Some things never change, like a team with a lack of identity. Houston fired Owen Coyle at the end of May and have since picked up 15 points from 12 matches, a nice flip from Coyle’s nine from 12. This rate has been enough to keep Houston comfortably in last place in the West, though it would be good for 8th in the East.
Wade Barrett’s Houston continues to struggle with a case of missing identity on the field. The former Houston Dynamo left back has helped close up the gaps in defense averaging just under a goal per match at .84 GA. Portland is the only side to put up multiple goals against Houston, with three. They've shut out teams in five other matches as well.
When we last met Houston, they were a defensive wreck and an anemic offense that somehow kept finding the back of the net, scoring eleven goals in the first four matches. The players haven't changed and offensively Barrett hasn't changed the tactics, but they just can’t score at that clip. They are most likely to score via a through ball to Will Bruin. Bruin hasn't miraculously become an amazing player and still is just a less awkward upgrade from Nate Jaqua but he scores, so it works.
Houston’s free kicks are very dangerous with enough bigs and above average service to be a threat. Seattle is still weak there and an early goal would allow Houston to bunker and hold out a win against Seattle. While their goal in April wasn't a set piece, they followed that blueprint after scoring in the 35th bunkered against the Sounders. It took Chad Marshall’s goal at the death of stoppage to survive.
If nothing has changed, except an improved Houston defense, shouldn't we see another 1-1 draw in Houston? Potentially, but that misses one big detail, Seattle’s offense is good now. Some combo of Morris, Dempsey and Lodeiro will be out there and they will find ways to rip apart this defense. Houston hasn't played a side with a clicking offense and all its parts with Barrett in charge. Seattle should be able to return this defense to the side that gave up eight goals in their first four and then four to LA the week after we played. The Sounders should be able to rip apart the Houston defense to get a couple before closing up shop and holding on. They’ll likely concede one before the final whistle but Seattle should be able to find three points in Houston. That keeps the winning streak going.
Players to watch: Oscar Boniek Garcia and Cristian Maidana, the offensive linchpins for Houston.
Predicting Lineups (R-L)
Houston: Deric; Anibaba, Rodriguez, Horst, Mansally; Clark, Warner; Wegner, Maidana, Garcia; Bruin
Seattle: Frei; Mears, Evans, Torres, Remick; Roldan, Alonso; Lodeiro, Dempsey, Flaco; Morris