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Wilf Thorne/Houston Dynamo

With Elis out, Cubo Torres ready to help Dynamo overturn deficit at Seattle

HOUSTON – The Houston Dynamo know what they must do in Leg 2 of the Western Conference Championship series against the Seattle Sounders on Thursday night: score goals, and plenty of them.

The Dynamo dropped the first leg of the series 2-0 in Houston last week, putting themselves in a serious hole heading into Thursday’s decisive second leg at CenturyLink Field (9:30 pm CT; ESPN, ESPN Deportes, WATCH PARTY). The suspension of forward Alberth Elis, who had 11 goals and four assists on the year, due to yellow card accumulation will only make things tougher, but Houston have a solid option to replace him in Erick “Cubo” Torres.

The Mexican striker is Houston’s leading scorer with 14 goals on the season. His solid campaign comes on the heels of two disastrous years that saw him spend time on loan in Liga MX and fail to record a single goal for the Dynamo.

Coming into 2017, Torres knew an early goal would do wonders to set the tone for what he hoped would be a comeback season. The former Chivas USA player delivered on opening day, curling home a free kick against Seattle to help Houston to a surprising 2-1 win against the defending champs.

He followed that performance with goals in his next three games, including his first professional hat trick on Apr. 1 against New York. His stellar play continued throughout the first half of the season, but the goals came screeching to a halt down the stretch. Torres hasn’t scored since bagging a brace against FC Dallas on Aug. 23, a run of 12 games in the regular season and playoffs.

Now, with his club needing goals more than ever, Torres wants nothing more than to break another scoreless streak. And once again, it will have to come against Seattle.

“First of all, I hope I can get some minutes. Being on the field there’s always opportunities [to score], and I always want to score,” Torres said. “At the end of the season, I didn’t have the consistency that I wanted to continue having that confidence, to continue having that game rhythm that every player wants.”

Torres won’t be the only player the Dynamo are counting on to help them to flip their 2-0 deficit. Romell Quioto, Elis’ fellow Honduran international, has had an uneven first season in Houston after a solid start to his MLS career.

Quioto scored in the first three games of the season, but cooled off shortly thereafter and finished 2017 with seven goals and three assists. He only started four of Houston’s last nine regular season matches, and has been in the XI just once in four playoff games.

The cooling-off could explain why Quioto only started in four of Houston’s last nine regular-season games and once in four playoff games.

“In the playoffs, we’ve been trying to play the guys that can give us a little bit more results in all aspects,” Dynamo head coach Wilmer Cabrera said. “But Romell has been active. Romell has been very good when he comes in from the bench and in the games, he has played.”

Whether Quioto and Torres start or come off the bench behind Mauro Manotas, Vicente Sánchez and Tomás Martínez on Thursday, Houston feel that they have the attacking pieces to score goals in Seattle.

“On the pitch, I think the team has the ability to attack. The team has mobility up top and it has variants. So the opportunities are going to come,” Torres said. “Personally, if I’m able to play and be on the pitch, I know that the opportunities are going to come. And if I get an opportunity I’m going to take advantage of it.”