MLS Preview and Prediction: Houston Dynamo vs LA Galaxy

Competition: Major League Soccer – Houston Dynamo vs. LA Galaxy

Venue: BBVA Compass Stadium – Friday, April 15 – 19:00 ET (00:00 BST – Live on Sky Sports 1)

Match Odds: Houston 13/8 – Draw 13/5 – LA Galaxy 6/4

Match Preview

Houston Dynamo welcome LA Galaxy to BBVA Compass Stadium in this week’s Friday night MLS clash in what is a key Western Conference battle at this early stage of the campaign.

Houston started the season in great form, scoring eight goals in their opening two games, but they have only picked up one win so far and are looking to snap a three-game winless run here.

Owen Coyle’s side were perhaps unlucky to draw with Seattle last weekend, with Chad Marshall’s 94th minute equaliser preventing the Dynamo from picking up all three points. They need to bounce back straight away against another strong Western opponent but will be confident of doing so.

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Houston are unbeaten in six home games now, while the Galaxy haven’t won any of their last seven on the road. Add in the fact that Houston have won each of their last four home games against LA and it’s difficult to overlook the hosts here.

The Galaxy travel to Houston off the back of their 1-1 home draw with Portland on Sunday night. A late Nat Borchers own goal rescued a point for an injury-struck Galaxy team but they will need to put in a better performance if they are to take anything away from Friday’s clash.

LA haven’t scored away from home in two attempts so far this term. A 1-0 loss to Colorado was followed by a 0-0 draw in Vancouver and so the team’s road troubles aren’t showing any signs of improving just yet.

LA Galaxy vs Portland Timbers

Bruce Arena knows this is a big game. The Galaxy sit three points above Houston in the West coming into the match and so there is plenty at stake at this early stage.

These two met three times during the regular season last year. Houston won the only clash at BBVA Compass Stadium 3-0. The Galaxy won one home game 1-0, with the pair drawing 1-1 at StubHub Center in the first meeting of last season.

Team News

Houston will be without Colleen Warner once again, while Abdoulie Mansally is a doubt with an ongoing concussion issue.

LA Galaxy will be without Nigel De Jong after his horror tackle on Darlington Nagbe last weekend. At the time of writing a suspension has yet to be issued, although the MLS Disciplinary Committee are expected to hand out a multiple-game ban to the midfielder before Friday’s game. Robbie Keane and Dan Kennedy remain injured, while Steven Gerrard, Jeff Larentowicz, Leonardo and Robbie Rogers are all doubts.

Key Points

Houston Dynamo’s last five: D/W/L/L/D

LA Galaxy’s last five: W/L/W/D/D

Key Stat: Houston have won each of their last four home games against LA Galaxy by a combined score of 9-2.

Key Player: Will Bruin – The Dynamo forward started the season in blistering form, picking up three goals and two assists in his opening three matches. He hasn’t contributed to a goal in the last two games but he will be desperate to be back amongst the goals against the Galaxy here and could cause them real problems.

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Score Prediction

Houston Dynamo 2-0 LA Galaxy – Houston have performed better than their 1-2-2 record suggests so far and will expect to beat a Galaxy side that struggles away from home. Injuries and suspensions to key players won’t help LA’s cause and so a second defeat of the campaign looks to be in line for the Western Conference giants.

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MLS Fantasy 2016: What you need to succeed

By Jamie Dawe

Every year the MLS Fantasy minefield blows up anyone who hasn’t fully considered their team selection or their formation. Many people watch their team slide down the leaderboard for the first month while they helplessly panic behind their computer screens. However, there are a few key things you ought to know before you set up your team for this year’s competition.

The New Rules

There are now only 16 players on your roster (rather than 18), but each team still has the same $120.0 budget, meaning you can fill your side with more stars than ever in 2016.

Points are now scored for players who suffer four fouls in a game, for every 35 passes that are completed with 85% accuracy and also for every four shots taken in a game. In addition, defenders and defensive midfielders can score points for clearances, interceptions, tackles and blocks. This will make players like Osvaldo Alonso ($8.5) and Matias Laba ($7.5) even more attractive propositions.

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The Roster

Having two goalkeepers gives you room to have a week-in-week-out starting goalkeeper and also a young up-and-coming ‘keeper who may get game time later in the season. I wouldn’t recommend spending anymore than $11.0 of your budget on the two goalkeeper positions.

Having five defenders gives you the opportunity to splash out on a back five if you’re the kind of manager who likes banking on reliable centre-backs who rack up clean sheets, interceptions and the odd headed goal. Many prefer to use just three defenders, with attacking full-backs becoming increasingly popular too.

The limit of five midfielders now means that building a successful five-man midfield is significantly harder to achieve. However, the increased budget per player could mean that a spend of $45.0 on your midfield may not be terminal.

Four strikers gives you the chance to have at least one low priced striker to make room elsewhere for a big golden boot challenger. Cheap options like Dominic Oduro ($7.5) and Tesho Akindele ($7.5) could become great investments for the season.

The Formation

There’s only one formation I can recommend for the first weeks of the fantasy season and that’s a 3-5-2. In the unpredictable and occasionally maddening league which is Major League Soccer, the only position you can truly rely on is that of the central midfielder. Regardless of the match, quality of the team or the scoreline – passing bonuses are sure to be gained and so I see players like Dax McCarty ($9.0) and Tony Tchani ($8.0) as safe bets for early points. You could also try a 3-4-3 or 4-4-2 if one of your strikers/defenders is likely to play in a midfield role. In my view, any other formation would be complete anarchism before the tone for the season has been set.

