The Houston Dynamo had the longest undefeated streak in club history snapped in their last match, getting shut out for the first time since April. Starting a new streak Saturday night could be tough with their top two scorers missing.
Playing without Brian Ching and Stuart Holden, the league-best Dynamo look to rebound from their first loss in 12 matches as they visit a Kansas City Wizards team playing its first league match in three weeks.
Houston (8-3-4) went 8-0-3 during a franchise-record 11-match unbeaten run that started April 11 and ended with a 1-0 defeat at Los Angeles on Sunday, the first of four straight games on the road.
The Dynamo were outshot 12-5 while being held without a goal for the first time since playing New York to a scoreless draw in the first match of their undefeated streak.
"We always want to win, no matter where we play," midfielder Richard Mulrooney told the team's official Web site. "Home or away. (Sunday's loss) was disappointing because we didn't win, but looking at the big picture, we're on a pretty good run and right now, so we are going to try to get that form back."
That could be challenging without Ching and Holden, who both will be competing with the U.S. national team in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Ching leads Houston with five goals in 10 matches, and Holden ranks second in goals (four) and assists (three).
The Dynamo don't seem to be too concerned about missing two of their top offensive options.
"Every summer, it has been like this," Mulrooney said. "We have veteran guys that have been through this and injuries do come up. And then there are national team callups and we know those are going to happen.
"But we have guys that aren't starting here that would be starting on just about any other team. Now they will be starting for us, and I think that is what makes us more comfortable with our situation than some other teams would be."
The Wizards (5-5-4) will have to make adjustments of their own for their first league match since a 3-1 win over New England on June 13. They'll be without second-leading scorer Davy Arnaud and versatile defender Jimmy Conrad, both with the U.S. national team. Midfielder Roger Espinoza also will be participating in the Gold Cup with Honduras.
Kansas City is 0-4-2 versus the Dynamo, including a playoff loss in 2007, since winning the clubs' first meeting 2-1 on April 8, 2006.
Because of international absences, the Wizards will have Rauwshan McKenzie make his MLS debut. The 22-year-old defender, drafted in the fourth round out of Michigan State in 2008, is expected to start.
"I think it just shows that (coach Curt Onalfo) has a lot of confidence in me to put me on the field to start the game, especially against a team like Houston," McKenzie told the Wizards' official Web site. "They are high up in the Western Conference, so I'm really excited.
"I just have to try to make myself as prepared as possible to go out and perform at my highest potential."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press