Michael Millay

Dynamo prepare for two-game Eastern Conference road trip

After dropping a 3-1 home match against Supporters Shield leaders Los Angeles FC this past Friday, the Houston Dynamo are set for a week of travel against Eastern Conference opposition, both of whom have recent successes within the league and are actively seeking to expand their trophy cases.

First, the team will travel to Georgia on Wednesday for a midweek matchup when they take on defending MLS Cup champions Atlanta United FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium at 6:00 pm CT. The road trip continues when the team travels north of the border to Toronto to face off against the 2017 MLS Cup champions in Toronto FC this Saturday at 6:30 pm CT from BMO Field.

While the team has struggled for results on the road this season, standing at 1-7-0 before the road trip, which serves as the halfway mark for the club’s road schedule, head coach Wilmer Cabrera has planned for a strong defensive and attack-minded strategy to break the team out of its road struggles.

“We need to be more aggressive,” Cabrera said of the team’s mentality. “We have to have more determination to win battles individually, to tackle the ball, to win the one-v-ones, because it’s going to come.”

A.J. DeLaGarza, a member of the Dynamo since 2017, has seen the team’s road struggles as part of a larger mental block.

“We’ve been in a huge drought for the last three years, and I think after a while, it gets in your head,” DeLaGarza said. “We just have to focus and prepare days in advance, and kind of picture yourself doing the things that you’ve practiced and been taught and have done throughout the week.

DeLaGarza sees the matches against Atlanta and Toronto as important ones for the team and is prepared for what will amount to two tough matchups. “We have two huge tests this week, so we have to be ready and mentally prepared for a battle,” he said.

Darwin Cerén has noticed the team’s fluctuating performances between halves throughout the season and proposed some changes that could positively shift the team’s momentum.

“We play well in the first half, we play bad in the second half, and vice versa. We play a bad first half and a very good second half, so I think mentally we have to change something, because it’s not possible to play that way,” Cerén said of the team’s performances thus far. “Maybe, we have to bring more energy to the team, because it’s not possible to play two different halves.”

Despite a short turnaround from last week’s disappointment, Cabrera is confident in his team’s chances as they take to the road.

“Now, we have two games against two tough teams. We have to be in that team mentality, and I believe in these guys that they have those big plays.”