The Houston Dynamo close out a homestand as they welcome newly crowned CONCACAF Champions League winners Seattle Sounders to PNC Stadium. The Dynamo are coming off a big win on Saturday night over Nashville SC. After going down a man in the first half, Houston was able to persevere and end their three-match losing streak in MLS play. Seattle put MLS play on the back burner during their CCL run but they picked up a needed three points Sunday at home, beating Minnesota United 3-1.
Both Adam Lundkvist (red card) and Teenage Hadebe (5th yellow card) are suspended for tonight’s match, leaving half of the preferred starting defense in street clothes against Seattle. Sam Junqua will likely get the start at left back, and deservedly so. Junqua has played well in Lamar Hunt US Open Cup play, scoring the winning goal against RGVFC, and played a very solid 45 plus minutes on Saturday after Lundkvist was dismissed. Ethan Bartlow will probably slot in at center back next to Tim Parker. Daniel Steres is off the availability report, but Bartlow has been getting minutes, including Saturday, and it might be too risky to throw a rusty Steres in against a potent Seattle attack.
Junqua spoke with the media Tuesday and he knew he would need to be ready with the number of games coming up for the Dynamo. “At the beginning of the month, we spoke about how with all the games we are going to need everybody and that was shown in how a lot of people have gotten opportunities, myself included,” he said. “By utilizing everybody and everybody staying engaged we have been able to have some success in the past couple of weeks.”
Fearsome (front) four
It remains to be seen what kind of lineup Seattle will put out tonight. Will they have their first choice eleven, a bit of a mix, a B team? I don’t think we’ll really know until about 6:40 tonight but, we do know that some of Seattle’s stars have made the trip to Houston, based on social media posts. If the Sounders do start their best eleven, their front four of Raul Ruidiaz, Nicolas Lodeiro, Jordan Morris, and Cristian Roldan is as good as you will find anywhere on the continent. With two Dynamo defenders suspended, it will be a huge test for the back line if the Sounders “go for it” tonight.
Head coach Paulo Nagamura is well aware of the challenge at hand. “They are the Concacaf champions, they just won the tournament two weeks ago,” Nagamura told the media Tuesday. “They prioritized the Concacaf Champions League in the beginning of the year. They’re still a very good team. Very, very strong front four – (Raul) Ruidiaz, (Nicolas) Lodeiro, (Jordan) Morris, (Cristian) Roldan. These early standings don’t really tell you who the good teams are, and who the bad teams are. This is another example. We talk about a few clubs that we played in the past where they were better than where they stood in the standings and Seattle is another perfect example.”
On the road again
After tonight’s match, the Dynamo won’t return to PNC Stadium for a game until June 25 (unless they beat Sporting KC in the Open Cup). Tonight’s match becomes even more important considering Houston’s road form of recent years (or decades, it feels like). A heavy road schedule, with mid-week games included, will be tough and a good benchmark for where this team is and what they could be in the 2022 season.
Nagamura knows the depth of his team will be tested, but he feels they are up for the challenge. “It’s always a test. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, when we’re playing, I think it’s always a test,” he said. “Going forward, we’re going to have five games in two weeks. It’s going to be a test of our depth, but I’m confident that the group that we have can sustain that. Whoever steps in and is playing in the game will do the job. I’m pleased with our group and I’m confident that we can get the job done with whoever we will put out there.”
Houston Dynamo – None listed
Seattle Sounders - Out: Joao Paulo (right ACL tear); Questionable: Jackson Ragen (Health & Safety Protocol)