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The Must Haves

The increased budget per player has opened up teams to have three or four massive stars in their starting XI. This is why players like last year’s top points scorer Sebastian Giovinco ($11.5) are definitely worth having in your team for the start of the season. Another player along these lines is Ethan Finlay ($10.5), who will also benefit from the new passing bonus points.

However, this doesn’t mean that the most expensive players are always going to be the highest scoring. Strikers like Innocent Emeghara ($9.0) and Maximiliano Urruti ($8.5) are sure to get more playing time this season and they are both proven goalscorers. In defence, Dallas’ No. 1 Jesse Gonzalez ($6.0) might be worth an investment as FC Dallas have four home games in their first six. This home start makes Zach Loyd ($7.5) a steal at this value. On the cheaper side, Josh Saunders ($5.0) may suddenly have a less porous defensive line in front of him as NYCFC have dramatically bolstered their defensive options this offseason. Four home games in the first five won’t hurt either.

The Risks

A few players picked in this year’s SuperDraft may go straight into the starting lineup of some MLS sides. For example, Joshua Yaro ($6.0) and Brandon Vincent ($5.0) are bound to get plenty of playing time. Jordan Morris ($8.5) joining Seattle Sounders was possibly the biggest deal of the offseason and it’s anyone’s guess whether he’ll hit the ground running, or whether he’ll take more time to progress. The Colorado Rapids’ biggest offseason signing was Shkelzen Gashi ($9.0), who had been the top scorer in the Swiss Super League for the last two seasons. Whether he can single-handedly turn around the Rapids’ dreadful scoring record, I don’t know. The Rapids also have talented defender/midfielder Marlon Hairston ($5.0) returning from injury, but he might not be thrown straight back into the Starting XI from the outset.

The No-No’s

DC United goalkeeper Bill Hamid ($6.0) will be out for at least the first three months of the season and should be ignored. MLS Cup winners Portland have a new left back in Chris Klute ($7.0) but he could easily miss the first games of the season with a knee injury. Nigel De Jong ($9.0) is a new presence in the LA Galaxy midfield, but he is not known for his scoring exploits and is rather more known for racking up yellow cards, so I personally would wait and see if the new scoring system favours him. Also, for his price and his position as a forward in a fantasy squad Giovanni Dos Santos ($11.0) is probably worth a miss until he settles into his new role on the right side of in the Galaxy side.

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The Best Bench Warmers

Cameron Porter ($5.0) should gain significant value if he gets the playing time he was in line to receive before his horrific injury at the beginning of the 2015 season. Along these same lines, Andre Blake ($5.0) could be a starting ‘keeper for Philadelphia this year – and if he’s given the chance – he could become the best bargain ‘keeper in the league. Hadji Barry ($5.0) could also be given the chance to prove himself in a faster, more fluent Orlando City attack – and if he plays to his potential, his price will skyrocket very quickly.

This is just a brief overview of what can be an extremely in-depth game. However, if I were to tell you anymore of my secrets, there would be no point in picking your own team…

All I can do is wish you luck and may the fantasy force be with you!

Who do you think is an absolute must-have in MLS Fantasy 2016?

Podcast: Matt Miazga, Galaxy’s signings & Pep Guardiola discussed

In the latest MLSGB Podcast, Zack Walford talks to Louis East and Jamie Ives about Matt Miazga’s transfer from the New York Red Bulls to Chelsea FC, and also discuss some of LA Galaxy’s most recent signings.

We finish off by talking about Pep Guardiola’s upcoming move to Manchester City now that it is official and have a quick recap of the Premier League’s transfer deadline day business.

Be sure to comment below or get in touch on Twitter: @MLSGB_

LA Galaxy making ‘significant advances’ with Nigel De Jong, deal close

LA Galaxy are closing in on the signing of AC Milan midfielder Nigel De Jong, with the latest reports indicating that “significant advancements” have been made.

The 31-year-old Dutch midfielder still has two-and-a-half years left on his Milan contract but is deemed surplus to requirements at the Serie A outfit.

Milan will likely want to offload De Jong before the January transfer window closes in a couple of days, though the Galaxy cannot sign anyone until the MLS transfer window opens in a few weeks.

Premier League side Leicester City are also reported to be interested in the former Manchester City man, though the Galaxy appear to be the frontrunners for his signature.

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Reports out of Italy on Saturday claimed that the deal was close to being agreed, but that a contract had not yet been signed.

The signing of De Jong would be a major coup for the Galaxy, though he would not be able to join as a Designated Player as those three slots are already being used on Robbie Keane, Steven Gerrard and Giovani Dos Santos.

Ashley Cole joined the club last week on a non-DP contract and bringing in De Jong in the same way would represent two major signings for the Western Conference side.

Would Nigel De Jong be a good signing for LA Galaxy?

West Ham dealt blow as AC Milan join chase for midfielder – report

West Ham loanee Alex Song has been linked with a summer move to AC Milan as they look to replace Nigel De Jong, who is expected to leave the Italian club in the summer.

Song, currently on loan from FC Barcelona, is with the Hammers for the season and the Premier League side are keen on making his move permanent.

However, AC Milan and Inter Milan are also interested in the Cameroon international, with Inter looking to Song as a potential backup option, should their pursuit of Yaya Toure fall short.

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Song is favourite to join AC Milan in the summer, according to the Daily Mail, as De Jong looks set to leave on a free after rejecting a new contract and is wanted by Manchester United.

Song, who joined Barcelona in the summer of 2012 for a reported fee of £15 million, has played 27 times for West Ham in the Premier League this season and has been a great asset to the side this campaign.

West Ham’s recent form has seen them drop out of the race for European football but they can still see their season as successful and signing Song on a permanent basis would also be huge for the East London club.

Should West Ham look to tie down Alex Song on a permanent basis? Would AC Milan be a better move for the former Arsenal man?