The Houston Dynamo kick off a stretch of three matches in nine days with the Chicago Fire visiting PNC Stadium tonight. This is the first meeting between the teams since September of 2020, a 4-0 Chicago win. Houston is coming off a 2-1 loss at Orlando City last weekend. Chicago picked up their third win of ths season last Saturday, beating D.C. United 1-0.
The Chivas USA connection
It’s been a few years since you’ve heard the name Chivas USA. The club folded in 2014 but they still have their footprints around Major League Soccer. Dynamo head coach Paulo Nagamura played for the club from 2007-2009 and Fire head coach Ezra Hendrickson was a Chivas USA player from 2005-2006. The connections don’t end with the head coaches. Dynamo goalkeeper coach Zach Thornton played for the LA club from 2008-2011 and Fire defener Jonathan Bornstein played for the team from 2006-2010.
Shaqiri good to go?
Marquee signing Xherdan Shaqiri has missed some time with injury but looks ready to return to action tonight in Houston. If the former Liverpool and Bayern Munich man gets the start, he presents a challenge for the Dynamo. Head coach Paulo Nagamura knows what Shaqiri can do and is prepared for him and the Fire. “ I think if (Xherdan) Shaqiri plays of course he’s always going to be a threat,” Nagamura said in his weekly press conference. “Playing between the lines there underneath as a forward he’s great. Serving the ball, giving the final pass, great shot. They’re a team that will bring us different challenges. I think they’re very strong on set pieces. I think they’re very good at crossing. They do cross the ball a lot into the two big forwards that they have. (Gaston) Giménez is a good playmaker for them. So good team. Different challenges but I think we have a good idea of how they like to play and how they like to approach the game. When it comes to Saturday night, it’s about us, about our team. Players will be ready. It’s about us. Like I said before we have a sense of urgency to come out in our stadium and dictate the play. That’s what we want to do.”
The two Dynamo full-backs, Adam Lundkvist and Zeca, are becoming a bright spot on this team. Zeca picked up his first assist last weekend. Lundkvist is tied for the team lead in assists with three. The duo have combined for 16 chances created this season. Lundkvist has been impressed with his new Brazilian teammate. “I’m very impressed with how fast Zeca has been adapting to this league and to this heat and everything<“ Lundkvist said this week. “He’s been very, very good. You can see his quality in training every day, he is a very experienced player. I feel like we are kind of, I don’t know, almost the same type of player. A little shorter but quick and aggressive. I think that we kind of play the same way and we’re both very demanding of each other. I think we’re only trying to push each other but I think that goes for the rest of the team. The competition at every spot in this team is very good. That really proves the depth within the squad. That’s going to be needed for the remainder of the season to get good results.”
Nagamura also sees the similarity in his two full-backs. “To be honest with you, they both have some very similar qualities,” the Dynamo head coach said. “I think they have a great engine to go up and down the flanks. Very good at getting to the final third. Good service from out wide. So, the way that we would like to approach the game and we really, really use outside backs. I think they fit well in the way that we play. But Griffin Dorsey and Sam Junqua, in their defense as well, I think they all have that quality. So that’s why we’ve been playing all those guys this year. I always encourage us to say that there’s competition. No players have guaranteed spots on the team. As of now, they’ve been performing better, Adam (Lundkvist) and Zeca on the right and the left side. That’s why they’re having most of the starts, but all the guys that we have at the outside back have very similar qualities. Qualities that we look up to have in those positions the way that we want to play.”
Houston Dynamo – None listed
Orlando City - Questionable: Xherdan Shaqiri (right thigh), Carlos Teran (left knee); Out: Chris Brady (international duty), Kendall Burks (right knee), Miguel Navarro (health and safety protocols), Wyatt Omsberg (left foot), Mauricio Pineda (health and safety protocols), Missael Rodriguez (left hip), Jairo Torres (left foot)