The Houston Dynamo have a tough task tonight as they limp into the 2nd leg of the Western Conference Finals down two goals to the Seattle Sounders. The Dynamo will need to be leading by two goals after 90 minutes at CenturyLink Field to send the game into Extra Time and possibly penalties. Of course, leading by more than two goals will see them through to the club’s fifth MLS Cup appearance after 90.
In our preview of the match we discussed the first leg and notable absences for both sides, but we wanted to insight on how Seattle was feeling so we spoke with Dave Clark at Sounder at Heart to get his take on the upcoming series finale.
Dynamo Theory: Coming into the second leg of a playoff series with a 2-0 lead must have Seattle feeling pretty confident about a second consecutive MLS Cup appearance. How will Seattle prepare for this one and is it possible they’re already looking too far ahead?
Sounder at Heart: Whether talking to seasoned veterans, young players, or the coach, the mood and tenor is the same -- Seattle is going for the win at home. They intend to score early. If that means they can coast again in the second half, they will. But they will not coast yet. They are reluctant to discuss Toronto and Columbus. The focus is clear. They must beat Houston in order to advance. You should expect them to be aggressive for the first 15-20 minutes and then settle into their more typical patient attack.
DT: In the first leg, Seattle was missing some big pieces in Stefan Frei, Jordan Morris, and Osvaldo Alonso. Which of those players is likely to return and how much of an impact on the game will they have?
SaH: You've got them in the exact order one should rank them on likelihood to return. Stefan Frei was already healthy enough that if it was MLS Cup Schmetzer said he would play him. Jordan Morris is training, and won't have to worry about travel. I fully expect him to be in the 18. Alonso is further off and is unlikely to be in the 18 until MLS Cup, if they make MLS Cup.
Frei means even better shot-stopping and distribution. It will be harder to score against Seattle with him, but much of that increase disappears with the lack of Torres. Morris would add a speed element that in leg one only came from the left side with the dual left backs. Jordan can replace either of them and give Seattle a strong threat when they clear the ball.
DT: Roman Torres is another yellow card accumulation casualty and given the formidable partnership he’s forged in central defense with Chad Marshall, how much will Torres be missed and who is in line to fill in?
SaH: There are four options. The simplest is a straight swap with Tony Alfaro replacing Torres. This keeps the defensive midfield duo intact, which has certain advantages, though Gustav Svensson is a capable centerback. The other two options involve moving Svensson to CB, where he is a strong passer, but can be taken advantage of in the air. This would require a new partner for Cristian Roldan. The most aggressive change would be to put Nicolas Lodeiro back to central midfield with Victor Rodriguez starting up top. For a team that wants to possess another to death and score a goal this makes a lot of sense. The other is the most defensive of options. Jordy Delem would start at DM and Joevin Jones would slot at left back with an attacking midfield of Rodriguez, Dempsey and Lodeiro. This would probably be the strongest against the counter.
A fourth option involves Harry Shipp playing as the CM with Roldan, but this is weaker on defense than the Delem choice and weaker in attack than the Lodeiro one.
Projected Lineup: Frei; Nouhou, Marshall, Svensson, Leerdam; Roldan, Lodeiro; Jones, Dempsey, Rodriguez; Bruin
For my answers to Dave’s excellent questions check them out at Sounder at Heart!