MLS Playoffs Preview and Prediction: Houston Dynamo vs Seattle Sounders

2017 MLS Cup Playoffs – Western Conference Final (1st Leg): Houston Dynamo vs Seattle Sounders

BBVA Compass Stadium – Tuesday, November 21 – 21:30 ET (02:30 GMT)

Match Odds: Houston 11/8 – Draw 2/1 – Seattle 2/1

Houston Dynamo vs Seattle Sounders: Preview

The defending MLS Cup champions are two games away from a return to the league’s showpiece event. Standing in the Seattle Sounders‘ way are the Houston Dynamo, who have surprised most people with their impressive run to the Western Conference Final.

The two sides will do battle over two legs, starting in Houston on Tuesday night before the second-leg in Seattle the following Thursday. The winner of the series will advance to the 2017 MLS Cup Final.

Houston have already seen off one Cascadia side as they beat Portland 2-1 on aggregate in the Western Conference Semifinals two weeks ago. Goals from Dylan Remick and Mauro Manotas were too much for the 2015 champions. And now Wilmer Cabrera’s men will be looking to get past the 2016 champs.

Houston have grown in confidence in recent months. They are unbeaten in two months and surged into the postseason after winning three of their last four games – all of which were at BBVA Compass Stadium.

Home advantage is vital for the Dynamo on Tuesday. They will be desperate to win the game, but will not want to allow the Sounders an away goal. They must get their approach right to ensure they stay in the contest ahead of the second-leg.

The Sounders have two key advantages. Firstly, they can play the second-leg at home. Secondly, they’ve got very recent experience at this stage of the season, having gone all the way 12 months ago.

Brian Schmetzer’s men got past Cascadia rivals Vancouver in the conference semi’s, winning 2-0 on aggregate. They drew the first leg 0-0 and may well be looking to earn a similar result on the road here. They’ve not won away in five and haven’t scored a goal in the latest four of them.

Oh, and the Sounders have yet to win a game in Houston in club history. They would love to change that record but will be more focused on the series, as opposed to just the 90 minutes at BBVA Compass Stadium on Tuesday.

This will be just the second ever playoff series matchup between the two sides. They met in the Western Conference semifinals in 2009, at the end of the Sounders’ inaugural MLS campaign. A 0-0 draw at CenturyLink Field was followed by a 1-0 extra-time win for the Dynamo at home in the second leg.

Houston Dynamo vs Seattle Sounders: Team News

Houston will be without suspended first-choice goalkeeper Tyler Deric so Joe Willis will continue between the sticks. George Malki, AJ DeLaGarza and Memo Rodriguez are all sidelined through injury. There are also concerns over the fitness of Honduran trio Alberth Elis, Romell Quioto and Boniek Garcia. All three travelled to Australia for the second leg of their unsuccessful World Cup playoff and might be fatigued as a result.

Seattle Sounders should welcome back Osvaldo Alonso to midfield for Tuesday’s crucial game. While Jordan Morris could also return after two months out with a hamstring strain. Victor Rodriguez and Chad Marshall are listed as questionable, along with Morris and Alonso but Seattle will be hopeful of getting all four players back on the field. Brad Evans is definitely out.

Houston Dynamo vs Seattle Sounders: Key Points

Houston Dynamo’s last five: D/W/W/D/W

Seattle Sounders’ last five: L/W/W/D/W

Key Stat: It’s been 467 minutes (7 hours and 47 minutes) since the Seattle Sounders last conceded a playoff goal. That came in the first-leg of last season’s Western Conference Final matchup with the Colorado Rapids, which Seattle won 2-1.

Key Player: Stefan Frei – The Sounders keep enjoys playing in big occasions like this. He was the hero in last season’s final and has yet to concede in the playoffs this season. If he can keep that record going beyond the 90 minutes in Houston on Tuesday, the Sounders will feel they have one foot in the final.

Houston Dynamo vs Seattle Sounders: Prediction

Houston Dynamo 0-0 Seattle Sounders – It’s always difficult to predict how a first-leg in a series as important as this will go, but it looks certain to be cagey. Both sides drew 0-0 in the first-legs of their Western Conference Semifinal clashes and may well adopt the same gameplan here. Houston might feel they have to attack the Sounders but that would also leave them exposed on the counter. Expect a nervy contest but one that should set up an intriguing second leg next week.

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Playoff Preview and Prediction: Seattle Sounders vs FC Dallas

The Seattle Sounders will look to finish the job against FC Dallas when the two teams meet in the second-leg of their Western Conference semi-final on Monday night. The tie is level after a 1-1 draw last weekend but the Sounders have that all important away goal.

We can expect the Sounders to approach the game a bit more cautiously as a result, waiting for Dallas to bring the match to them, as the visitors need a goal to stand any chance. Both sides will be wary of the counter attacking threat each team has, as the stakes are incredibly high for a place in the conference final.

Dallas had some really good spells in the first-leg and definitely had chances to score more than just the one from the penalty spot, and that will encourage them ahead of Monday’s fixture.

Fabian Castillo impressed once again last week, running at the Sounders defence and on occasions got the better of them, forcing good saves out of Stefan Frei. Dallas will need him to have an influential performance if they’re to get themselves on the right end of the result.

