2019 MLS Week 23 Preview — New York City FC (9-8-4) vs. Houston Dynamo (9-3-11)

(Alex Ring photo courtesy Noah K. Murray/USA TODAY Sports)

Currently struggling to score goals, the Houston Dynamo will be without one of their top playmakers Thursday night in a key road match against New York City FC.

The Dynamo (9-3-11) have been shut out in their last two matches and lost seven of their last nine in league play (2-0-7) after Saturday’s 1-0 home defeat to the Fire. The defeat dropped Houston to ninth in the Western Conference, three points behind FC Dallas for the seventh and final playoff berth with 11 matches remaining.

“This one hurts,” a subdued DaMarcus Beasley told Houston’s official website. “Two games at home, lose 1-0, not create too many chances, one mistake last game and this game and that’s it. Both games, one mistake, they punished us and that was it.”

In this match, however, Houston will be short-handed due to a self-inflicted mistake. Alberth Elis, who is second on the team with eight goals and has a club-best seven assists, will serve a one-match ban for yellow card accumulation. It will be the second match in four Elis sits through suspension, having missed Houston’s 3-1 win at Toronto FC on July 20 for a red card received inside the first quarter-hour the prior match versus Atlanta.

The win over Toronto snapped an eight-match road losing streak as the Dynamo nearly matched their scoring output from those eight road losses. And with Houston playing seven of its final 11 games on the road, every point becomes vital in vying for one of the last playoff spots in the West.

“We’re playing strong, we are pushing, we are trying and dominating our rivals, but the ball is not going our way,” Dynamo coach Wilmer Cabrera said. “We cannot give up. It’s tough, but we need to change that, we have two games away and we need to continue fighting.”

The Dynamo have yet to post a clean sheet on the road, but their offensive struggles heading to Yankee Stadium do not bode well considering NYCFC has conceded just nine goals in 10 home matches while taking points in all but one contest (5-4-1).

The Bronx Blues (9-4-8) were denied a third straight win overall Saturday, losing 3-1 at Real Salt Lake. Normally a possession-based team that builds out of the back, NYCFC lacked in ideas dealing with a tactical shift in which Real Salt Lake pushed up higher and flooded the offensive half of the pitch.

Keeper Sean Johnson was forced to play longer balls near midfield, and the Bronx Blues – who squandered a first-half lead provided by Alex Ring – were often second-best in getting to the second balls, much to the dismay of coach Dome Torrent.

“We played well the first 15, the first 20 minutes, and after that, they won every single duel,” Torrent said. “I said at halftime, ‘We have to play short’ and we started to play long ball and you know what I think about that – the faster you play, the faster the ball is coming, and that happened.”

Torrent will have the services of top playmaker Maxi Moralez for this match after opting to leave the Argentine midfielder behind for a game at altitude since he appeared in the MLS All-Star match midweek. Moralez is tied with LAFC’s Carlos Vela for the league lead with 13 assists and has factored on 11 of NYCFC’s 19 goals at home by scoring four and assisting on seven.

The teams have split four all-time meetings (1-2-1), and both draws have come in New York. The Dynamo ran out 3-1 winners last year when Tomas Martinez snapped a 1-all tie on 69 minutes and Elis added an insurance tally 11 minutes later.

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