MLS Playoffs Preview and Prediction: Seattle Sounders vs Houston Dynamo

2017 MLS Cup Playoffs – Western Conference Final (2nd Leg): Seattle Sounders vs Houston Dynamo

CenturyLink Field – Thursday, November 30 – 22:30 ET (03:30 GMT)

Match Odds: Seattle 3/4 – Draw 5/2 – Houston 7/2

Seattle Sounders vs Houston Dynamo: Preview

The Seattle Sounders welcome Houston Dynamo to CenturyLink Field on Thursday night for the second-leg of the 2017 Western Conference Final.

Many felt the Dynamo had nothing to lose heading into last week’s first-leg. But it seems whatever they did have to lose was lost on the night as the Sounders ran out 2-0 winners against a Houston side that had 10 men for more than an hour.

Jalil Anibaba’s 28th-minute red card left the Dynamo with a mountain to climb. Joe Willis may have saved the resulting penalty kick from Nicolas Lodeiro but they were already 1-0 down and that lead was doubled when Will Bruin fired in before halftime.

The Sounders had plenty more chances to put the game – and probably the tie – to bed but the Dynamo held on to somehow retain some form of optimistic hope ahead of Thursday’s second leg.

But make no mistake about it, Seattle have taken one giant stride into the MLS Cup Final. They have two crucial away goal and are well on track to have a chance at retaining their championship on December 9.

The Dynamo have to score at least two goals to have any chance at turning the tie around on Thursday night. But the Sounders have only conceded more than one goal at home on two occasions this season. And didn’t lose either of those games.

Seattle are unbeaten in 15 at home. They don’t need to attack Houston and should be able to wait for opportunities to attack on the counter. The odds of Houston advancing are slim but it should set up an exciting game as they have no choice but to go for it.

Seattle Sounders vs Houston Dynamo: Team News

The Seattle Sounders won’t be able to call on the services of powerful defender Roman Torres. The Panamanian is suspended as a result of yellow card accumulation but will be back for the MLS Cup Final, should Seattle advance. Stefan Frei missed the first leg with a hamstring strain and could return here, although his status isn’t yet confirmed. Brad Evans and Jordan Morris are ruled out with ongoing injury problems. Osvaldo Alonso is listed as questionable but could be in line to return.

The Dynamo will be without Jalil Anibaba, following his red card in last week’s first leg. Alberth Elis is also suspended as a result of yellow card accumulation. Tyler Deric is suspended as a result of off-field conduct. George Malki, AJ DeLaGarza and Memo Rodriguez remain their only injury absentees.

Seattle Sounders vs Houston Dynamo: Key Points

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

Houston Dynamo’s last five: W/W/D/W/L

Key Stat: Fortress – Seattle Sounders have won their last four home games (including playoffs) by a combined score of 12-0. It’s been almost seven months since they lost at CenturyLink Field.

Key Player: Clint Dempsey – The veteran attacker scored twice in the Western Conference Semifinal win over Vancouver at home and will be looking to help the hosts through here. He is playing with extra hunger after missing last season’s run to the title and will be looking to exploit a Houston defence that will undoubtedly leave gaps as they chase a comeback.

Seattle Sounders vs Houston Dynamo: Prediction

Seattle Sounders 2-1 Houston Dynamo – The Dynamo have to go for it. They have enough attacking options to hurt the Sounders backline, particularly given the absence of Roman Torres. But the problem is, the more they attack, the more open they will be to the Sounders’ ruthless attack. The likes of Lodeiro and Dempsey will be looking to be clinical and put the tie to bed. Expect both sides to score, but the Sounders are surely sailing through to the final.

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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.

MLS Playoff Preview and Prediction: Colorado Rapids vs Seattle Sounders

Competition: MLS Cup Playoffs: Western Conference Final (Second Leg) – Colorado Rapids vs Seattle Sounders

Venue: Dick’s Sporting Goods Park – Sunday, November 27 – 16:00 ET (21:00 GMT) 

Match Odds: Colorado 1/1 – Draw 9/4 – Seattle 13/5

Match Preview

Colorado Rapids welcome Seattle Sounders in the second leg of the Western Conference Final on Sunday, with a place in the MLS Cup Final up for grabs.

The Sounders take a narrow 2-1 lead into the second leg at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park after they came from a goal down to win in the first clash.

The Rapids have an away goal but still need to go out and win this game if they are to make a first MLS Cup Final in six years.

Seattle Sounders vs Colorado Rapids - MacMath Save

They’ve had an excellent season, regardless, but it would still be disappointing for the home fans if they crash out at the final hurdle here.

