A.J Soares vs. Houston Dynamo
Jason Dalrymple

Dynamo awaits as Revs head to Houston

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – After suffering its first loss of the season last weekend at Gillette Stadium, the New England Revolution hits the road looking to bounce back against the Houston Dynamo on Sunday, April 17, at Robertson Stadium.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. ET and Comcast SportsNet New England will televise the match live on alternate channels (CLICK HERE FOR A LISTING OF ALTERNATE CHANNELS) and air a tape-delayed broadcast of the game at 11:30 p.m. ET. Meanwhile, 98.5 The Sports Hub will carry the game live on the radio.

This will be the first meeting between the Revs (1-1-3, 6 pts.) and Dynamo (1-1-2, 5 pts.) since the Texas-based club was shifted to the Eastern Conference prior to the current season. The clubs have met 10 times during the regular season since the former San Jose Earthquakes relocated to Houston and became the Dynamo in 2006, but all of those matches were played while Houston was a member of the Western Conference.

Current Form: Last weekend saw Revs suffer first loss, Dynamo earn first win

A trio of 1-1 draws and a 2-1 win over D.C. United helped the Revs begin the season unbeaten through four games, but that streak came to a halt last Saturday night in Foxborough when Real Salt Lake rolled into Gillette Stadium and claimed a 2-0 win. Adding salt to the wounds, both Shalrie Joseph and Pat Phelan were issued red cards in the late stages, meaning the central midfield duo will now be suspended for Sunday night’s match in Houston.

“Those are two big leaders on and off the field that we’ll be missing, but it’s nothing that we can dwell on,” said rookie center back A.J. Soares, who himself will be returning from a one-game suspension this weekend at Robertson Stadium. “We have other guys who’ll step up and do the job, other guys who’ll step up and become the vocal leaders, and we just have to move on.”

Houston enters this weekend riding a modest three-game unbeaten streak (1-0-2) after claiming its first win of the campaign in its last match against Vancouver Whitecaps FC, 3-1. Veteran left-sided midfielder Brad Davis assisted on all three of the Dynamo’s goals – scored by Cam Weaver, Bobby Boswell and Will Bruin – as Houston climbed into a tie for fourth place in the crowded Eastern Conference.

Past Meetings: Unbeaten in five trips to Houston, Revs look to keep rolling in the Lone Star State

Players and coaches have had difficulty explaining the Revolution’s success at Robertson Stadium, but the club’s unbeaten record (4-0-1) on the campus of the University of Houston is impossible to ignore.

Since playing to a 1-1 draw in their first visit to Houston on July 22, 2006, the Revs have won four straight road games against the Dynamo by a combined score of 6-1. During their last trip to the Lone Star State on October 10, 2010, the Revs snapped an 11-game road winless run with a 2-1 victory. It was one of the Revolution’s two road wins in the entire 2010 season.

Injury Report: Dabo’s status uncertain; Domi to miss trip with hamstring strain

Central midfielder Ousmane Dabo – who is still waiting to make his MLS debut after straining his right quad in early March – returned to full training this week and is listed as “Questionable” on Friday’s injury report. Head coach Steve Nicol said Dabo is low on fitness after easing back into the team’s workouts, so it’s still up in the air as to whether the veteran Frenchman will travel to Houston.

Nicol will have to fill a void at left back as Didier Domi (L hamstring strain) is set to miss out on the trip to Texas, while goalkeeper Matt Reis looks likely to return after missing the last two games with a right adductor strain.

One name stands out on the Dynamo’s injury report, with forward Brian Ching unlikely to feature this weekend as he recovers from a left rib separation. Ching has struggled with injuries throughout the early part of the season, making only two appearances for a total of 54 minutes of game action.

Key Player: Revolution central midfielder Stephen McCarthy

With both Joseph and Phelan unavailable for Sunday night’s game, the onus will fall on rookie midfielder Stephen McCarthy to lead the charge for New England in the middle of the park. It’s unclear who’ll join McCarthy in central midfield – Dabo provides the most logical option should he be deemed fit, while Franco Coria and Chris Tierney could also fill the role – but Nicol is confident the 22-year-old will be up to the task of managing the Revolution’s possession game.

“I’m sure he’ll step up and do even more than he’s been doing,” Nicol said of McCarthy, who scored his first career goal on April 2 against the Portland Timbers. “Obviously with Shalrie and Pat missing … it makes it difficult for us. So we’ll spend the week coming up with something, go to Houston on Sunday and get the job done.”

Final Thoughts: Grit and desire could play big factor for shorthanded Revs

The Revs will be without two of their most influential leaders on Sunday night with Joseph and Phelan forced to stay behind in Foxborough, while Domi’s experience will be missed at left back. With a new-look lineup necessary to account for the trio of absences, the Revolution’s performance could come down to determination.

“We have a style, we have a game plan, we have an identity and if we stick to that, we’re in every single game,” said Soares. “If we come out and battle, win tackles and win the ball, we’re a very tough team to play.”