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Houston attempt to get first win on the road against Whitecaps. Who should be in the starting XI?

Who should Wilmer Cabrera start against the Whitecaps?

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps at Houston Dynamo Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Last week’s 3-2 win over the LA Galaxy pushed the Houston Dynamo into the sixth and last playoff spot in the Western Conference. Of course there’s plenty of time left in the season to move up or move down, but it’s comforting to be above that cutoff line for the time being. The win over Los Angeles was satisfying to watch. The Dynamo looked the dominant team as they were able to score early in both halves of the game, but in typical 2018 Dynamo style they coughed up a pair of equalizers in those halves due to turnovers in midfield. Thankfully, Memo Rodríguez was able to rise up in the final minute of regulation time and head home a ball that went off the crossbar which gave the Dynamo the game winner.

Currently the Dynamo sit with a 3-3-2 record which highlights a lot of the consistency problems. The issue has primarily been finishing off chances to give the defense some breathing room, but the defense equally has been giving up easy goals. Despite being tied for second in the West on goals finished, they have missed some sitters, some 1v1s, and so many have gone over the top or right to the keeper. I’ve said it many times, but this Wilmer Cabrera system does not lend itself to strong defending and the system leans on its offense to carry the team. If that offense can’t find the net, then the team is in trouble.

The Dynamo now head to Canada to face the Vancouver Whitecaps. The Dynamo hold a 0-1-2 record away from BBVA Compass Stadium and in each of those games on the road the Dynamo held the lead for a period before giving their opponents a way back – usually by trying to sit back and defend the lead which is not a tactic the Dynamo are very skilled at executing. Luckily for the Dynamo the Vancouver Whitecaps, although third in the West, have given up the second most goals in the West and third most allowed overall. They are also among the lowest in the conference in terms of goals finished which *knock on wood* should provide some relief for our defense.

Wilmer Cabrera has several options to line up his team, but he’s stuck to his 4-3-3 for the year which is what we’ll see. Along the top three, Romell Quioto is a must to start on the left wing. Since returning to the starting lineup, Quioto has been nearly unstoppable at creating goals for himself and for others. Last week against the Galaxy, Quioto finished with a goal and assist while being involved in the final goal by sending the ball off the crossbar which found the head of Memo. Alberth Elis is also a no-brainer to start on the right wing. Before Quioto returned, Elis had been the primary danger man for the Dynamo. His pace, dribbling, and ability to create shots seemingly out of nowhere should scare the ‘Caps back line. The player with the least secure spot among the forwards is Mauro Manotas. Manotas is currently tied with Elis for the most Dynamo goals, but the last few games we’ve seen him struggle. Still, I can’t see Cabrera going for another option unless he decides to push Elis to center forward and put on Memo or someone else – a scenario I don’t think we’ll see.

In the middle of the park we’ll likely find Tomás Martínez in an attacking midfield role. Martínez hasn’t been the number 10 we’ve hoped for, and a big reason for that is the system we play in that relies on playmaking from the wings, but he’s consistently put in solid shifts. Next to him should be Eric Alexander and Darwin Cerén. Cerén has been the replacement for the injured Juan David Cabezas and has largely filled that position as the deepest defender in midfield well. However, several turnovers have led to goals by opposition which has led to some fair criticism. I think his defensive contributions will make him start, but just get rid of the ball a little sooner at times Cerén.

Along the back line I’d predict DaMarcus Beasley to start at left back with Andrew Wenger at right back. The two are very good at getting forward to support the offense and they’re also skilled at staying with opponents and getting in front of the ball to block crosses. In the center I’d project Alejandro Fuenmayor and Adolfo Machado to start in central defense. Machado did not appear on the injury report, but if he is hurt after last game then Leonardo would be the next player up. The defense has been hit hard by the injury bug, but players like Wenger have shown their value at helping fill a need along the back. Wilmer Cabrera has also swapped goalkeepers from Chris Seitz to Joe Willis. Flip a coin if you’re unsure who starts, but I’ll go with the player that has started most recently and that’s Willis.

Injury Report

OUT: D - A.J. DeLaGarza (torn left ACL)

OUT: M - Juan David Cabezas (left quad injury)

OUT: D - Philippe Senderos (right hamstring injury)

OUT: D - George Malki (left knee sprain)

OUT: D - Dylan Remick (concussion)

OUT: D - Kevin Garcia (left hamstring injury)

OUT: D - Jared Watts (hamstring injury)

My Projected Starting Lineup

There are a ton of options, not to mention formations to play with so let us know who you think should be in the starting lineup against the Vancouver Whitecaps!