Colorado are in poor form coming into Sunday’s game, but they are unbeaten at home in 12 games, including the 1-0 win over LA in the Conference Semifinal – a game they ended up winning on penalties.

Seattle travel to Colorado as the league’s in-form team and showed their resilience with an impressive comeback win in the first leg.

Nicolas Lodeiro was the star man once again and he will need to be at his best here for the Sounders to cause the Rapids defence the same problems they did on Tuesday night.

Seattle Sounders vs Colorado Rapids - Nicolas Lodeiro

Seattle have lost their last two away games 2-1. A repeat scoreline here would take this game to extra-time – something that seems a real possibility given how little there is to choose between the two.

Getting an away goal will be the main aim for the Sounders, but they know they are going to need to defend from kickoff, with Colorado needing to attack.

Team News

Colorado will be without Tim Howard and Dillon Serna once again. Marlon Hairston will be pushing for a start after coming off the bench in last week’s first leg.

Clint Dempsey remains out for Seattle, along with Dylan Remick. Jordan Morris, Andreas Ivanschitz, Alvaro Fernandez and Roman Torres all came through knocks to play last week and should all be involved in the squad again here, with Ivanschitz pushing for a start in place of Erik Friberg.

Key Points

Colorado’s last five: L/D/L/W/L

Seattle’s last five: W/W/W/L/W

Key Stat: Colorado haven’t kept a clean sheet at home to Seattle for six years, only once keeping the Sounders out in nine clashes at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

Key Player: Jordan Morris – The Seattle forward has enjoyed an excellent first season in MLS and deservedly won the Rookie of the Year award. He will enjoy playing on the counter-attack in Colorado and proved his danger by scoring the equaliser last week.

Seattle Sounders vs Real Salt Lake - Jordan Morris

Score Prediction

Colorado Rapids 1-1 Seattle Sounders – This is sure to be a tense affair as things are so finely poised heading into the second leg. Colorado know they have to win this game if they are to have a chance of making the MLS Cup Final for the first time since 2010. However, the Sounders love to play on the break and have at least one goal in them here. A draw would see the visitors through and that’s how we see this one panning out.

MLS Playoffs Preview and Prediction: Portland Timbers vs FC Dallas

Competition: MLS Cup Playoffs (Western Conference Final First Leg) – Portland Timbers vs. FC Dallas

Venue: Providence Park – Sunday, November 22 – 19:30 ET (00:30 GMT)

Match Odds: Portland 23/20 – Draw 23/10 – Dallas 12/5

Match Preview

Portland Timbers host FC Dallas in the first leg of their Western Conference Final clash on Sunday night as the MLS Cup Playoffs return in style after the international break.

Portland know that hosting the first leg means the pressure is on them to get a good result. Keeping a clean sheet will be a priority to prevent Dallas from getting a potentially vital away goal and Caleb Porter’s side will be confident having not conceded in their last two.

The Timbers followed up their knockout round penalty win over Sporting Kansas City by beating Vancouver 2-0 on aggregate in the Western Conference semifinals. They have worked hard to get this far and now have the MLS Cup in sight.

Portland Timbers’ 2015 MLS record: P37 – W16 – D10 – L11

Vancouver Whitecaps vs Portland TImbers

FC Dallas travel to Portland in fine spirits themselves after advancing past the Seattle Sounders in an incredibly dramatic conference semifinal second leg two weeks ago that went all the way to penalties.

They were unlucky not to win the Supporters’ Shield but the Western Conference winners will now be eyeing up the MLS Cup Final in two week’s time.

This should be an entertaining clash between two of Major League Soccer’s most solid sides. They tied for goals conceded in the regular season (39) with the third-best defensive records in MLS.

FC Dallas’ 2015 MLS record: P36 – W19 – D6 – L11

Seattle Sounders vs FC Dallas Celebrate

Dallas have only won one of their last five away games, though, and travel West as underdogs here.

They have never won at Providence Park and face a tough task in getting a positive result on Sunday evening.

Team News

Portland will still be without Ben Zemanski as his long-term ACL injury continues to rule him out of action. Diego Chara is once again a doubt but should be able to start the game. Fanendo Adi is expected to start as the lone striker with Darlington Nagbe in behind.

FC Dallas manager Oscar Pareja has three injury doubts coming into the game as Andres Escobar, Rolando Escobar and Kellyn Acosta are all unlikely to start.

