Houston Dynamo at Seattle Sounders FC
Sunday, June 4, 2017, 9:00 p.m. CT
CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Washington
On Wednesday, the Sounders were on the wrong end of a blowout in Columbus while the Dynamo poured it on at home against short-handed Real Salt Lake. On Sunday night, in the final game of the weekend, they meet at CenturyLink Field in a match with stark themes for both sides.
The Sounders may be the defending MLS Cup champions, but they're not playing like it, and sit below the playoff line with just four wins in 14 games. To make matters even more difficult, Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris are unavailable because of international duty, and Brian Schmetzer's fill-ins fell flat on their face in midweek. Can the Sounders bounce back against the Dynamo, who've gone from worst to first in the Western Conference?
Yes, you read that right. Wilmer Cabrera has Houston at the top of the table, not to mention tied for most goals scored in MLS with 27. Orange in the new black, you might say. The only chink in the armor – and it's a gaping hole – is the Dynamo's road form. They're unbeaten at BBVA Compass Stadium (22 of 24 available points) but have yet to win on the road, losing five straight before finally recording a scoreless draw at Dallas last Sunday. Their first road win of 2017 and first-ever win at CenturyLink Field are up for grabs.
Head coach Brian Schmetzer took a chance on Wednesday night, resting Chad Marshall and giving a run to a few young players up top and along the backline. That gamble didn't pay off, as Columbus ran out to a 3-0 lead and won comfortably.
Though Marshall is likely to be back, Schmetzer will have to shuffle once again on Sunday with Dempsey and Morris out. The fact is that Seattle needs a win, not only to potentially push them back above the playoff line, but also to prove the team's reserves can step up when needed.
“The idea is to get your team to believe they can play,” Schmetzer said. “I thought some of the heads went down after a couple of mistakes [against Columbus]. And for guys that haven’t been playing a lot, or for guys who are getting their chance, sometimes confidence is a big deal. So we’re trying to boost their confidence and get them through the game.”
The backline in particular will be tested against the Dynamo, who will run out a trident of young, speedy attackers in hopes of getting their first road win of the season just days after the Sounders were left smarting by a 3-0 loss that could have been worse.
“Whether we are home or away, being down 3-0, it just can’t happen," Cristian Roldan said. "Now it’s a matter of focusing onto Houston who is also very dangerous in the attack and we’ve got to keep them at zero.”
- Suspended: None
- Int'l Duty: F Clint Dempsey (United States), F Jordan Morris (United States)
- Injury Report: OUT – D/M Henry Wingo (right ankle sprain), F Will Bruin (left elbow dislocation); QUESTIONABLE – D Roman Torres (left hamstring strain)
Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Stefan Frei – Brad Evans, Chad Marshall, Gustav Svensson, Oneil Fisher – Cristian Roldan, Osvaldo Alonso – Alvaro Fernandez, Nicolas Lodeiro, Joevin Jones – Seyi Adekoya
Notes: Since the start of last September, the Sounders have six clean sheets in MLS regular season play, the most in MLS. They are 6W-1L-3D at home overall in that time. ... Joevin Jones has tallied five assists for the Sounders this season. No other MLS defender has more than three.
There are three things to know about the Houston Dynamo in 2017.
1. They're exciting to watch, a pacey, powerful counterattacking team that thrives in open space and on set pieces. To wit, the Dynamo's 27 goals scored are tied for tops in MLS.
2. They do the vast majority of that damage at home, where they're not just unbeaten but have consistently run teams off the field this season. Seattle knows that already – they lost 2-1 in Houston in the season opener for both teams.
3. As good as the Dynamo are at home, they are equally bad on the road, collecting one point from 18 available, and yet still sit in first place.
According to Wilmer Cabrera, there's some strategy behind that – not that he's happy with the poor form outside of the state of Texas.
“I’ve always said that we built a strong team to play at home,” Cabrera said. “And we focused first on developing the team to play well here in Houston. We needed to be dominant here [in Houston].”
“Now we are working to have a balance, not only here at home but on the road also,” he added. ”We’re already improving the solidity and the defensive work of the group.”
Houston will need that balance in Seattle, where they've never won but enter on top of the conference standings.
“We’re not really paying attention to the standings,” goalkeeper Tyler Deric said after Wednesday’s match. “We’re just looking at Seattle. We know they’re a good team, especially in Seattle. It’s a tough place to play. So all our focus right now is to figure out how we can set ourselves up to get the best result we can and to get three points in Seattle.”
- Suspended: None
- Int’l Duty: D DaMarcus Beasley (USA)
- Injury Report: OUT – D George Malki (torn ACL), M Eric Alexander (right knee MCL sprain); QUESTIONABLE – F Romell Quioto (ankle injury)
Projected Starting XI (4-3-3): GK: Tyler Deric – AJ DeLaGarza, Adolfo Machado, Jalil Anibaba, Dylan Remick – Juan David Cabezas, Ricardo Clark, Alex – Alberth Elis, Erick "Cubo" Torres, Mauro Manotas
Notes: Erick ‘Cubo’ Torres has scored seven goals via set piece this season. Only two players scored more than seven goals on set pieces in the 2016 regular season (David Villa and Sebastian Giovinco – 8). ... Houston is 0W-5L-1D on the road this season, conceding 2.3 goals per match. Only Minnesota (3.2) and Real Salt Lake (2.5) are allowing more goals per game on the road.
Houston won 2-1 against Seattle earlier this season in Houston. However, Seattle has never lost to Houston at home (5W-2D) and the Sounders have shut out the Dynamo the last four times they have traveled to Seattle.
- Overall: Seattle 5 wins (17 goals), Houston 3 wins (14 goals), 6 draws
- At Seattle: Seattle 5 wins (10 goals), Houston 0 wins (2 goals), 2 draws
Referee: Baldomero Toledo
Assistant Referees: Apolinar Mariscal, Gianni Facchini
Fourth Official: Baboucarr Jallow