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Houston Dynamo Look to Advance to Conference Finals over Portland Timbers

The Houston Dynamo are hoping to secure a Conference Finals appearance with the Portland Timbers standing in the way 

MLS: Houston Dynamo at Portland Timbers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Following the 0-0 draw at BBVA Compass Stadium between the Houston Dynamo and the Portland Timbers this past week, both sides seem to have an advantage coming into Leg 2 of the Conference Semifinals. For the Dynamo, they successfully prevented the Timbers from getting an away goal despite defensive mainstays A.J. DeLaGarza and Leonardo being absent from the match due to injuries. For the Timbers, they have the luxury of facing a road adverse opponent in the Dynamo as Houston has managed to collect a 1-9-7 record during the MLS regular season away from home.

The previous draw during the first leg of the Semifinals was a back and fourth match with Diego Valeri, an MVP candidate, doing MVP candidate things as he found seams through the defense to put his teammates through on goal, but they weren’t able to find the net. The Dynamo had their own counter attacking chances, notably Alberth Elis going 1v1 with the Portland goalkeeper, but he was unable to push the ball under the keeper for a goal.

Both sides in the match cried for penalties with Elis drawing the center official’s eye in the 30th minute. After a VAR review, the point to the spot was waved off and the game resumed. From Portland’s perspective, it appeared Tyler Deric may have brought down Darren Mattocks without getting to the ball first. The center referee did not call for a penalty and appeared to be in contact with the VAR or linesman on the play.

The field was another issue of discussion as the field looked worn out and tore up after several matches had taken place in a short amount of time. Neither team was pleased with the grass field’s condition and now the Dynamo head to Portland whose field won’t be without controversy as they play on artificial turf.

As mentioned above, injuries will be a big factor in this match. Larrys Mabiala, Diego Chara, and Darlington Nagbe all left the game at BBVA with injuries. Of those, only the midfielder Chara is listed as OUT, but should Nagbe and Mabiala also not play, the Timber bench will be tested.

Of Houston’s major contributors this season, only DeLaGarza is listed as OUT, but center back Leonardo is also questionable. He was able to travel per Corey Roepken of the Houston Chronicle, but his availability is unknown. Goalkeeper Tyler Deric was recently involved in an off the field incident and will not be available for selection by Cabrera so expect Joe Willis to get the start for Houston.

This will not be an easy match for either side. The Dynamo are arguably the hotter side unbeaten in their last 8 MLS matches including the postseason with shutouts in their previous 4 games. It is important to note that most of those were at home and Houston’s form away from BBVA has not been stellar. Their form away has been better as they’ve been getting draws lately, notably in their 1-1 draw at NYCFC and their 0-0 draw at SKC, but they’ll need to be at their best against Portland who has a 11-2-4 record at home during the regular season.

Portland’s injuries will test how they move forward and Houston’s defensive concerns along with their offensive struggles on the road will dictate which side advances to play the Seattle Sounders in the next round of the playoffs.

The match will kickoff at 6:30 PM CT at Providence Park in Portland, OR this Sunday.