Two clubs with two separate approaches to their match on the precipice of the international break. The Seattle Sounders are begging, pleading, negotiating to keep their key personnel in Seattle for an extra day (Lodeiro, Ruidiaz, Svensson, Delem). On the other hand the Houston Dynamo have little left to play for — miracles don’t just need quality players, they need more.
Monday night’s match (7:30 PM, JOEtv) could eliminate the Dynamo. With a loss on the road to Seattle (where they have never won) Houston’s 2018 dreams join those of San Jose, Orlando, Chicago, Colorado, Minnesota and Toronto. They become the watchers. For Sounders it is the time of dark nights, rain, and preparations for a second season that is warm comfort in a season marked by windblown umbrellas of outsiders and goretex of the natives.
The Rave Green, at their best, look capable of winning the West during the second season as they host a couple playoff games. But a team capable of winning the West must first beat one of the West’s worst.
Gribbs from Dynamo Theory answers Three Questions.
SaH: The biggest question facing both teams is international callups. How aggressive have the Dynamo been trying to beg national teams to let guys stay through Monday night?
DT: Given the Dynamo’s current place in the standings where not only must the team win to keep playoff ambitions alive, but we need results from other teams to go our way as well, I don’t think they tried too hard to keep players. In the Dynamo’s win last week against the San Jose Earthquakes, Wilmer Cabrera opted to keep many of his starters on the bench anyways. Part of that could be due to the club playing in the US Open Cup Final earlier that week, but it’s a little telling that Cabrera wasn’t willing to risk giving some of his star players extended minutes.
SaH: Who is the player that can take the most advantage of their opportunity?
DT: The player I expect to step up the most is the guy who is on fire with his scoring at the moment and that’s Mauro Manotas. Manotas has scored 4 goals in his last 4 MLS matches and was the top goal scorer in the US Open Cup. While he’s not exactly stepping into a new opportunity, he now has the chance to put the team on his shoulders and lead without the aid of his usual wingers Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto. The other player who should seize this opportunity is Memo Rodriguez. Memo is a versatile player, but with few options available on the offensive side of the ball, he should step up and show he can be a viable option in the future.
SaH: The recent surge in results has shown a team with the complete package. What caused it to click?
DT: There are a number of reasons why they’ve suddenly appeared to have things together. The Dynamo, when playing to their style of pressing and quick counter attacking, can play with nearly anyone in the league. Over the summer we’ve seen Wilmer Cabrera choose to utilize more conservative tactics which puts pressure on the defense and that has let opponents back into games. That, combined with injuries at key positions and a congested schedule, led to the team tying its winless streak of 10 games in a row. The team is finally healthy including our 2017 team MVP Juan David Cabezas. Lately we’ve seen the team break out of these conservative tactics because they’ve gone down a goal or two early. When that happens they’re forced to play to their more aggressive style which we saw against Portland and San Jose. Our US Open Cup win was slightly more measured, but still showed a focus on going at goal. Having Cabezas back to stabilize the midfield gives our forwards and other midfielders more license to go forward which supports this style of play.
4-3-3: Joe Willis; DaMarcus Beasley, Alejandro Fuenmayor, Kevin Garcia, A.J. DeLaGarza; Juan David Cabezas, Oscar Boniek Garcia, Tomas Martinez; Memo Rodriguez, Mauro Manotas, Andrew Wenger
DT: Goals haven’t exactly flowed this season for the Sounders and potentially missing out on the team’s #1 and #2 goal scorers in Lodeiro and Raul Ruidiaz won’t help things. Where are the goals going to come from without these two and how can they keep the Sounders in the thick of playoff positioning?
SaH: If Seattle is without both of those players (also Shipp and Smith to injury) the offense has to come from Victor Rodriguez and Will Bruin. It could result in many crosses from the fullbacks in a rather routine version of trying to get the ball near Will’s head. Strong off-ball movement and passing is Rodriguez’ strength, but he will lack someone to play off of and be forced into performing as the key creator. He hasn’t been in that role often with Seattle. It will be interesting to see how he does — interesting like scary.
There’s a chance that the Sounders talk their way into keeping one or both of them.
DT: The Dynamo are likely going to be short on firepower with Romell Quioto and Alberth Elis with the Honduran National Team and they’ll be facing an elite defense away from BBVA Compass Stadium. How can the Dynamo hope to get a positive result against a team that’s only allowed 32 goals this season?
SaH: The defense is going to be quite strong. Shots from distance might be the easy part. It could be one of those games where the Dynamo should flood the boxscore with shots from distance and hope. Seattle is less shutout prone than most of the other strong defenses in the league, but they usually only give up one goal. Houston should nab that single goal and withdraw into a shell. I know that can be boring soccer, but with Seattle having their whole backline and two of their three strong defensive mids, they will remain strong.
DT: The Sounders look playoff bound while the Dynamo are likely eliminated from playoff contention in the near future. What’s a matchup you like in the first round and who’s a team you would not like to meet?
SaH: My dream matchup in the first round would be to host Portland in the play-in round. I think that makes for a great experience, puts Seattle with potential back-to-back home games and assures that there will be no way that the Sounders relax during the match. On the other-hand playing that same game, but at Portland would scare the crap out of me. It’s probably the only Western Conference playoff road matchup I want to avoid.
If Sporting KC drop into the play-in round and Seattle has to face them it will be an ugly game. They are the only team in the West with a defense that would be able to slow Seattle down. Plus, the potential for injury with their foul-laden style would hurt chances to advance in the next round.
Projected Lineup: I’m going to go worst case in regards to availability of national team players
Stefan Frei; Nouhou, Chad Marshall, Roman Torres, Kim Kee-hee, Kelvin Leerdam; Osvaldo Alonso; Victor Rodriguez, Cristian Roldan, Henry Wingo; Will Bruin