As hard as it was for the Chicago Fire to get its first victory of the season last weekend, it might be even harder to get No. 2 Sunday at Houston.
The Dynamo (3-2-0, 9 points), which lost to the L.A. Galaxy in MLS Cup last season, hasn't lost at home in 34 matches in all competitions dating back to June 2011.
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"It's always interesting to play those guys," said veteran Fire midfielder Patrick Nyarko after training Tuesday. "I've always said they are one of the model teams in the MLS, starting with their coach (Dominic Kinnear). They build a consistent team. They know what they're about, they know what they believe in, and they stick to it. They're successful that way. It's always hard to play them anywhere."
"I think the most difficult thing is just dealing with the heat," Fire coach Frank Klopas added. "Sunday it's going to be like 90 (degrees)."
Of course it could be worse, as left back Gonzalo Segares pointed out.
"We're lucky we're not going there in the summer," he said. "Last year it was over 100 degrees."
Nyarko said he expect to return from a one-game absence due to a hamstring injury. He won't take any anti-inflammatory shots before the game, however.
"I've actually made a point not to take those this year," said Nyarko, one of the league's most frequently fouled players. "I think I took enough of those last year to cover my whole career. I'm trying not to take them anymore."
In addition to Nyarko's expected return, Segares said he should be able to play after sitting out last weekend's home win with a quadriceps injury. Center back Arne Friedrich, who hasn't played at all this season for the Fire (1-3-1, 4 points) because of a hamstring injury, is less certain for Sunday but still hopeful.
"There's a good chance," the former German international said. "I'm on a good way, so I would like to see how this week goes and we will improve and increase the intensity step by step and then on the weekend we're going to decide together if I'm going to play or not."
Regardless of who plays, Nyarko expects a "cagey" match against Houston, which ended the Fire's season last year.
"Going away to Houston it's going to be more tactical. I would say maybe we might sit back and try to hit them with a counter," Nyarko said.
Making his mark:
Daniel Paladini got another start last weekend and sparked the Fire to the 3-1 victory over New York, scoring the first goal and assisting on the next two.
"He was unbelievable," Nyarko said. "I've always raved about that kid. I think he was our best player preseason. He's been consistent so far."
Paladini might have won the MLS Player of the Week award had he not split votes with teammate Maicon Santos, who scored those other two goals. Portland's Ryan Johnson won for his 2-goal performance.
Nyarko had similarly glowing words for captain Logan Pause, who made his season debut after recovering from a quadriceps injury.
"I think Logan came back, played unbelievable in the midfield, really kept calm in the midfield," Nyarko said.
With Pause and Nyarko returning and Paladini playing as if he doesn't want to give up a spot in the starting lineup, Klopas will have some tough decisions to make, even with Dilly Duka still out with a leg injury.
"It's going to be interesting," Nyarko said. "That's when you wish you're not a coach and just leave it to the coaches to make those decisions. That's good for the team, healthy competition."
The Fire announced Tuesday that second-year defender Austin Berry will become the second player in club history to get his own bobblehead doll. Cuauhtémoc Blanco was the first.
Berry's bobblehead day will be July 7 against Sporting Kansas City.
Follow Orrin on Twitter @orrin_schwarz