This is it. It’s noodle time. The Houston Dynamo are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2013 when they were eliminated in the Conference Finals by Thursday’s opponent, Sporting Kansas City. The Dynamo have gone through an interesting process since then as we’ve seen Dominic Kinnear depart and Owen Coyle and Wade Barrett come in and leave as managers (or interim manager in Barrett’s case). Wilmer Cabrera was named the Head Coach at the beginning of this year and the club underwent more changes than we saw with Kinnear, Coyle, or Barrett. It hasn’t been easy for Dynamo fans to not be in the playoffs. For one, we inherited a very good team that came from San Jose that won the MLS Cup in back-to-back years as soon as they arrived in Houston. After a brief spell where they missed the playoffs in 2010, they rebounded with back-to-back MLS Cup appearances falling both times to the LA Galaxy in the Cup Final. As fans we’ve been spoiled by a very good team that consistently met our high expectations, but for years now the team has struggled. Now, the team is back in the playoffs where they belong and they have a chance against a true rival in Sporting Kansas City which should be one of the most entertaining matches of the season.
The Dynamo should be familiar with Kansas City as they’ve faced their out of state rivals twice in the last two weeks. The first meeting was a midweek 2-1 win in favor of the Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium as both clubs were left short handed with international fixtures occurring at the same time. The second meeting happened the following Sunday with national team players returning and it resulted in a 0-0 draw at Children’s Mercy Park.
Wilmer Cabrera will have several big decisions to make with his lineup as this knockout round game is a win and advance/lose and go home match. Up top there are several big questions about who will start and who will come off the bench for Houston. The biggest certainty is that Alberth Elis will be starting at the right winger position. I would bet that Romell Quioto is given the go on the left wing. Quioto left last week’s game against the Chicago Fire after scoring a goal due to reported cramping in his leg, but he is healthy and ready for selection. The center forward spot is where I think many of us would like to see Mauro Manotas start, but I think Cubo Torres is given the role.
Assuming that Cabrera sticks with his trusted 4-3-3, the midfield could likely see some key contributors sitting on the bench. Juan David Cabezas is likely to start in the left mid/left center mid role with Ricardo Clark at right mid/right center mid. The two have formed an impressive duo at disrupting play in the midfield and they will need to be on top of their game to prevent passes to Sporting Kansas City’s attackers. The free roaming center mid position should go to Tomas Martinez who is coming into his own and continues to develop chemistry with the players around him. Clark and Martinez did not play against the Fire last week and the extra rest should be a benefit. Cabezas was subbed out relatively early in that game as well so our midfield has no excuses for tired legs. I know many will want Alex on the field, but I think him coming off the bench will be better. Alex has been slow to release the ball and get others involved in recent games, but his direct approach on goal could be very useful should the Dynamo be down a goal later in the game.
Defensively, there is a huge hole left by A. J. DeLaGarza who left last week’s game with a torn ACL. DeLaGarza has been one of the stabilizing figures along the back line and has shown tremendous leadership as well exemplified by Cabrera giving him the Captain’s armband against the Fire with Clark and DaMarcus Beasley sitting out. His presence will be missed and it will be up to his replacement to fill some big shoes. Jalil Anibaba is the likely candidate to come in for AJ, although Kevin Garcia is another option. DaMarcus Beasley should be back at left back and Leonardo and Adolfo Machado will be starting at center back with Tyler Deric in goal.
My Projected Starting Lineup
This is the biggest game Dynamo fans have been able to see in awhile so let’s hope we come out and play hard, smart, and get the win to move on to the next round of the playoffs. Which players should start to help us get there? Let us know and feel free to share your choices in the comments section below!