I’m keeping with my recent theme. I know Houston is the rivalry game and of course, I want FC Dallas to win, but they’ve been bad for so long that I just expect to beat them. If we lose, then I feel like “Oh... we really played poorly.” But maybe that’s in the past...
The Houston Dynamo began the 2022 campaign with a new coach (Paulo Nagamura), a new GM (Pat Onstad), and new ownership (Ted Segal) that is eager to make improvements. Maxi Urruti, Joe Corona, Boniek Garcia, and Maynor Figueroa have all left the premises. In their places, El Naranja have signed Steve Clark, Sebastian Ferreira, and (coming this summer) Hector Herrera. The upgrades are already making others take note – Sam Jones has them 15th in his MLS rankings and ESPN has them 14th.
Paulo Nagamura’s side enters the weekend tied on points with Dallas at 12 but one place below us in the standings because they’ve given up three more goals than we have. They are undefeated in their last five matches in league play.
Teenage Hadebe scored last weekend and in Tuesday’s U.S. Open match as the Dynamo advanced with a largely rotated side, but he will not feature against Dallas after picking up two yellow cards against Portland on Saturday.
Much of the build-up against Portland flowed through Griffin Dorsey. The former winger has shifted to right back this season. Lundquist has been more defensively minded on the left side and Dorsey has gotten forward to build the attack.
Against San Jose two weeks ago, Houston scored two goals off corner kicks and nearly duplicated the feat against Portland as they found the post twice. But they also gave up goals to San Jose from set-pieces and similarly looked vulnerable against Portland. Something to watch for. In addition to set pieces, Houston has been dangerous in transition with either Quintero or Picault progressing the ball quickly on the break. Quintero picked up a goal in this fashion against San Jose and Picault picked up an assist after feeding Ferreira. Given their opportunities against Portland, I’m sure they felt that they left points on the table that should have been theirs.
Also, given the difficulty that Dallas has had the last two weeks against the high press, I expect to see Houston attempt to press and create turnovers in Dallas’ defensive third. The Dynamo don’t do it as well or nearly as frequently as Red Bull, but they will employ it occasionally.
Player Notes for Houston:
- Darwin Quintero: The 34-year-old Columbian leads the team with 4 goals – two from inside the penalty area and two from outside. He scored with both feet and his head. He also leads the team with nine key passes. The question for Quintero may be how long he can maintain this level of production – he has been subbed off in all five of his starts. He’s averaging about 60 minutes per game.
- Sebastian Ferreira: the 24-year-old Paraguayan was the first big signing for Houston in the off-season. He has two goals so far after signing from Libertad. Last year he totaled 14 goals in all competitions. Like Pepi, he doesn’t seem to be a striker who creates his own shot but rather one who depends on service.
- Steve Clark: Arriving from Portland in the offseason, Clark has aided the rapidly improved defense and boasts a G-xG rating of –1.92 - in the top quarter of the league according to American Soccer Analysis. For comparison, Martin Paes has a score of –1.2. Last year Houston gave up 54 goals or 1.58 per game. So far this season, the opposition has scored 7 in 7 games... one per match.
Line-Up Predictions: 4-2-3-1
Picault – Quintero – Pasher
Carrasquilla – Vera
Lundquist – Parker – Bartlow – Dorsey
My guess is that Ethan Bartlow (22 years old, Generation Addidas) gets another start beside Tim Parker in place of Hadebe. Otherwise, Houston’s starters should be set – no injuries reported.
Saturday, 2:00 PM Start. The match will be available on Univision, TUDN, and Twitter.
Should be 80 degrees and windy.