Toronto FC will likely be without Alejandro Pozuelo when it hosts Houston on Saturday, with the Spanish playmaker still nursing a sore ankle.
Pozuelo, after scoring his team-leading ninth goal of the season from the penalty spot, exited in the 63rd minute of Toronto’s 3-1 win over the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday after falling awkwardly in a tackle.
"He’s sore. Today he jogged a little bit … It’s kind of a combination of a bruise and a (ankle) roll," said Toronto coach Greg Vanney. "We’ll assess it. He’s questionable for (Saturday)."
Newly signed winger Erickson Gallardo’s debut is also on hold. The 22-year-old Venezuelan is suffering from a mild muscle strain.
On the plus side, midfielders Jonathan Osorio and Nick DeLeon are healthy and looking to get back into the starting lineup. Osorio came off the bench against the Red Bulls after sitting out last weekend’s win in Montreal due to flu-like symptoms. DeLeon has recovered from a minor groin injury.
Veteran defender Drew Moor is also available but likely only for a limited appearance off the bench, given his time off due to a hamstring injury.
Toronto (8-8-5) is looking to continue its resurgence. It has won two straight and lost just once in its last five league outings (3-1-1) after going winless in eight (0-5-3).
After Houston, Toronto has eight straight games against Eastern opposition.
"There’s everything to play for," said Osorio.
"With the team we have, anything’s possible," he added. "We definitely have a championship-calibre team … Definitely this team is capable of making a big run."
Houston, meanwhile, is in the midst of a yo-yo campaign.
The Dynamo (8-9-3) started the season with a 6-1-1 run but have gone 2-8-2 since. They are coming off a 5-0 thrashing in Atlanta and have lost seven of their last eight in all competitions.
Houston ranks last in the league on the road with a 1-8-0 record. But poor results aside, Vanney still sees the Dynamo as a dangerous team in transition.
"They’ve had their troubles on the road. It’s our job to try to make the game difficult for them from the start and try to get on top of the game," said Vanney, sporting a welt on his forehead after a header in a soccer-tennis game with his kids resulted in a piece of plastic from his hat opening up a cut.
Toronto ranks 16th in the league at home, with a 5-3-3 mark at BMO Field.
Both teams are looking to climb the ladder. TFC went into weekend play in sixth spot in the East. Houston stood eighth in the West, two points out of the playoffs.
The Dynamo will be without Honduras forward Alberth Elis who was sent off after a second yellow in the sixth minute of the midweek Atlanta loss. Elis got the first caution for dissent when he kicked the ball away after a foul call. He then bumped referee Chris Penso, earning another card.
Houston coach Wilmer Cabrera called it a "childish mistake" from Alberth, adding it was a "lack of discipline and a lack of maturity."
Elis leads the team in scoring with seven goals and seven assists. Colombian Mauro Manotas, who came in off the bench last time out, is likely to lead the team up front.
TFC ranks sixth in the league on offence, averaging 1.67 goals a game, and 16th on defence (1.62). Houston is 14th on offence (1.45) and 19th on defence (1.65).
HOUSTON DYNAMO (8-9-3) AT TORONTO FC (8-8-5)
Saturday, BMO Field.
STAR POWER: Houston Rockets star James Harden has joined the ownership group behind the Dynamo, Dash (a pro women’s soccer team) and BBVA Compass Stadium.
MILESTONE: Saturday could mark the 200th TFC game in all competitions for fullback Justin Morrow.
HISTORY: Toronto holds a slim 4-3-4 edge in all-time meetings between the two.
LAST TIME: The Dynamo won the lone meeting between the teams a season ago, a 5-1 victory in April 2018 in Houston.