Key Points

Portland Timbers’ last five: W/W/D/D/W

FC Dallas’ last five: W/W/W/L/W

Key Stat: FC Dallas have never won away to the Portland Timbers in six previous attempts (D2 L4).

Key Player: Darlington Nagbe – The Timbers playmaker has thrived since being shifted into the centre of the field and will be tasked with trying to unlock the Dallas defence on Sunday night.

Photo: Denise McCooey

Photo: Denise McCooey

Score Prediction

Portland Timbers 1-0 FC Dallas – This should be a tense and low-scoring first leg between two sides that will set up to avoid defeat. Home comforts mean Portland will be urged forward and they should score at least once to take the advantage into next Sunday’s second leg in Dallas.

2014 MLS Season Review: Seattle Sounders

Western Conference Final Position: 1st

Western Conference Playoffs: Final

Review

Seattle Sounders had a really strong regular season campaign, finishing with the highest points tally across both conferences. Although they couldn’t quite make it as far as they’d have liked in the playoffs, their overall performances cannot really to be questioned. Sealing the Supporters’ Shield gives them a great building block for the new season when even more will be expected of them.

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Best Moment

Beating their closest Western Conference competitors LA Galaxy in the battle for the Supporters’ Shield. The 2-0 result shows that even though the Sounders struggled to find their way to the playoff final, they still have what it takes to win trophies, having also lifted the U.S. Open Cup.

Worst Moment

Conceding the all-important goal of the playoff tie with LA. Seattle had done enough to qualify for the final after turning around the 1-0 first leg loss and will still be ruing their inability to see that second-leg through.

Player of the Year

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Clint Dempsey – the forward had the best strike rate for the Sounders this season and showed again what he can do in the big games. His impressive tally of 16, joined by Obafemi Martins‘ 17 shows what a great partnership they have together.

Biggest Win

Seattle Sounders 4-0 Real Salt Lake (May 31 2014)

Biggest Defeat

New England Revolution 5-0 Seattle Sounders (May 11 2014)

What to improve for the 2015 season…

There isn’t much that they need to improve for the next campaign, as they were so close to the near perfect season. They do however have to be able to shut teams out – a key example being the 4-4 draw with Portland Timbers. Having to chase games late on like this isn’t ideal for the best side across the conferences based on points total.

The only real disappointment of the season was the playoffs. With knockout football being the completely different style of game that it is, you can’t really have too many complaints with Seattle’s performance. On another day they may have been able to hold out for a place in the final, which they have to feel their season deserved.

Stats: Donovan & Keane vs Martins & Dempsey – Who will come out on top?

The first-leg of the Western Conference Final gets underway on Sunday night as Seattle Sounders travel to LA Galaxy in what promises to be a thrilling encounter.

The two sides met twice at the end of the regular in a dramatic climax to for the MLS Supporters’ Shield, with Seattle coming out on top, but a place in the MLS Cup is at stake this time.

Robbie Keane‘s absence may have cost the Galaxy the Supporters Shield but he will be in the team when LA welcome Seattle this weekend, and will hope his lethal partnership with Landon Donovan can once again lead their side to victory.

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The pair have scored 33 goals between them this season – accounting for 45% of the Galaxy’s goals in the regular season and playoffs. They will look to carry the form from the 5-0 thrashing of Real Salt Lake in the last round into this game.

Donovan scored a hat-trick in another memorable performance and his hopes of lifting a sixth MLS Cup before retirement are still alive.

Don’t Miss: Playoff Preview and Prediction: LA Galaxy vs Seattle Sounders

Seattle have just as dangerous a partnership themselves in Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins. The dynamic duo have scored 32 of the club’s 66 goals in the regular season and playoffs – accounting for 49%.

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The Sounders are hoping to become the first MLS side to win the treble by lifting the MLS Cup, following their successes in the US Open Cup and Supporters’ Shield in 2014.

Dempsey and Martins are integral to that and need to make sure they give Seattle something to take away from Los Angeles in the first-leg.

Donovan and Keane vs Dempsey and Martins Stats

Stats: Donovan & Keane Vs Dempsey & Martins – including playoffs. Statistics via Squawka.

The table above shows that Donovan and Keane are more of a threat together as the pair contributed to more goals and created more chances than the Seattle duo.

But Dempsey and Martins have recorded more shots and aren’t too far off the Galaxy pair.

It should be another intriguing battle between the sides, and one that will hopefully live long in the memory as an MLS Playoffs classic.

Landon Donovan could yet again be playing in his final home game in MLS, but Galaxy fans will hope by Keane playing against the Sounders this time as well that they will have enough to win the first-leg.

