While their first meeting with Toronto FC was far from suspenseful, the short-handed Houston Dynamo might have a tougher time in the rematch.
The conference leaders face off Saturday in a game between one of the league's highest-scoring offenses and the top defensive unit in MLS.
Houston (9-4-4) tops the league with 31 points, six better than Eastern Conference leaders Toronto (7-6-4) and Chicago. The Dynamo, though, are 1-2-1 in their last four games while totaling just three goals, and they are coming off a 2-1 defeat at Seattle last Saturday.
The Dynamo are hoping a rematch with Toronto will help them snap out of their slump. They beat Toronto 3-0 on May 30, but had a much deeper lineup than the one they'll field Saturday.
Houston will be missing forward Brian Ching and midfielder Stuart Holden, two of its top scorers, and defender Andrew Hainault as they continue international team duties. They were among five unavailable starters last weekend, and coach Dominic Kinnear was pleased with his short-handed club's effort despite the loss.
"They worked their hardest," Kinnear told the Dynamo's official Web site. "That's all we can ask when they step on the field. Sometimes it's a lot to overcome."
It was only the second game this season goalkeeper Pat Onstad gave up more than one goal and the first since a 3-2 loss at San Jose on March 28.
Onstad should get some extra assistance Saturday with the return of defenders Geoff Cameron and Bobby Boswell, who were suspended for last week's game for yellow-card accumulation. That's good news for a defense that has given up 12 goals this season -- fewest in MLS.
"He's been playing great for us for years," Kinnear said of Onstad. "He's a credit to the position and he's built a nice career for two reasons: he takes care of himself and he's very good at what he does."
Onstad and the Dynamo will likely get a bigger challenge out of Toronto than they did in May.
Besides being much better at home, including a 5-2-1 record in its last eight at BMO Field, Toronto has won three of four overall. The club has scored seven goals in those three victories and ranks third in the league with 24.
Toronto is coming off a 3-1 win at San Jose last Saturday. Chad Barrett scored twice and assisted on the go-ahead goal after recording just two goals in his first 16 games. The forward, who had gone eight games without a goal, scored nine with Chicago and Toronto in 2008.
"The good thing about it is even though I haven't been scoring, the team's still been doing well," Barrett said.
Part of the success Barrett had could be attributed to the fact coach Chris Cummins shifted Barrett from left wing to a more central location. His first goal came in the fifth minute.
The Dynamo, who are 0-1-1 in two visits to Toronto, are playing the last of four straight road games. They're 4-4-1 away from home this season.