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Dynamo face Timbers in second match of MLS is Back Tournament: 3 things to watch

Los Angeles FC v Houston Dynamo - MLS Is Back Tournament Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Tonight the Dynamo continue the gauntlet that is Group F of the MLS is Back Tournament, taking on the Portland Timbers at 7 PM CT. The game can be seen on ESPN, ESPN Deportes, and the ESPN App. After a 3-3 draw in the opening match against LAFC, the Dynamo currently are tied for second in Group F with one point. The top two teams in each group automatically advance, along with the four best third place teams.

Portland comes in to tonight’s match atop Group F after a 2-1 win over the LA Galaxy Monday night. Defender Dario Zuparic was sent off in the second half and will be unable to play tonight against the Dynamo. Houston’s back-line will be in for another tough test, just days after conceding three times to LAFC’s potent attack. Jeremy Ebobisse and Sebastian Blanco scored Portland’s goals against the Galaxy, and the Timbers also boast veteran play-maker Diego Valeri and new designated player Yimmi Chara.

If the Dynamo are going to keep pace in Group F they are likely going to need to beat Portland, something that has not come easy of late. The last Houston win against the Timbers came in 2018. Here are three things to watch tonight.

Memo, the man

Dynamo homegrown Memo Rodriguez scored twice against LAFC, thrusting himself into the spotlight in Orlando. Moving Memo central in the midfield, instead of on the wing, may be a small shift but it paid big dividends for Houston. Dynamo head coach Tab Ramos was asked about playing Memo more toward the center of the midfield. “Yeah, I mean, that’s a great question and that’s something that Memo and I talked about in October when I first came on,” Ramos said. “I mentioned to him that I had seen him play a lot and that I felt that he was an interior player, not a winger. So it doesn’t mean that he couldn’t play some more games out on the wing coming inside, but I do feel like his best position is being that number eight or that number 10 in the middle of the field and not wide.”

MLS Soccer analyst Matt Doyle also had a great breakdown of Memo’s new role:

Testing the depth

In tournament play, with matches scheduled close together, squad depth is key to being successful. Over recent years the depth of the Dynamo has been non-existent. When a player or multiple were injured, things went downhill. In this tournament however, the bench will be heavily relied on. Whether it’s shaking up the starting eleven or strategically using the five subs, Ramos will surely call on the supporting cast to get Houston through this tournament. We saw veterans Darwin Ceren and Victor Cabrera, along with youngsters Nico Lemoine come off the bench on Monday night. Expect to see more rotation tonight and in the final group stage game Thursday.

Strong second half

Los Angeles FC v Houston Dynamo - MLS Is Back Tournament Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Dynamo went in to the break Monday night leading 3-1 but were only able to leave with one point from the match. Conceding late goals is unfortunately nothing new to the Dynamo. LAFC are a good team, a great team even, so getting a draw against Bob Bradley’s men is nothing to sneeze at. But, losing a two goal lead to any team can be tough to swallow. The defense has to play better tonight. Portland is another team with a strong attack and Marko Maric and the defenders will be called in to action. It’s hot in Orlando. It’s very humid Orlando. (Sound familiar?) The Dynamo can’t afford to falter in the second half again and let a solid first half performance be for naught.