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[Fabian Castillo will be key for FC Dallas once again]

Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey both had some really good chances in the first-leg too and their experience will be key if the Sounders are to progress. Martins’ early one-on-one opportunity is the sort of chance he will be expected to convert, and if Seattle can get an early goal Dallas will have to press, and that will leave gaps in their defence.

Seattle’s home form: Played 17 – Won 12 – Drawn 1 – Lost 4

A cagey first-half will surely be on the cards, with neither side wanting to give each other any impetus or hope, and the longer it remains goalless the more Dallas will have to work to ensure they don’t lose by that away goal.

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[Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey will need to put in another solid display at CenturyLink Field]

Both sets of fans, as well as the neutrals, will be expecting another tight affair. Given Seattle’s success already this season they can’t afford to take their foot off and will be expected to seal a place in the next round.

FC Dallas’ away form: Played 17 – Won 4 – Drawn 5 – Lost 8

The game will be exciting as it’s so delicately poised and there is the chance of extra-time and penalties if we have a repeat score of the first-leg, so everything to play for!

Key Player: Stefan Frei – The Swiss keeper made some crucial saves in the first-leg and will need to be on song again to ensure anything Dallas throw forward is soaked up.

Key Stat: Seattle could be the first team to win the treble (US Open Cup, Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup), which should inspire them to want this even more.

Seattle Sounders’ Last 5: W/L/D/W/D

FC Dallas’ Last 5: W/W/L/W/D

Prediction: Seattle Sounders 3-1 FC Dallas – Seattle to seal place in Western Conference final with relatively comfortable win.

Takeaways from Seattle’s visit to Chicago

Seattle Sounders stretched their unbeaten streak to four on Saturday night with a hard-fought 3-2 victory over the Chicago Fire.

Chicago are now without a win in four and missed ‘Magic’ Mike Magee dearly.

There were a few things we learnt about the two sides and more specifically the individual players that made a difference. They are as follows:

1. Shipp strikes again.

Harrison Shipp is surely set to be rookie of the year as we are yet to see him have a bad game.

Both his goals on Saturday were top drawer and expect more from him this season, because at only 22 years old, he could take this league by storm.

3. Stefan Frei saves the day.

Barring two glorious efforts from Harry Shipp, Frei was in sensational form and effectively won the Sounders the game.

The Swiss-born ‘keeper managed to stop Quincy Amarikwa from just 6 yards out and the Sounders can thank Frei that they went on to win this game. He was Brilliant.

3. The good and the bad side of Obafemi Martins.

Martins only played 42 minutes but he managed to score two goals and get himself sent off.

It was a shame to see him go off, as he looked sharp as ever up until then, taking his first goal well and then converting a penalty with ease.

The probable suspension will leave Seattle in a spot of bother as Clint Dempsey is still away with the USMNT at the World Cup and the Sounders aren’t spoilt for suitable replacements, though they have a two-week break now to plan for their next game.

 

 

Seattle and Vancouver share spoils in exciting Cascadia Cup showdown

The Seattle Sounders grabbed a late penalty to ensure that the points were shared in the Cascadia Cup meeting against the Vancouver Whitecaps at BC Place as an exciting game ended 2-2.

Inside the first 3 minutes, Gershon Koffie was already testing the Seattle goal but the effort was smartly dealt with at the near post by goalkeeper Stefan Frei.

Koffie was at the heart of the action soon after, when he struck a long range effort against the crossbar following a storming run towards the Sounders goal.

But against the run of play in the 35th minute, the home fans were left stunned when a cross from Kenny Cooper found Chad Barrett, who was making his first start for the club, and he nodded in a beautiful header for his second of the season.

However the Sounders lead was short lived when Erik Hurtado intercepted the ball inside his own half, passing the ball to Bowen who then found Chilean Moralez with a wonderful first-time ball back into Hurtado who dazzled Osvaldo Alonso, not once but twice.

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Hurtado then blasted past Frei and into the Sounders net from a tight angle, drawing the home side level at the 38th minute mark.

The 60th minute saw Manneh break free again, but he was denied once more  by the rushing Frei.

But five minutes later the Whitecaps took the lead, as Frei’s clearance from near the touchline fell to Koffie who chested the ball down, allowing a bounce before taking it on and volleying into an empty Seattle net from over 30 yards, sending BC Place into raptures.

Inside the last ten minutes the Sounders got the chance to equalize after Jay Demerit was unfortunately penalised for bashing into the back of Cam Weaver in the air.

With regular Sounders penalty taker Clint Dempsey away with the USMNT, it was up to Mexican Gonzalo Pineda to take it under serious pressure.

Pineda stepped up and coolly put the ball into the net, making it look easy with his chipped finish, bringing Seattle level going into the last ten minutes.

The goal seemed to inspire the Sounders as Obafemi Martins came charging towards the  Vancouver goal before striking the post, in an effort which would of surely won the game for the Sounders.

Six minutes added time were added on at the end of an exciting game and Vancouver went close to snatching the game in the  92nd minute, but Koffie’s effort was straight at Frei.

Both sides now move on with the Whitecaps carrying on their battle for the Cascadia Cup next week against Portland Timbers, whilst a top of the table clash between Seattle Sounders and Real Salt Lake takes place next Saturday.

Highlights via MLS on YouTube: