This past week we saw the Houston Dynamo draw the Portland Timbers 0-0 in the first leg of the Conference Semifinals of the 2017 MLS Playoffs. While the Dynamo dropped an opportunity at home to get some goals up on the Timbers, they also prevented the visiting side from collecting any away goals which could prove influential in their next fixture.
Coming into this next game, the Dynamo can advance to the next round of the playoffs with a draw should they produce a goal in Portland. Of course a win would also do it. Both sides have seen crucial injuries impact lineup decisions and the same will be true going into the second and final leg of the Conference Semifinals. The Dynamo have struggled to earn wins in Portland notching just a single victory during the regular season in 2011, but this is the postseason with everything on the line so this could be a solid opportunity to build on that 2011 win.
Wilmer Cabrera will likely keep his usual 4-3-3 formation with a do-or-die lineup. Cabrera has been known to shift things around for rest or tactical advantages, but one has to think that he go for it early to make Portland chase the game as a win or draw would see the Dynamo through. I would anticipate Romell Quioto, who was subbed off fairly early in the previous meeting, to start at LW with Cubo Torres at CF, and Alberth Elis at RW. I would prefer Vicente Sanchez in the CF role to essentially change the role of CF as the one to orchestrate the offense to support the wing players, but I think Cabrera keeps him as an early sub.
In the midfield, I think Ricardo Clark is back at RM/CRM since he saw no playing time in the previous fixture likely due to rest and that Eric Alexander is a like-for-like sub for him. With him I’d anticipate Juan David Cabezas, who has kept a good partnership with Clark this season, to start with Tomas Martinez in central midfield.
Along the back line, injuries have been the key issue which is why the shutout draw against Portland can be viewed as a positive result. Mainstay A.J. DeLaGarza is out for the season and I’d pick Jalil Anibaba as Cabrera’s replacement for him at RB. DaMarcus Beasley was among the best defenders on the field in the last match and should be a lock again at LB. In central defense Leonardo did travel with the club after his injury against Sporting Kansas City and I think it’s 50/50 that he gets the go over Philippe Senderos in central defense. I personally think Leonardo rides the bench ready just in case Senderos gets injured, but it’s entirely possible Leonardo regains his starting position. Next to him will be Adolfo Machado.
An unfortunate no-brainer is the goalkeeper situation. Tyler Deric was recently suspended for an off the field incident so expect Joe Willis to be the man between the sticks. Earlier in the season Willis had overtaken Deric’s position and had performed well. It’s good to know that the Dynamo have excellent depth at the GK spot, we just hope Willis is ready for the role when the stakes are at its highest.
My Projected Starting Lineup
So who do you want to see start against the Timbers in the second leg of the Conference Semifinals? Let us know and feel free to share your choices in the comments section below!