The Houston Dynamo return to BBVA Compass Stadium looking for a second straight victory as they welcome New York City FC on Friday night (8 p.m. CT, TICKETS). The match will also see two of the hottest strikers in MLS – and potential MLS MVP candidates later in the year – face off in Alberth Elis and 2010 FIFA World Cup winner David Villa.
Elis scored a double in Sunday’s 3-2 win at the Chicago Fire, a result that placed the Dynamo back above the playoff line. Villa, the 2016 MLS MVP winner, scored a brace of his own in NYCFC’s 4-0 home win over Colorado Rapids – pitting the Dynamo against the second place team in both the East and the Supporters’ Shield standings.
“We’re excited to have a team like New York City FC come to our home,” said head coach Wilmer Cabrera. “It’s a tough challenge, and we like that. We would like to measure ourselves against one of the tough teams in this league right now. It’s a great opportunity for us to see what kind of level we are at and if we can match up the level throughout [the entire match].”
City began the season with seven unbeaten matches, five of them wins, but it is the Dynamo who come into this match in better form as of late. Houston is 3-1-1 in their last five while NYC is 2-2-1 in that same span. The team from the Big Apple has also played two matches more than Houston, giving the Bayou City Boys potentially fresher legs.
The Dynamo have proven that they can pick up speed in transition – all three of their goals against the Fire came in that fashion – with three forwards whose technical ability can punish any defense. Alongside Elis and Romell Quioto out wide, Mauro Manotas brings that ability to the center forward role.
“We are calm, aware that it is a very difficult opponent and that we have many good things as well,” said Manotas. “We are the home team. I have always said, the teams that come here are the ones who have to worry about us and obviously we, taking our precautions, we will go out to win it.”
Manotas’ five goals in 2018 had him as the team’s top scorer prior to Elis' pair of goals on Sunday. The 22-year-old Colombian has started every match this season and is another name to add on the list of players who can decide Friday night’s showdown.
With so many skillful attacking players on the field, the battle of number 10s between Tomás Martínez and Maxi Moralez becomes another duel to watch out for. Shutting them down in pivotal situations may be the biggest key for both sides – something the Dynamo feel confident of doing after overturning a result last week against one of the league’s premier midfielders in Bastian Schweinsteiger and the league’s reigning Golden Boot winner Nemanja Nikolić.
“I think we’ve been getting better defensively,” said goalkeeper Joe Willis. “At the end, staying focused for 90 minutes and concentrating, having the mentality that you’re not going to get beat, is what it comes down to.”