New York (0-0-0) at Houston (1-0-0), 3:30 p.m.
Houston, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - Fresh off of their defeat of the Montreal Impact in the knockout round of the MLS playoffs, the Houston Dynamo will open up their two-legged Eastern Conference semifinal tie at BBVA Compass Stadium on Sunday in a massive clash against Red Bull New York.
The Dynamo cruised to a 3-0 defeat of Montreal on Thursday's play-in game as Will Bruin led the way with two goals on the night.
Bruin had come under a fair amount of criticism in recent months for failing to find the back of the net on a regular basis, but his brace on Thursday signals a return to form that has the Dynamo feeling confident at just the right time.
"Will knows we have confidence in him, regardless of what people say," Dynamo defender Corey Ashe told MLSsoccer.com. "People are going to love you and they're going to hate you but we know what he's capable of. He has a lot of confidence in himself. ... Tonight was huge. You need a guy to build that confidence and get hot around playoff time."
Bruin's two-goal effort brings his career tally in the postseason to six, and only five active players - Brian Ching, Carlos Ruiz, Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and Mike Magee - have managed more.
The Dynamo will need Bruin to be on point if they wish to have any hope of dispatching the Red Bulls.
New York finished atop the overall MLS table with 59 points to clinch the Supporters' Shield - the club's first-ever piece of major silverware - and grant the Red Bulls their 10th playoff appearance in the last 11 seasons.
Making matters worse for Houston, the Red Bulls have owned the Dynamo this term, producing a 3-0-0 record against Dominic Kinnear's side in 2013.
New York earned a 2-0 victory at Red Bull Arena on June 30 before getting two wins at BBVA Compass Stadium by a combined score of 7-1.
But this two-legged series figures to be much tighter as Houston has demonstrated a penchant for peaking in the postseason. The Dynamo have represented the Eastern Conference in the last two MLS Cups, losing both to the Los Angeles Galaxy. Houston even showed the ability to make a postseason run from the play-in game last season after the Dynamo finished fifth in the East.
Houston's home form in the postseason also points to a closely-contested series, though New York has found some success in facing the Dynamo on the road. The two-time MLS Cup champions are 9-1-0 all-time in home playoff matches, but the one loss came at the hand of the Red Bulls in 2008.
Those results hold little water in 2013 given the roster makeover both sides have undergone, but with the Red Bulls entering the tie as Supporters' Shield winners on an eight-game unbeaten run, Mike Petke's side must be viewed as the odds-on favorite to advance.