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Three keys for the Houston Dynamo against Real Salt Lake

The Dynamo get another shot at Real Salt Lake.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Well, the Houston Dynamo get another crack at Real Salt Lake after losing in Utah a few weeks ago, this time at home. Maybe this time they'll have a better game-plan going in.

1. Counter

I said this before the San Jose game, but this time, it's more crucial than ever.

The Dynamo don't bother to keep the ball almost ever, and they are much better when they have numbers and speed on offense. When given room, the attack can be very good if they manage to finish, but when they try and break down the opposing backline, they either turn the ball over or resort to a long shot from a ridiculous distance. Basically, they don't have much of an attack when they fail to get on the counter.

So against RSL, who rely on skillful wing play and the chance-creation ability of the midfield—particularly Javier Morales—they will likely have opportunities to exploit them when they push players forward, especially on the wings.

Crucial here is that they don't get caught by Kyle Beckerman, RSL's stout defensive midfielder. Although he may not be as athletic as he used to be, he is very good at reading plays and intercepting passes, so he has an acute ability to shut down counters before they begin.

2. Halt Javier

As mentioned above, Javier Morales is Real Salt Lake's main chance-creator and offensive playmaker. He does very well at distributing the ball not only in the central channels to forward Yura Movsisyan, but to the wings to Joao Plata, Jordan Allen and Juan Manuel Martinez.

Morales often doesn't play all that high up the field like other top-tier MLS playmakers like Mauro Diaz and Lee Nguyen. Rather, he ranges all over the attack, taking up pockets of space and finding passes that constantly test the defense. He slowly wares down defenders by doing this, as shown in his passing chart against the Colorado Rapids:

Green arrows are for completed passes and red arrows are for incomplete passes. Many of his unsuccessful balls came when he went for longer passes through the middle.

As you can see, Morales is all over the place. He occasionally drifts out to the wings—thus opening holes centrally—while also spending a lot of time in central midfield. He shows a willingness to drop deep and help in possession as well.

The Argentine has the ability to hit the final ball, with 2.5 key passes per game, and is a constant danger all over the field. In fact, he is ranked 10th all time in MLS in fouls suffered, the only active player on the list.

The Dynamo have to be able to track him throughout the midfield and make sure they neutralize his impact.

3. Get on the board early

The Dynamo were set back in a big way early on against the Earthquakes on Wednesday, allowing a preventable goal in the third-minute. They lost confidence and were forced to go out in search of a goal on the road, never a good situation.

Houston are not good at coming back from early deficits. They are 0-4-1 (win-loss-draw) in those situations, the worst record in the league outside of Sporting KC. Against RSL, they have to make sure they start well.

An early goal would be the best case scenario, but that may be too much to ask.