Houston vs Seattle – Tuesday, November 21, 18:30 PT / 21:30 ET – BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, Texas.
Having dispatched eternal Cascadia rivals Vancouver Whitecaps in the MLS Western Conference semi-finals, Brian Schmetzer and his Sounders look en route to their second back-to-back MLS Cup final in as many seasons. First, however, they will have to beat the Houston Dynamo over two legs to claim the Western Conference championship and a ticket to the 2017 MLS Cup final against either Toronto or Columbus.
Despite several drawbacks throughout the season, with consistency and good football in the final part of the regular season race, Seattle managed to skip the knockout rounds after Vancouver inexplicably failed to secure the first seeded spot on Decision Day, clearing the way for Portland and Seattle to take first and second respectively. This has allowed the Sounders to regain confidence and prepare for the final instances of the title defence. As mentioned, the return of Dempsey is key to raise Seattle’s odds of winning this tie, especially because they have never won in Houston in the MLS era. Furthermore, Osvaldo Alonso and Jordan Morris’ injuries keep preventing the side from showing its complete potential as Nicolás Lodeiro, Clint Dempsey and Cristian Roldán are occupied continuously with creative and finishing duties apart from their own.
On the pitch will be a calm Houston Dynamo managed by Colombian ex-footballer Wilmer Cabrera. The 2006 and 2007 MLS Cup champions have proven highly effective after beating the Chicago Fire, one of the best teams of the season, 3-0 on Decision Day to reach the knockout stages. There, they faced Sporting Kansas City, and even though Houston was the better side, it took 90 minutes plus extra time for them to get the winning goal via Alberth Elis.
In the semi-finals before the international break, the Dynamo came up against Portland Timbers, first seeded franchise in the west and one of the contenders to win the title this year. Not intimidated by the credentials of their rivals, Houston managed to hold on to a goalless draw at home to later beat the Timbers 2-1 at Providence Park. This defeat marked the end of the successful four-year Caleb Porter era at Portland.
With nothing to fear, Houston will look to upset the Sounders at home, backed by their flawless record in the entire MLS era. Nevertheless, absences cannot be overlooked for Houston will surely miss its Honduran trio of Alberth Elis, Romell Quioto and Boniek Garcia, who have all just got back from their narrow World Cup playoff elimination against Australia. Alberth Elis is the only player who will likely get some playing time, a player whom Cabrera will certainly want to get the best out of for this tie.
Houston vs Seattle – Players to look out for:
Erick ‘Cubo’ Torres #9 – Houston Dynamo
After signing for Dynamo from Chivas USA in 2015, the Mexican striker struggled to find form in his first season but would later go on to become the franchise’s top scorer with 14 goals, while also setting the record for the club’s most productive season in front of goal. Now undergoing a goal drought, Cubo believes the clash against Seattle is a good opportunity to regain his form as the lethal finisher he is. His goals will be much needed for Seattle’s difficult defence. The Mexican’s intelligence will be very useful against the Torres-Marshall duo.
Clint Dempsey #2 – Seattle Sounders
Seattle’s most important designated player was largely missed last season when the Sounders marched all the way to the MLS Cup title, fuelled by impressive newcomer Nicolás Lodeiro and a convenient strike of momentum. Now with the opportunity of winning a second title, this time on the field, the Texas-born maestro is determined to make a good impression in Houston after stating his intentions against Vancouver with the two goals that sealed the semi-final. His team has already demonstrated not to struggle when he is not available, which turns his presence into a much more positive thing adding a great upgrade to a well-oiled machine.
Houston vs Seattle – Match Stats
- The Sounders have never won in Houston (0-4-4)
- The only time the two franchises met in playoff stages was back in 2009. Houston on defeated Seattle 1-0 on aggregate to advance to the conference final.
- Seattle striker Will Bruin will get the chance to test his great moment against his former club.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Houston vs Seattle 2-1
Houston vs Seattle – Possible Lineups
Willis – Remick, Machado, Senderos, Anibaba – Cabezas, Alexander – Alex, Martinez, Elis –Torres
Coach: Wilmer Cabrera
Frei – Tolo, Marshall, Torres, Leerdam – Svensson, Roldan – Jones, Dempsey, Lodeiro –Bruin
Coach: Brian Schmetzer
Nicolás Miremont is a born and raised Boca Juniors fan, but his heart has a special place for Manchester United, Zenit Saint Petersburg and Dynamo Kiev. Miremont loves to support the underdogs. Miremont enjoys watching smaller competitions especially those from Eastern Europe, but also his native Argentina. Follow him on Twitter @Miremont_Nico