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Four men to watch tonight: Chicago at Houston

Chicago Fire v Chivas USA

CARSON, CA - MAY 04: Marco Pappa #16 of the Chicago Fire celebrates with teammates Dan Gargan #3, Pavel Pardo #17 and Arne Friedrich #23 after defeating Chivas USA 2-1 in their MLS match at The Home Depot Center on May 4, 2012 in Carson, California. Pappa scored the game-winning goal in the 90th minute. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

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Two of the Eastern Conference contenders meet at BBVA Compass Stadium tonight. Yes, I said “contenders.”

Houston may be something of a stretch as a driver along Contender Row right now – but not much. Dominic Kinnear’s Dynamo has played just six matches at home (taking 14 of a possible 18 points, which isn’t bad at all). Most teams are sitting at around 8-9 home games already. Eastern Conference leaders D.C. United have played 10 at RFK. So, yes, the Dynamo can still insert itself into the race.

As for Chicago? Frank Klopas’ men trail three teams in the table, but none can match the fine form Chicago finds itself in. Based on recent success (three wins in a row) and some presumption that a southbound turn isn’t imminent, Chicago could easily have a say.

So, yes … big game in South Texas tonight. Here is a foursome on the field I’ll watch with special interest:

  • Geoff Cameron: I’m interested to see where Kinnear stations the long-legged U.S. international. Because after some recent struggles at center back, Cameron played as center midfielder in a 4-3-3 in a weekend win over Philly. On the one hand, Kinnear’s job is all about stacking up the points for Houston; he has no obligation to develop U.S. center backs. On the other hand, I hate the Cameron might miss an opportunity to play his best position at the highest level. (Yes, center back is the man’s top spot.) But again, Kinnear’s job is to put the best arrangement on the field for his Dynamo – so I get it.
  • Oscar Boniek Garcia: The new Dynamo DP clearly has talent. Playing along the right in that 4-3-3, the Honduran international’s ability was clear to see. You could also see that he’ll be even more effective once the new Dynamo attacker gain’s the local vibe of it all. He really looks like an exciting addition to MLS.
  • Marco Pappa (pictured): Chicago’s main man of the moment is probably responsible for six or points all by himself this year. With goals in both of the Fire’s most recent two wins, the Guatemalan international is clearly motivated at present – clearly hopeful of a move to Europe. But he’s here not and helping the Toyota Park slowly bunch move up the Eastern ladder. So, use him up while you can, Coach Klopas.
  • Chris Rolfe: He returned for a second run at Toyota Park in April but, hurt right away, only got his first 2012 start on Saturday. Rolfe assisted on Pappa’s weekend game-winner Friday and he’ll presumably get faster, stronger, sharper, etc., with additional matches and fitness. A midfielder in Friday’s win, he can play pretty much any spot in midfield or along the forward line, so he presents some tasty options for Klopas.