Leg 1 of the Western Conference Finals between the Houston Dynamo and the Seattle Sounders did not go well for Houston. They came out lacking energy and focus and ended up losing the match in their home stadium 2-0 to a team that had never won in Houston before. There are some reasons to think the Dynamo have a chance in Seattle – a place they’ve never won in before, but it’s certainly possible for them to advance. Scoring an early goal for example could shift the tactics of both teams and could see the momentum shift to the visiting Dynamo, but they’ll still need to win by two away goals just to take the game into Extra Time periods and possibly penalties.
The lineup selections by Dynamo Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera in the first leg were, to me, a little on the conservative side with Alex Lima taking a spot in a wing role. Alex’s form has dipped; he’s not a strong crosser and he drifts centrally which closes space on the field for the center forward. I would have simply started with Romell Quioto or Vicente Sanchez, but Cabrera was sticking with a lineup that saw success against the Portland Timbers. The only changes were Mauro Manotas getting the start over Cubo Torres and DaMarcus Beasley over Dylan Remick. I think many of us would have made similar changes (though not everybody would have had DMB over Remick).
Another wrinkle that will make Cabrera’s decisions for who starts more difficult is the suspensions to both Alberth Elis and Jalil Anibaba. Elis was given a yellow for dissent and suspended for yellow card accumulation and Anibaba was shown a straight red for a foul in the penalty box which was a clear denial of an obvious goal scoring opportunity. There are more options to replace Elis given the plethora of attacking talent on the roster, but Elis’s style of play and speed made him one of our premier attacking players. Jalil Anibaba on the other hand will be missed due to the few options to replace him.
Up top I think we can expect Romell Quioto to get the start. His speed and direct playing style will mirror the qualities that Elis possesses. I also believe that Cabrera starts Cubo Torres at center forward. Cabrera has been alternating between Cubo and Manotas starting at CF and with Cubo not seeing any time in the last match, I’d bet money he starts. The other forward position in Cabrera’s 4-3-3 is much harder to predict. If it were up to me, I’d start Vicente Sanchez who will ensure this team comes out focused. His feistiness will pester opposing players and if the Dynamo have possession in Seattle’s half, he’s a very good creator. Of course, I think Sanchez comes off the bench. Wilmer Cabrera could play Alex there as he’s done in the previous two matches. He could put Tomas Martinez up top instead of as a central attacking midfielder. Another option is to slide Mauro Manotas over or to put in Andrew Wenger. Of all the options, I think we see a Quioto – Cubo – Manotas top to maximize fire power since we need goals and these players won’t be afraid to pull the trigger.
The midfield will probably resemble what it looked like in the first leg against Seattle – or at least something close to that. I’d predict Juan David Cabezas in at LM/CLM, Tomas Martinez at CAM/CM, and either Eric Alexander or Ricardo Clark at RM/CRM. Alexander had a pretty big gaffe that led to the opening goal last match so I think Clark is a more likely option, but it’s a coin flip for either of them in my mind.
Defensively Jalil Anibaba left us with few options at RB and Philippe Senderos’s health will determine what our back line looks like. Senderos was forced to leave last game with an injury, but little has been said of his health and he does not appear on the injury report. If Senderos is healthy, I’d anticipate DaMarcus Beasley at LB, Senderos and Leonardo at CB, and Adolfo Machado at RB. If Senderos is not healthy, then I think we see Beasley at LB, Leonardo and Machado at CB, and either Kevin Garcia (likely) or Dylan Remick at RB (less likely). I think Senderos does start so that’s the lineup I would predict.
My Projected Starting Lineup
So who do you want to see start against the Sounders in the second leg of the Conference Finals? Let us know and feel free to share your choices in the comments section below!