Last year, the Houston Dynamo finished at the bottom of the Western Conference. This season they're playing for the conference title.
They host the Seattle sounders tonight at BBVA Compass Stadium.
"I've been working hard, we've been working hard together and now we've been rewarded," Houston coach Wilmer Cabrera said. "But we want more and we know that every time and every game you get something, now it's more pressure for you. We like that. We really like that."
The Dynamo finished 7-14-13 last season for 10th in the Western Conference, well out of the playoff picture. Houston brought in Cabrera from the USL in hopes of returning to playoffs for the first time since 2013.
"Sometimes we have to start from the bottom to prove ourselves," Cabrera said. "The most important is not how you start. When you move, you need to be well prepared because at some point, when the opportunities open for you, you need to be ready and that's what I wanted to do. I wanted to be ready."
The Dynamo advanced 2-1 on aggregate after a two-legged semifinal against the Portland Timbers, who finished atop the Western Conference.
There was a long break between games for international play, giving the Dynamo ample time to game plan for Seattle. But three players — Alberth Elis, Romell Quioto and Boniek Garcia — traveled with the Honduras national team for a grueling two-legged playoff with Australia in World Cup qualifying. Honduras fell to the Socceroos 3-1 on aggregate.