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Sounders vs. Houston Dynamo: Scouting Report

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The offense runs through Mauro Manotas. He’s less than average when not facing Portland in Houston.

MLS: Portland Timbers at Houston Dynamo Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

In each of the last two matchups (both on the road) Houston held a one-goal lead until late in the match, when the Seattle Sounders managed a pair of tying stoppage-time goals. Now, the Worst in the West will visit the Emerald City, eliminated from playoff contention and with an interim coach at the helm.

The standings will tell you that Houston’s been a bad team this year, occupying the bottom part of the Western Conference standings for nearly the entire season. But their home record has been nearly respectable, with this weekend’s loss to the Colorado Rapids only their fourth loss at BBVA Compass Stadium. Hence Houston coming within mere seconds of beating Seattle twice this season.

Woe is them, for this game is played not in oil country, but in the Pacific Northwest. In fact, in the eight-year history between these two teams, the road team has never taken three points. Wednesday likely won’t break the trend; on top of Houston’s 2-9-4 record on the road this season, they’ve continued to struggle to score goals. Their leading scorer is Mauro Manotas, with a total of six nets in 20 matches (half of which came playing against Portland in Texas).

It’s sort of stunning to see them struggle so badly in front of goal. The news that they would be bringing in Erick Torres a few years ago was meant with a lot of excitement; the young Mexican striker was one of two bright spots on the otherwise blemish-of-an-organization that was Chivas USA. But after scoring 15 times for the now-defunct Chivas team in 2014, he has appeared in 22 matches without a single goal to his name.

Will Bruin used to feast on service from Brad Davis, but that former MLS MVP-caliber player is with Sporting KC now. As such, the set-pieces Houston used to rely on are irrelevant and Bruin has been relegated to a bench role. They still use service from the wings into the center (nearly last in attacks from the middle of the pitch) so It will be up to Tyrone Mears and Joevin Jones’ replacement to stay disciplined in their choice of attack, and to the two defensive midfielders (Osvaldo Alonso + Cristian Roldan/Erik Friberg) to prevent wide service.

Perplexingly, Barrett chose to experiment with his defense in their weekend game against the Colorado Rapids. Moving Jalil Anibaba from fullback to centerback backfired spectacularly for the interim manager, with the first two goals (and a few more great looks) coming directly from questionable Anibaba decisions. I wouldn’t expect Anibaba to play centrally tomorrow; if he does, Nicolas Lodeiro and Jordan Morris will cause much regret.

Houston’s season effectively ended in their loss to Colorado, leaving them nothing but pride to play for in their CenturyLink Field visit. With Seattle fielding as close to a Starting XI as can be expected, and playoff home field advantage ripe for the taking, Seattle has every advantage, and no amount of bunkering will save the Dynamo this time.

Projected Lineups:

Sounders: Frei, Mears, Torres, Marshall, Remick, Alonso, Roldan, Friberg, Lodeiro, Ivanschitz, Morris

Dynamo: Willis; Beasley, Anibaba, Rodriguez, Williams; Warner; Alex, Clark, Cristian , Boniek Garcia; Manotas