Who will come out on top on Sunday – Donovan & Keane or Dempsey & Martins?

 

Playoff Preview and Prediction: LA Galaxy vs Seattle Sounders

The first-leg of the Western Conference final is set to be an enthralling tie as the Seattle Sounders travel to take on LA Galaxy in their latest clash.

The two sides who went head-to-head for the MLS Supporters’ Shield during the last two weeks of the regular season are set to lock horns again, with a place in this season’s MLS Cup Final at stake.

We can expect a cagey opening in the first-leg between these two sides, with neither wanting to give any advantage ahead of the return fixture.

LA Galaxy home form: Played 18 – Won 13 – Drawn 4 – Lost 1

The game will also see two of the highest scorers from the regular season go head-to-head again in the shape of Obafemi Martins and Robbie Keane. With star strikers to aim at, both sides will fancy their chances.

Don’t Miss: Stats: Keane & Donovan vs Dempsey & Martins – Who will come out on top?

US soccer heroes Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey will also face up against one another, and will be key for their respective sides.

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The Galaxy will be looking to avenge their Supporters’ Shield loss, but the Sounders will have the added desire to try and create history by wrapping up the treble if they can get through two tricky ties against Los Angeles.

Seattle Sounders away form: Played 18 – Won 8 – Drawn 4 – Lost 6

The home side must ensure they have a positive result in this game and Seattle will want that all-important away goal – the goal that was the deciding factor in their semi-final contest with FC Dallas.

The 1-1-1 record between these two in the regular season means this couldn’t be more evenly poised and LA will be hoping to take a victory into the away fixture the following week.

We can expect the Sounders to look to absorb pressure from the Galaxy and hit them with pace on the counter. Hold up play is going to be a key part of the game for both Martins and Dempsey as LA will likely dominate possession.

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Osvaldo Alonso is expected to recover from a knock in time to play on Sunday, and Seattle will be desperately hoping that he does indeed make the game. He is the key man in midfield and without him, LA will dominate everything in the centre of the park.

The Galaxy will need to be tight at the back and not over-commit men forward when trying to break Seattle down to avoid being hit on the counter. They will be feeling great ahead of the game though, after the 5-0 demolition of Real Salt Lake in their semi-final clash – something that was a real surprise.

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A special mention has to go out to Landon Donovan after he showed his class yet again with that hat-trick in the 5-0 win over RSL and Seattle will need to try and keep him quiet in what could be his final game at StubHub Center.

This will be a very exciting two-legged affair and we are really looking forward to the game.

Key Player: Landon Donovan – this could be his last home game for the Galaxy and the big-game player will play a key role in both ties.

Key Stat: Both Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy) and Obafemi Martins (Seattle Sounders) have contributed to 26% of their clubs goals this season.

LA Galaxy Last 5: L/D/L/D/W

Seattle Sounders Last 5: L/D/W/D/D

Prediction: LA Galaxy 2-2 Seattle Sounders

Clint Dempsey says Seattle Sounders are “feeling good” ahead of LA Galaxy clash

Following their Western Conference playoff semi-final victory over FC Dallas, Seattle Sounders forward Clint Dempsey has been looking ahead to the conference final against LA Galaxy in a fortnight.

“We believe in ourselves – to win the Supporters’ Shield we had to play two games against them (LA Galaxy) and get the right result, so we’re a team that’s done well this season in terms of silverware.

“We have that confidence moving forward and we feel good,” he said to the Seattle Sounders YouTube channel.

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Despite the high level of confidence in the team, Dempsey is still cautious of the quality that the Galaxy possess.

“They’re a good team with a lot of quality – that’s the reason why they’re still in the playoffs.

“We have to figure out a way to manage these games in the right way because you don’t want to leave yourselves with a mountain to climb come the second game.

“To be the best you’ve got to play against the best and we’ve got to stay hungry for more.”

Dempsey’s partnership with Obafemi Martins has been inspirational to the Sounders this season and is one of the main reasons that they’re where they are.

“I love playing with Oba, he’s a world class player, we have a good chemistry, I think you can see that all year, we work well together and create chances for each other.”

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Although Dempsey has been left off the roster for the upcoming USMNT friendlies, he still “wishes them the best” and he’s had a “good conversation with Jurgen (Klinsmann) and looks forward to 2015”.

Every cloud has a silver lining though, as his omission from the squad for this international break should leave him feeling fresh and ready to fire on all cylinders in the next stage of the playoffs.

How crucial is Clint Dempsey to Seattle Sounders?