On Saturday, May 13th the Houston Dynamo will welcome the Seattle Sounders into Shell Energy Stadium. Leading up to this match, Houston are unbeaten in 6 (!) consecutive matches. The Dynamo have managed to keep the ball out of their own net on home soil. Following a 1-0 victory against SKC (beating SKC ain't for everyone I guess) in the midweek USOC matchup, Houston look to keep the perfect home streak alive. However, this task may prove more difficult with the recent injury to DP center back, Teenage Hadebe.
The newest edition to HTown's squad is European based striker, Ibrahim Aliyu. Olsen was quick to get him minutes, having subbed the 21 year old forward on late into the match vs SKC, foreshadowing that we might see Aliyu get minutes vs Seattle. Benny Ball is working, and as long as results are consistent I can't complain. While Olsen's style is not the prettiest, the Dynamo are solid as rock defensively and that makes La Naranja very tough to play though. Keeping the scoreline either level or in favor of Houston at halftime is the key to taking all 3 points. I expect very similar tactics from previous matches. Here is who I expect to lead the lines:
Micael set to make his second start of his MLS career.
While Brad Smith is healthy, Escobar has been a brick wall on defense, so unless things change, the backline will remain consistently the same.
HH, Coco, and Artur will need to be on their A-game in order to not lose the midfield battles. Seattle has an elite trio, and I would say it is one of the few in MLS that is hands down better than Houston's is.
Houston needs some productive from its front 3. The attack has been far too quiet in recent matches. A goal contribution from any 3 of those players would do wonders for confidence.
Houston will start the match reserved and conservative; they'll be hard to play through but consequently they will have less scoring opportunities. The worst case scenario is to give up a first half goal. That will force Houston to open up, and will play right into Seattle's strengths. Houston will want to keep this game tied as long as possible.
As for Seattle and what we can expect from them, I was able to ask specific questions to fellow MLS Now correspondent, Aaron. You can check his page out: @Aaron406253. Thanks Aaron!
Q: "Despite losing to SKC last week at home, Seattle remain in first place in the West. How are you feeling given recent results (taking into account the USOC loss to LA) while also considering that you top the west?" A: "Overall, still feeling good with the season. I think we are in for a tough stretch, but SKC felt like one of those perfect storms where many key players were missing for wild reasons (Malaria, extended concussion symptoms, yellow card accumulation), and the Galaxy was effectively their first team vs our teenagers and Fredy Montero. Houston will be a challenge, as it always seems to be. But the season still has strong promise." My input: I know the list of injuries for Seattle is long, and that certainly played a role in the loss vs SKC. Still, there is not an excuse to give a team as deflated as SKC their first win of the season in your home grounds. I wonder if this will fire up the Seattle team even more. That is a scary thought to think.
Q: "The injury report for Seattle is very long. Can you elaborate on who will be missing vs Houston and how this affects your squad?" A: "Nouhou is out with Malaria still, likely from his last trip to international duty. Probably a few more weeks for him to be fully ready. Cristian Roldan got a concussion at some point, apparently not even from a head hit. Been feeling with some extended symptoms and also will have a few weeks left to recover. Those are the two toughest spots for us to fill right now, as our normal veteran Swiss Army knife Kelyn Rowe sprained (I believe, they haven’t really said) his knee. Leo Chu has a minor foot injury, but was already going to miss this week due to his wife having their new baby this week. And lastly Raul Ruidiaz continues to have issues with muscle injuries. Additionally, our young (17) midfielder Obed Vargas was called into the u20 World Cup so we may miss him for up to 7 games. All of this to say that I would not be shocked at all to see a couple young players get starts this week, possibly Cody Baker at left back and Reed Baker-Whiting (no relation) at right wing." My input: I am glad, as a Houston fan, to not have to worry about Ruidiaz. Leo Chu is also a major threat I am glad we won't be seeing. It seems as if Houston is playing the Sounders at a fortunate time. Hopefully that means we can get a result.
Q: "Knowing how elite the sounder’s midfield is, how do you think Houston’s midfield stacks against it?" A: "I think Houston looks much improved this season, and a lot of that seems to be from possession through the middle. It will be very interesting, given Seattles missing pieces, to see how two teams that like to grind away at possession balance out. At full strength I’d give Seattle the edge, because I am not sure any front 6 is stronger in the league. But for this week? It might be Houston with the edge." My input: It is interesting that Aaron gave us the edge. I am always curious to know how Houston is perceived from other fan bases. Hector is a huge reason for our sudden improvement. I would expect most wins we get this season will be because of our midfield. Hector is such quality, improving all the players around him. He will be key for tonight's match. Still, Seattle has one of the better 6's in Paulo.
Q: "Who should Houston most look out for, and in your opinion who worries you the most on this Dynamo side. " A: "I think Joao Paulo is probably the most influential player for the Sounders. When he is on the field we are noticeably stronger in possession and more organized in defense, and every now and then he goes nuts and scores a goal of the year candidate. I am most worried about whoever lines up on your right side in attack. Since Nouhou has been out, it has been a wide open zone on the field. So I suppose Carrasquilla might be poised for a good opportunity if he starts on the right again." My input: Aaron is noting that attacking down the flanks is the best way to exploit this Seattle team. The only issue is Houston's wide-play this season has been abysmal.
Q: "Houston has yet to concede a goal at home, and extend their unbeaten streak to 6 games (including two USOC matches). How does Seattle come and take 3 points?" A: "Sounders can get 3 if they can organize their defense and not concede early. I don’t see them winning a shoot out, but if we can keep Houston at zero and sneak one in with a Lodeiro to Morris break, we can get 3." My input: I agree that Houston will be tough to break down defensively. I would also add that the Dynamo will find that breaking the Seattle backline may prove to be a tougher battle. This may be a game of defense of the two sides.
Q: "How does Houston take 3 points?" A: "Houston takes 3 by dominating possession and exploiting the young (talented, but young), players getting their first few starts in the league." My input: Young players are always more prone to making mistakes. Really the only way to mitigate errors is through experience, which the younger generation of football players do not have. If we keep the game close and provide pressure on Seattle's youngsters, that may lead to more loose balls and chances to counter.
Q: "Score prediction?" A: "I HATE this prediction, but I fully expect to see a 0-0 draw. Seattle has struggled to put up goals lately, Houston locks in on defense, and Seattle has 6 shutouts on the season already as well. Very well could be a 90 minute grind. Or 7-6 Sounders because it’s MLS." My input: 1-1 draw. An unfortunate result given for Houston given they tied at home against RSL last week, but avoiding a loss to a top 5 team in MLS is a positive take away.
As always people, this has been Colin with Keeping Tabs, reminding you to keep YOUR tabs. Thank YOU!