The Houston Dynamo look to add to the logjam in the Western Conference playoff race Saturday night when they host the Seattle Sounders in their final match before the All-Star break.
The Dynamo (9-3-9) are currently on the outside of the playoff picture, narrowly trailing Real Salt Lake on goal difference for the seventh and final spot. Yet Houston is also only five points behind Seattle (10-5-6) for third, which makes the three points at stake in this match huge for both clubs.
Wilmer Cabrera’s side stepped out of league play Wednesday night to face Liga MX powerhouse Club America in the inaugural edition of the Leagues Cup, losing 6-5 on penalties after playing to a 1-1 draw. Houston forced the shootout in the 85th minute when 37-year-old DaMarcus Beasley blazed a left-footed shot from 10 yards on a sharp angle inside the left post.
Houston, though, failed to join the Los Angeles Galaxy in advancing to the semifinals after Sam Junqua’s attempt from the spot in the seventh round went over the crossbar.
“I think it was a good game,” Cabrera told the Houston Chronicle after using a mix of first-choice players and reserves. “It was a good game from our side. When we had the ball, we tried to create chances going forward and we did. We came up short with our finishing.”
The Dynamo are seeking back-to-back wins for the first time since April 27 and May 4 following a 3-1 victory at Toronto FC on Saturday that snapped an eight-match road losing streak. Mauro Manotas had a goal and an assist as Houston played a clinical counterattacking game – it had just 36 percent possession but put six of its seven shots on target.
Cabrera will have the services of playmaker Alberth Elis for this game after serving his one-match ban for his red card in the opening minutes of Houston’s 5-0 loss at Atlanta on July 17. Manotas, Elis, and Memo Rodriguez – who had an assist Saturday – have combined to score 20 of Houston’s 32 goals.
The Sounders are looking to get back on track following a 2-1 loss to Cascadia rival Portland on Sunday. Raul Ruidiaz extended his goal-scoring streak to four matches in league play around representing Peru at the Copa America, but Seattle conceded the go-ahead goal almost immediately after his equalizer.
Brian Schmetzer’s side has not lacked aggressiveness offensively, as Saturday’s loss was the fifth straight game Seattle has registered at least 12 shots. But finding a cutting edge in the final third on the road has been an issue – the Sounders have just 24 shots on target in their last nine road games and only six points from those contests (1-3-5).
“Watch their counterattacks, watch what they do well and play to our strengths,” Schmetzer said Wednesday about the message to his team for this game. “We’re a good possession-based team. Our schemes are good. I think we’ll have a good response against Houston.”
Winger Victor Rodriguez is questionable for this game after missing the previous two matches with a hamstring injury. Schmetzer has also left Designated Player and center back Xavier Arreaga on the bench the last two games in favor of pairing Roman Torres and Kim Kee-hee.
The Sounders are trying to do the double after beating the Dynamo 1-0 at home May 11, when Cristian Roldan’s goal in the fifth minute separated the sides. Seattle has won six straight between the teams and posted its first regular-season road victory in nine tries (1-4-4) last year with a 3-2 win.
(Raul Ruidiaz photo courtesy Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports)