Minnesota United look to pick up three critical points on the road in their push to reach the playoffs for the first time in franchise history Wednesday night when they face the scuffling Houston Dynamo.
The Loons (13-6-9) are currently third in the Western Conference on 45 points but also part of a seven-team logjam separated by four points from second through eighth. Minnesota claimed three important points before the international break with a 2-0 victory at short-handed Supporters’ Shield and conference frontrunner Los Angeles FC on Aug. 31 on goals by Mason Toye four minutes apart in the first half.
Adrian Heath’s team stayed sharp during the break with a home friendly Saturday night against Liga MX side CF Pachuca. The teams played to a 2-2 draw, with Loons substitute Abu Danladi netting the equalizer on 78 minutes.
“I thought it was a really good game for a friendly game,” Heath said. “Most Mexican teams take them seriously when they come, put probably the strongest lineup that they could with the players that were away on international duty. I was really pleased with a lot of stuff I saw.”
The friendly also allowed Heath to give recent DP signing Thomas Chacon his first start and full 90-minute appearance since signing last month. The 19-year-old midfielder, who played at the Under-20 World Cup for Uruguay, missed a penalty but otherwise did everything Heath asked as he was Minnesota’s designated taker of corner kicks and free kicks while directing play.
“He’ll be better for that. It’s been a while since he played a full 90, so he’ll be disappointed with the penalty but we saw some nice little touches, some nice combination play, getting in nice spots and he’ll get better,” Heath said. “I’m pleased with his performance this evening, he’ll get better from 90 and build on that performance.”
The Loons have five road wins this season after claiming four in their first two seasons in the MLS combined.
The Dynamo (9-4-15) are all but mathematically certain to be missing the postseason for the sixth straight year and are trying to end a seven-match winless drought (0-1-6). Houston staggered into the international break on back-to-back losses, including a 1-0 setback at Sporting Kansas City on Aug. 31.
Interim coach Davy Arnaud is 0-1-2 since the Dynamo fired Wilmer Cabrera on Aug. 13, and a rough season got worse during the break when the Dynamo learned defender A.J. DeLaGarza will miss the remainder of the season with a broken right foot. DeLaGarza was a constant on Houston’s backline, starting 23 matches and playing the full 90 minutes in 19 of them.
Houston has gone 11 league matches without recording a clean sheet since routing the Red Bulls 4-0 on July 3. The Dynamo have shipped 27 goals in that span, conceding three or more on five occasions.
All-Star Romain Metanire’s goal in the 20th minute that deflected off Dynamo midfielder Boniek Garcia and the right post separated the sides in Minnesota’s 1-0 home victory May 25. The Loons also rallied for a 3-2 win at Houston in the U.S. Open Cup round of 16 on June 18 as Darwin Quintero scored twice in a 16-minute span of the second half before Toye scored the winner on 89 minutes.
That is also Minnesota’s lone victory in five visits to Houston (1-1-3) in all competitions.
(Vito Mannone photo courtesy Peter Aiken/USA TODAY Sports)