The Houston Dynamo opened the the Western Conference semifinals with a scoreless affair in the first leg against the Portland Timbers. The Dynamo will travel to Portland to play the second leg at Providence Park on Sunday.
Here are three things we learned:
1. It’s hard to score on the Dynamo in October
In the five MLS matches the Dynamo have contested this month, only one goal has been scored against them. Monday’s result is also the fourth consecutive shutout the defense has posted.
Tyler Deric and his 20+ saves this month has certainly been a key factor on top of the way the defense has responded to the injuries of A.J. DeLaGarza and Leonardo. Additionally, Philippe Senderos received Man of the Match honors for his efforts on Monday night in what was his fourth start of the year.
Up the spine of the team, Juan David Cabezas and Eric Alexander were also responsible for the shutout that translates into an important zero goals against in the series. If they can continue being stingy on Sunday, the Dynamo will extend their season.
2. Chances are hard to come by in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs
The Dynamo offense have generated shots but concrete opportunities have been hard to come by. In their two playoff matches, the Dynamo have only had four shots on target during regular time.
When asked about the offensive challenges in the postseason, head coach Wilmer Cabrera said, “Everything is different in the playoffs, nobody will give you anything. The risk that is taken is minimal and nobody makes mistakes, so we must understand that in the playoffs one goal is sufficient.”
One goal was indeed sufficient to eliminate Sporting Kansas City in the previous round and one goal will be enough in Portland to make the Timbers sweat at home. The away goals tiebreaker falls now in Houston’s favor and every goal will force Portland to score one more than the Dynamo.
3. Everything to play for on Sunday
A draw with one or more goals scored or a win will be what the Dynamo need to advance. Another goalless draw will mean extra time and possibly penalties.
While the team went for the win, the substitutions of players like Tomás Martínez and Romell Quioto leave them with enough gas in the tank to make an impact. The Dynamo must also take advantage of the injuries the Timbers are going through and force them into making mistakes.
It’s all or nothing on Sunday. The only match left is the next one, and the Dynamo would like to add another two to their schedule with a result in Portland.