Round two of one of MLS’s biggest rivalries takes place this weekend. The Houston Dynamo host FC Dallas on Friday night, televised on Unimas (rough break), after round one saw the Dynamo hold FCD to a 0-0 draw in Frisco back in late May. This game will, in all likelihood, look relatively similar to the first, unless the Dynamo explode for nine goals given it’s a home game, which is not impossible.
To preview, we look at how each team compares at every position on the field, trying to eventually give an advantage to a side. Let’s go:
Houston: Tyler Deric
Deric has stolen the starting job away from Joe Willis, and he appears to have secured it for the time being. Despite issues dealing with 1v1 situations (he gets too aggressive, as seen on the first LA goal last week), he has impressive reach and above-average athleticism.
FC Dallas: Jesse Gonzalez
Like Deric, Gonzalez won the starting job earlier this season from a veteran, in his case Chris Seitz. The Mexican-American, who should feature for the USMNT this summer in the Gold Cup after committing to play for the US, has a similar skillset as Deric. He has trouble dealing with crosses (par for the course) and can be slow with the ball at his feet.
Houston: DaMarcus Beasley
I think we all know about DaMarcus Beasley, but we’ll talk about him anyway. He’s ageless, tireless, and fearless, and even after recently turning 35, he still is able to get up and down the flank like he’s 10 years younger.
FC Dallas: Atiba Harris
Harris is another veteran aging left back, although at 32, he’s younger and less accomplished than DMB. He’ll put in a solid enough defensive shift, but if Alberth Elis can shred former England international Ashley Cole, he can shred this St. Kitts and Nevis international just as well.
Houston: Leonardo, Adolfo Machado
These two central defenders have done their jobs well enough, playing together for almost all of Houston’s games this season. They aren’t great passers and can struggle tracking runners in open space, but they both are physical presences willing to hound No. 9s all day.
FC Dallas: Matt Hedges, Maynor Figueroa
Matt Hedges could very well be the best center back in MLS. He’s smart, athletic, an ever-improving passer, and the reigning DPOTY. Walker Zimmerman, his partner, is also an elite central defender, almost on par with Hedges, but is currently sidelined, meaning the Dynamo will see versatile Honduran international Maynor Figueroa play next to Hedges. Less threatening, but there’s no easy way around these two.
Houston: AJ DeLaGarza
DeLaGarza is by no means a flashy player, but he does his job up and down the right flank diligently every week. He supports the wingers not by overlapping, usually, but by providing safe passing outlets, a valuable asset on a team that skews individual.
FC Dallas: Hernan Grana
When they want to, you’ll see FC Dallas fly their full backs forward and give them the freedom to fling in dangerous balls from the flanks. We haven’t seen it much this season, as they’ve bunkered often without Mauro Diaz, and we probably won’t see it in Houston, for obvious reasons. But Grana, along with being a sturdy 1v1 defender, can be a threat on the overlap. He has been their only genuinely successful offseason acquisition.
Houston Dynamo: Juan David Cabezas, Ricardo Clark, Alex
This is an interesting group. Cabezas has been good as a defensive midfielder — having a dedicated No. 6 has been huge for the Dynamo — even if he struggles to distribute at times. Clark is the superior passer, but he doesn’t move as well or cover as much ground. Alex is the star here, and he’s been best XI-level this season. He ceases to amaze to me, and he may just be the Dynamo’s MVP this season.
FC Dallas: Carlos Gruezo, Kellyn Acosta
Although it has been reported that Diaz has a chance to start Friday night, I’m thinking Dallas go with the more defensive option and stick with the 4-4-2. Whatever happens, though, expect Gruezo and Acosta to start in deep midfield. Gruezo is one of the better No. 6s in MLS, and Acosta has been great as a No. 8, playing like Alex but with better passing and more creativity.
Houston: Alberth Elis, Romell Quioto/Mauro Manotas
I’m not completely sure if Quioto and Elis are legally permitted to be on the field at the same time, so I’m not sure what to expect on the wing in terms of personnel. But it’s safe to say the wingers will be fast, goal-dangerous, and merciless, as they always are at home.
FC Dallas: Roland Lamah, Michael Barrios
In a similar fashion as Houston, FCD will keep their wingers high as a focal point to their counter attack. Lamah and Barrios are very talented players, but neither of them, especially Lamah, has completely hit their goal-scoring stride yet this season with the exception of their 6-2 burying of RSL.
Houston: Cubo Torres/Mauro Manotas
If Quioto and Elis are healthy and available, then Wilmer Cabrera has a decision on his hands at forward. Torres and Manotas have each had career years, with Cubo playing up top and Manotas spending a lot of time on the wing filling in for the injured Hondurans. They aren’t your classic hold-up guys, but they put the ball in the net.
Dallas: Maxi Urruti, Tesho Akindele
Should Dallas decide to go with the 4-4-2, it would probably be Urruti and Akindele starting up top, although it’s also possible we could see Cristian Colman, who appears to be the next Nelson Valdez. Urruti is the guaranteed starter, though, and he’s been a consistent scorer this season. His dogged press often forces high turnovers.