The Houston Dynamo are looking to close out their three-week homestand with a victory against the lowly Colorado Rapids. The Denver-based team have long been in the basement of the Western Conference with no end in sight.
While the Dynamo are experiencing their own down-turn, it is only temporary as they continue to flesh out the bench options and reserve players to get a head start on the rebuilding process slated to begin right after MLS Cup in December.
Wait? What’s that?
You’ve got to be joking. Seriously? C’mon…you must mean like 2010 when they snuck into the playoffs and beat FC Dallas off an own-goal when the ball deflected off the defender’s butt.
My editor, Hal Kaiser, has informed me that not only are the Rapids one of the league’s best teams, but they have consistently been so all season long and have a decent chance at not only finishing higher than 3rd for the first time in their history, but even winning the Supporter’s Shield. Even more shocking is that the addition of Tim Howard, the Secretary of Defense himself, has done little to make them better.
Next thing you’ll tell me is that Toronto FC is making the playoffs again and DC United has a soccer stadium.
Anyway, in the good news department for the Dynamo is that Jermaine Jones is still out with an injury, as is defender Bobby Burling. Both have been quality players for the Rapids and normally this is the part where it is mentioned that they’re vulnerable as a result.
Well, not really. The visitors are unbeaten in their last 4 matches, including a huge victory over the current Shield leaders FC Dallas. However, in that stretch they also recorded disappointing draws against the Vancouver Whitecaps and San Jose Earthquakes.
For fans hoping to see an exciting match, perhaps even a show from Howard, they’ll likely be disappointed. Despite the above injuries, the Rapids have maintained the league’s best defense. They’ve given up 27 goals in 30 matches for a GAA of 0.9.
Breaking them down will be extremely tough and even if that happens, getting past the goalkeeper is another task. Between Howard and Zac McMath before him, the Rapids have given up 118 shots, 27 less than the Dynamo ‘keepers have faced. Howard to date has a save percentage of 77%.
For an offense that has been lacking most of the season, coming off a haunting performance that most felt was behind them, doesn’t bode well.
On the bright side, the Rapids offense is actually worse than Houston’s. The Dynamo have 36 goals this season while the Rapids are second-to-last in the entire league with a mere 33 (Dom Kinnear’s Earthquakes lead that charge with 31; just saying).
Albanian International Shkelzen Gashi leads the team with 7 goals and 4 assists after being transferred from the Switzerland where he was the Golden Boot winner. Irish International Kevin Doyle has also been good for the team with 4 goals and a pair assists while Dominique Badji has equaled that total as well.
Without the dynamic spark that Jones brings to the team, the Rapids have become a more deliberate side when they look for goals. The ball is brought forward quickly to the offensive players who look for seams in defenses that can be exploited. Colorado will likely use their width to move the ball up the field and bring it in quickly towards the center to create their chances. With a solid defense behind them, they’re not too worried about turning the ball over in the final third.
They are also much more physical and have zero problem being whistled by the referee to break up an opponent’s offensive run. The Rapids are one of the league’s leading teams in yellow cards and fouls committed.
Should Houston catch them on the counter, expect to see professional fouls to slow them down. Indeed, with the season winding down and four players in danger of being suspended due to yellow-card accumulation, it’s entirely possible one of them picks up a card here to wipe the slate clean before the playoffs. Their next match, at home against the ‘Quakes, is very winnable.
What this all boils down to is that this is going to be a slog of a match. Two teams with very good defenses and terrible offenses, where one is extremely physical and the other not, doesn’t bode well for high-level soccer. If there is a winner in this game, it’s likely to come from a set play or one team being able to capitalize on a mistake. With the Dynamo making far more mistakes this season than their opponents, this game is likely to end 1 – 0 to the visitors.