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Dynamo head north of the border for visit with Whitecaps: What to watch for

The Dynamo head to Vancouver, looking to get back into the win column to stay in the playoff race.

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

The Houston Dynamo finish off a two-game road trip with a visit to Canada to take on the Vancouver Whitecaps. Houston is coming off a 6-0 drubbing at the hands of the Philadelphia Union. Vancouver picked up a point in Nashville in their league match, drawing Nashville SC 1-1. The Dynamo beat Vancouver at PNC Stadium, 2-1, back on March 12.

Into the home stretch

The Dynamo now enter the final third of the Major League Soccer regular season, and there is still work to be done if they don’t want to end their year at that point. Houston currently sits in 12th place in the Western Conference, 7 points below the playoff line. Vancouver are two points ahead of the Dynamo, in 11th place. If Houston are to make up points and get back in the playoff picture, the time is now. Not only is the season winding down but the schedule lays out nicely. After tonight’s game against 11th place Vancouver, the Dynamo play Montreal at home and then 10th place Colorado. It really is now or never.

Confidence check

After losing 6-0, the worst loss in club history, the confidence among the team is probably not in a great place. Losing that badly can really crush spirits of a team, especially one who has not been in the best form to begin with. Head coach Paulo Nagamura said this week that the team has not lost their belief, and neither has he.

“If you look at our last game against Vancouver, the third game of the season, it was one of our best games of the year,” Nagamura said in his weekly press conference. “Playing at home and really controlling the game at the time, but it’s a different time of the year. Vancouver is playing much better now, a much more solid group at the moment. It’s a difficult part of the season, we are coming from two bad results, and they are coming from some good results. It’s different momentum that we are trying to shift towards our team in a better way. We believe that we have what it takes to get results, and I really mean it. When we play our game, when we are playing the way that we like to play, concentrate and focus, we can play well in any venue. I believe in our group; I believe in the team that we have. It’s about us being prepared and performing on game day.”

Canadian champs

Vancouver recently won the Canadian Championship, beating Toronto FC in penalties in the final on July 26. The Dynamo are the only team the Whitecaps have hosted more than twice without losing. So, things aren’t looking to great, are they? If there’s a silver lining for Houston, the Whitecaps are dealing with a number of players in COVID protocols and will be fielding a weakened roster tonight.

Nagamura knows Vancouver will be a challenge, especially for a Dynamo team that has lost 5 of their last 7 games. “It’s a big one, especially after our last game against Philadelphia,” the Dynamo head coach said. “We are here in Vancouver and preparing, making sure the guys are ready for this game. We’ve been playing finals every week, and this is going to be another one if we really believe and if we want to make playoffs at the end of the year. We have to come out strong and play a team that is playing very well right now.”

Availability Report

Houston Dynamo – Out: Teenage Hadebe (left leg), Matias Vera (yellow card accumulation); Questionable: Steve Clark (left shoulder)

Vancouver Whitecaps – Out: Caio Alexandre (health and safety protocols), Andres Cubas (health and safety protocols), Cristian Dajome (health and safety protocols), Marcus Godinho (health and safety protocols), Florian Jungwirth (health and safety protocols), Luis Martins (health and safety protocols), Brian White (rib cage), Deiber Caicedo (right knee - season-ending injury list)

Predicted Lineup