The 2019 MLS season kicks off on Saturday and for the Houston Dynamo that means hosting Real Salt Lake. Usually a defensive slog the Dynamo will need to figure out a way to get the ball to their speedy forwards so they can kick the season off with a win.
It may be the start of the season for the Dynamo but they already faced two big tests in the CONCAFA Champions League. The home and away series against CD Guastatoya was a hard fought battle that saw the Dynamo come out the victor winning 3-1 on aggregate to advance to the next round of the tournament. The Tuesday night rain delayed game against Guastatoya consisted of a slow first half that gave way to some nervous nail biting for Dynamo fans after Guastatoya scored to bring themselves level with the Dynamo 1-1 on aggregate. But a brace from Mauro Manotas secured victory and a place in the Quarterfinals for the men in orange.
The Dynamo had a busy offseason adding a number of new faces to the roster as they worked on some key starting positions while adding depth to prepare for a run in the CONCACAF Champions League. The Dynamo brought in Kiki Struna and Maynor Figueroa to help shore up the centerback position. In fact both got the start for much of preseason and through the games against Guastatoya. Tommy McNamara, Matis Vera and Marlon Hairson were all new faced that were called upon to help the Dynamo win over Guastatoya. The first game saw Chris Duvall start at right back but AJ Delagarza started on Tuesday. Delagarza is back to full health after missing all but four games after tearing his ACL at the end of the 2017 season. While the new faces got run in CCL, head coach Wilmer Cabrera may turn to more familiar faces for Saturday as the team has their first Quarterfinals game next Wednesday against Tigres.
On the RSL side, they had a quiet offseason primarily bringing in homegrown players adding depth to the roster. Their biggest change was bringing in Everton Luiz on loan from SPAL to start in the midfield. If preseason is to be believed midfielder Kyle Beckerman will be dropping back to give the team more of a 3-5-2. The team struggled on defense last season and they are hoping that the midfield changes will give the backline the relief they need.
It could be a surprisingly tough test for the Dynamo as their games against RSL are never pretty. Everyone knows the key to stopping the Dynamo is preventing Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto space to run and get in front of goal. Guastatoya played with five men in the back and it had a clear effect on the Dynamo as they struggled to breakdown the defensive shape. That said, all it takes is one speedy run for Elis and Quioto to put the ball in the net. Rarely, if ever, is the match-up between these two a highly exciting score fest but rather a defensive battle that only needs a single goal for someone to walk away with three points.
And three points would be a nice way to end the week after the CCL victory.
Things kick off at BBVA Compass Stadium at 5 pm CT on Saturday.