It’s been just over two weeks since the Houston Dynamo were able to defeat the Portland Timbers 2-1 on aggregate. The two teams drew 0-0 in the first leg at BBVA Compass Stadium, but the Dynamo were able to get a rare road win which proved to be the difference maker in the Conference Semifinals.
Wilmer Cabrera seemed to trot out a more conservative lineup, but after going down a goal, the Dynamo shifted into gear and commanded the rest of the game. They did this without most of their regular starting defenders and held a very good team at home to just one goal. Offensively, it took going down a goal for the team to play up to its potential, but Dylan Remick and Mauro Manotas both got on the score sheet in terrific fashion.
With Portland out of the way thus ruining the Cascadia Western Conference Finals that it seemed so many wanted, the Dynamo can now turn their focus to the Seattle Sounders. The Dynamo have a similar history against Seattle as they do Portland overall: generally, the Dynamo are good at home, and not on the other team’s pitch. However, the Dynamo may need more than a 0-0 draw against the Sounders at BBVA because they have never won at CenturyLink Field.
The benefit of having so much rest is it gives players time to recover, but the downside is some of the momentum gained after the Sporting Kansas City victory and the series win over the Timbers may have waned which we all hope is not the case. Several players also competed in international competition, notably our trio of Hondurans who played a WCQ playoff series against Australia. That meant a game in Honduras and a game down under which equates to a lot of miles traveled. Hopefully Alberth Elis, Romell Quioto, and Oscar Boniek Garcia are ready to go when or if they’re called upon.
Wilmer Cabrera has some difficult lineup choices to make, especially with his Hondurans. Former Dynamo center back Eddie Robinson offered his opinion about whether they would be:
5 days to recover is plenty at their age. With the exception of injury, there is no excuse for them not to play. If it were 3 days or less, then there might be an issue https://t.co/8mjXEm1iM0— Eddie Robinson (@eddie_robinson2) November 17, 2017
I’m not one to go against Eddie’s judgement in this case, but I think we see Romell Quioto come off the bench. Cabrera has always been a little more careful with Quioto than Elis due to Quioto being more injury prone. I think we see a top line of Mauro Manotas at LW with Cubo Torres at CF and Alberth Elis at RW. Manotas definitely has earned more time and should get a start. Should he start over Cubo, then I would think Alex starts at LW.
Cabrera has never made guessing his lineups easy and the midfield isn’t an exception either. I would anticipate for his usual 4-3-3 that we see Juan David Cabezas start at CLM/LM with Tomas Martinez in at CAM. The CRM/RM slot is tougher to predict. Do you go with the veteran Ricardo Clark or Eric Alexander who has looked good in Clark’s absence? Either are quality choices, but I think Alexander is who we see start against the Sounders.
The back line has several questions as well. With many players playing well for injured starters, who do you play when the starters return? As good as Dylan Remick has been, I can’t see Cabrera not starting DaMarcus Beasley at left back. Adolfo Machado will be back in his usual center back role with Jalil Anibaba at right back. The big question is who partners with Machado in central defense: Philippe Senderos or Leonardo? Senderos has filled in incredibly well over the injured Leonardo, but with Leonardo returning and his experience with Machado this season I tend to lean towards Leonardo starting to help mark Clint Dempsey and former Dynamo Will Bruin. Of course, Cabrera could throw everyone for a loop and start Machado at RB –something he’s done before, with Senderos AND Leonardo, but that’s unlikely given the play of Anibaba.
My Projected Starting Lineup
So who do you want to see start against the Sounders in the first leg of the Conference Finals? Let us know and feel free to share your choices in the comments section below!