 2015 by taking five points from the three matches, highlighted by a 4-2 home victory. FC Dallas also had a pair of 1-1 draws at Houston, extending its unbeaten run at BBVA Compass Stadium to five matches (2-0-3) in all competitions and 5-1-3 there in its last nine.
“It’s a great opportunity to fight for the jersey, fight every moment,” Luchi Gonzalez told the club’s official website ahead of his first match in charge of FC Dallas in the derby. “We have academy, homegrown players who have played in that derby. It’s organic for them. It’s a game with extra pride.
“I don’t hate them or dislike them, I have a lot of respect for them, but the way we want to show that respect is by maximum effort and commitment to our jersey and fans.”
FC Dallas is unbeaten in its last three matches (2-0-1) but coming off a scoreless home draw versus San Jose last Saturday. The Hoops lost primary playmaking midfielder Paxton Pomykal for at least two weeks due to a hamstring injury, but Dominique Badji showed enough of a potential partnership with Michael Barrios that he should get the nod to be in the first XI for this contest.
Houston (5-1-1) is looking for its fifth consecutive home win in MLS play and has claimed 13 of a possible 15 points there in the young season. The Dynamo bounced back from their first loss with a 2-0 blanking of Columbus last Saturday. Mauro Manotas staked them to a lead in the third minute, and Tomas Martinez doubled the advantage 10 minutes after halftime.
Alberth Ellis, who assisted on Manotas’ goal, has factored on eight of Houston’s 15 goals – scoring four and setting up four others. On the defensive side, Joe Willis made four saves for the team’s first clean sheet of the year as the Dynamo are off to their best start in club history.
“Getting the clean sheet is big for our confidence,” Willis said in spreading the praise for his first shutout. “We had five or six shots blocked around the box, it was a complete team effort. We’ve been a little bit more solid each week and tonight was the culmination of it.”
Willis quickly turned his attention to the derby, noting “It’s big for sure, we’re close in the standings and they (FC Dallas) are our biggest rival. Hopefully we keep that momentum rolling into Saturday.”
The Dynamo are 5-0-0 when scoring two or more goals this year and have outscored opponents 10-5 at home. Manotas, Ellis, and Memo Rodriguez have accounted for all but four of Houston’s 15 goals in league play.
(El Capitan photo courtesy Houston Dynamo official website)