The Houston Dynamo look to avenge Wednesday's tough U.S. Open Cup loss when they host the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday, July 23, at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas. The game will kickoff at 6:30 PM PT and can be seen on ROOT Sports SW and MLS Live. This will be the ninth all-time meeting between the two clubs, with Vancouver holding a slim (win-loss-draw) 5-3-1 all-time series lead.
How did both teams fare last weekend?
The Dynamo was narrowly beaten by the host Los Angeles Galaxy last Friday. The Dynamo back line was breached in the 66th minute when Galaxy striker Robbie Keane was able to control a Baggio Husidic ball in the Dynamo's 18-yard-box before firing at goal. Dynamo goalkeeper Joe Willis blocked Keane's initial shot, but midfielder Steven Gerrard swept home the rebound to give the Galaxy a lead that they would not relinquish.
The Dynamo only mustered four shots on target--three of them from outside the box--and couldn't trouble the Galaxy's stingy defense. With the loss, the Dynamo moved to 1-2-4 since Wade Barrett replaced Owen Coyle as the Dynamo's head coach and remained at the bottom of the Western Conference.
The Whitecaps tied visiting Orlando City 2-2 last Saturday in an entertaining affair. After City attacking midfielder Julio Baptista fired the visitors into the lead, the Whitecaps tied the game via a header from Nicolas Mezquida after forward Masato Kudo's initial effort was saved. Kudo then gave the Whitecaps a 2-1 lead after heading in a pinpoint Pedro Morales free kick in the 43rd minute.
But just five minutes into the second half, City leveled the match when forward Cyle Larin headed home a beautiful Kevin Molino cross. New York City had two gilt-edged chances to earn the victory but squandered both opportunities. First, Baptista skied his penalty kick after being tripped by Caps right back Jordan Smith in the Caps' 18-yard-box. Then, City center back David Mateos got on the end of a Luke Boden corner kick but saw his powerful header expertly saved by Caps 'keeper David Ousted in the 88th minute. The game ended 2-2, a result which kept the Whitecaps in fifth place in the Western Conference.
The Dynamo's game plan against the Whitecaps will be to...
Attack down the Whitecaps' right side. The Whitecaps' right midfielder, Christian Bolanos, is tied second on the team with five goals but is not a strong one-vs-one defender. Caps right back Jordan Smith is error-prone and does not do a good job preventing crosses into the Caps box, and can be caught too high upfield. Dynamo head coach Wade Barrett started Honduran Oscar Boniek Garcia at left midfield against the Galaxy and will likely select the 31-year-old to start at left midfield against the Caps. Garcia links up well with his teammates and can deliver a dangerous cross into the box. The Dynamo will likely try to get him isolated one-vs-one against Smith as much as possible on Saturday.
The Whitecaps' game plan against the Dynamo will be to...
Play lofted balls over the Dynamo defense. The Dynamo defense was cut open by Husidic's floated pass to Keane last Friday which led to the game's only goal. They also struggled to track runners into the box in their U.S. Open Cup loss to FC Dallas on Wednesday. The Whitecaps have one of the more creative players in the league in Pedro Morales, and Caps manager Carl Robinson tends to deploy him either as a left midfielder or as one of the two defensive midfielders. It really doesn't matter where Morales is placed on the field because his main job is to play well-weighted balls over the opposing team's defense to teammates running through on goal. If Morales is able to play a couple of lofted passes into the Dynamo's box and the Dynamo defense can't deal with them, Vancouver has a good chance of winning Saturday's matchup.
Houston Dynamo projected starting lineup/formation (4-1-4-1)
Joe Willis; Sheanon Williams, David Horst, Raul Rodriguez, Jalil Anibaba; Collen Warner; Giles Barnes, Ricardo Clark, Alex Lima, Oscar Boniek Garcia; Will Bruin.
Notable Subs: DF Agus, MF Cristian Maidana, FWD Mauro Manotas.
Vancouver Whitecaps projected starting lineup/formation (4-2-3-1)
David Ousted; Jordan Smith, Tim Parker, Kendall Waston, Jordan Harvey; Andrew Jacobson, Matias Laba; Christian Bolanos, Nicolas Mezquida, Pedro Morales; Masato Kudo.
Notable Subs: DF David Edgar, MF Cristian Techera, FWD Erik Hurtado.
Matchup to watch
Houston Dynamo left midfielder Oscar Boniek Garcia - Vancouver Whitecaps right back Jordan Smith.
Entering Saturday's match, the Whitecaps has conceded 35 goals in 21 games. To put that in perspective, last year they only conceded 36 goals over the entire regular season. While right back Smith is not the only Whitecap to blame for the team's current defensive woes, his inability to block crosses and the fact that he's error-prone have both contributed to the team's poor defensive record.
Smith will have his hands full tracking the wily Garcia, who has played for the Dynamo since 2012. Garcia has no goals and five assists in ten starts this season, but he's adept at creating space for himself and linking up with his teammates. Plus, he's very good at exploiting space and will punish the Caps if Smith ventures too far upfield.
If Smith is able to stay focused and disciplined on Saturday, the Caps should be able to stop a tired Dynamo side that has scored the third-fewest goals in the Western Conference this season. But if Smith is caught in possession or ventures too high upfield, Garcia and his Dynamo teammates will counterattack the Caps to death and should leave BBVA Compass Stadium with three points.
The Whitecaps is in desperate need of three points after dropping two points at home last weekend, and a tilt against a tired Dynamo side that played 95 minutes on Wednesday is definitely an ideal matchup for the Caps. However, the Dynamo has looked more organized ever since Barrett took over as head coach, and their attacking quartet of Garcia, Alex, Barnes and Bruin should pose problems for a vulnerable Caps defense.
The game will ultimately come down to how well the Dynamo is able to attack the Caps right side and how well the Dynamo can defend lofted balls over the top. This author predicts that the Caps will be able to break down the Dynamo's fatigued defense and will score a couple of goals in the first half. While this author sees the Dynamo scoring a goal late in the second half to make the game interesting, it will be too little, too late, and the Caps will win 2-1 to keep the Dynamo rooted to the Western Conference basement.
Projected final score: Houston Dynamo 1, Vancouver Whitecaps 2