After a lengthy international break, we return to the MLS Playoffs in BBVA Compass Stadium on Tuesday night. The Seattle Sounders take on the Houston Dynamo in the First Leg of the Western Conference Championship.
How they got here
Houston came into the playoffs as the fourth seed team after an impressive homestand over the season including winning three out of their final four home games. They continued that run in a win over Sporting Kansas City in Houston in their play-in game, the lone goal on the day coming from Alberth Elis four minutes into the first half of extra time.
They continued on to play the Portland Timbers in two legs, the Dynamo picked up their second away win of the season on the second leg with a 2-1 win over the Timbers. The winner coming from Mauro Manotas in the 77th minute, his eleventh of the season and his first career MLS Playoff goal.
The Defending Champions, the Seattle Sounders, finished off the season second in the West and even on points with leaders Portland. They shared an equally impressive homestand over the course of the season as the Dynamo and also ended their final four home games with three wins.
Not having to play in the initial play-in game Seattle started their run with a 0-0 match against Cascadia rivals, the Vancouver Whitecaps. They stretched their home record to 12 wins on the season after the 2017 MLS Comeback Player of the Year, Clint Dempsey, scored twice in the 58th and 88th.
The last, and only time, Seattle and Houston have played each other in the MLS Playoffs was in the Sounders expansion season, 2009. After leaving scoreless in Seattle, Houston’s Brian Ching, formerly of the USL Sounders, scored the game-winner in the first half of extra time.
In their entire history, the Seattle Sounders have never beaten Houston while away from home in MLS play. Out of the eight games, the two have played in Houston the home side has won four.
This year the two clubs met twice, once in BBVA Compass and once in Century Link Stadium. The first game of the series was played on the opening weekend in Houston, the Dynamo took the three points in a 2-1 game where some of the best players on each side scored with a goal apiece from Erick “Cubo” Torres, Romell Quioto, and Clint Dempsey.
The second meeting of these two clubs came early in the summer in Seattle. The traveling side was sunk just before the 70th minute as former Dynamo striker, Will Bruin, gave Seattle the 1-0 win on the day. The two sides evenly split six points while winning their home matches, a standard for the season as each team only had one home loss.
Houston Dynamo: The Dynamo will be missing key defender A.J. DeLaGarza with an ACL tear. DeLaGarza went down in the first half in the last game of the season, a 3-0 win over the Chicago Fire. Houston has held their own since only conceding one goal in his absence.
Seattle Sounders: The Sounders will be without several key players across the squad. Their injury list includes Brad Evans, Osvaldo Alonso, and Jordan Morris. All three players are a loss to the team as they have each played and started in over 20 matches this season. Currently, Jordan Morris is listed as questionable, with no current news on his return.
This game could be won on the wings. Houston has two of the best wingers in the league with their blistering pace and knack for scoring goals through Elis and Quioto. But the Sounders do have an answer through Kelvin Leerdam and Joevin Jones.
This has potential to be a truly great matchup with the MLS Cup Final just on the horizon now. Will Seattle break their curse in Houston or will the home side's season form hold?