For the majority of the season, the Seattle Sounders kept pace just ahead of the Houston Dynamo as one of the worst teams in the Western Conference. Like Houston, the Sounders fired their coach during the summer and brought in reinforcements. Unlike the Dynamo, however, those new players and coach have drastically turned things around and what seemed to be a lost season now has a glimmer of hope, all thanks to the skill of Nicolas Lodeiro.
The Uruguayan international has had quite the impact already, registering a goal and four assists in four matches. His contributions have put the Sounders on a three game winning streak with a chance at sneaking into the playoffs. As impressive as that is, the Dynamo’s ability to muck up a game and turn a potent offense into a stagnant puddle is equally great.
Much like when Toronto FC came to BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston will have several potent offensive weapons to contend with besides the headliner. For the Sounders, they’ll be deploying Texas native Clint Dempsey as a withdrawn striker behind rookie Jordan Morris, who leads the team with 8 goals this season. Deuce had a horrid start to the year and only since Lodeiro arrival has he started to find the back of the net with 5 goals. Fortunately the defense is nearly back to full strength after a string of suspensions and injuries decimated it. Expect to see David Horst tasked with keeping Morris’ speed and strength in check while his partner, either Raul Rodriguez or Agus, will look to prevent Dempsey from making late runs and finding pockets of space.
Ever since Wade Barrett took charge of the team, the most important player has been Collen Warner and a big reason for that has been his ability to force teams out wide, preventing attacking midfielders from sending that killer through-ball or shot from outside the box. Wednesday night will be no different as he is paired up with Lodeiro. If the Sounders’ previous form is anything to go by, when the Uruguayan is marked out of the game their offense can crumble.
For the Dynamo, they have given a pair of starts to young Colombian striker Mauro Manotas after riding the bench earlier this season. In those matches, he has had mixed results, logging an assist against TFC while not getting many touches on the ball in San Jose. With the striker position in major flux for 2017, he has to take advantage of the minutes given to prove that he should not only be with the team in the future but secure a possible starting spot as well. With the Sounders defense vulnerable to exploitation, as shown during their game against rival Portland Timbers last weekend, Mauro needs to find the pockets of space and get his shots on frame.
Another player that has also gotten more minutes lately is Cristian Maidana with equally mixed results. He too is likely playing for a future spot with the team next season after having tons of success with the Philadelphia Union in 2015.
What will really be the driving factor for this game is that both teams are in the middle of three games in a week. Houston was in San Jose while the Sounders hosted Portland. This weekend will see the Sounders return to the Pacific Northwest for the return leg against Portland while the Dynamo wrap up their rivalry against FC Dallas. With such a condensed schedule, both teams will be forced to rotate their roster to keep fresh ahead of their respective rivalry games. For Houston that isn’t such a big deal since they have little to play for besides not collapsing against Dallas and keeping ahead of the Chicago Fire and/or Columbus Crew in the Wooden Spoon race. After Seattle’s three wins, however, they now have a real chance to get into the playoffs and not sit out for the first time in their history.
With both teams looking ahead to the weekend, this game could easily swing wildly one way or the other, depending on who is not paying attention more. It could possibly be dragged to a halt in the midfield if Warner, Ricardo Clark and Alex can grab ahold of things then Seattle’s offense won’t be able to break the tough nut that is the Dynamo backline. Houston’s offense has been clicking, well, in relative terms they have anyway, so this will be a 1 – 1 draw as both teams attempt to forget this game happened and eagerly move on to the weekend against more important competition.