U.S. Open Cup Semi-Final Preview: Houston Dynamo vs. LAFC 8/8
This Wednesday represents a rare opportunity for the Houston Dynamo. Playing in their first U.S. Open Cup Semi-Final since 2009, the Dynamo will face off against LAFC to decide who goes to the finals. With both teams slumping recently in league play, this will be an opportunity to get back on track for both sides. It will also be a chance to bring home some silverware, so let’s get to the preview.
Houston’s last match bore an uncanny resemblance to the 2018 political climate: absolutely bonkers. The Dynamo took a 1-0 loss to SKC at home, but that skips the drama. Between Wilmer Cabrera’s ejection, three red cards to the Dynamo, and a fight towards the end, it’s hard to take much away from this match besides hope that the Semi-Final will have fewer cards. Lundqvist had a great match defensively, blocking a veritable ton of crosses on the left wing. He was also a fairly crucial piece of the Dynamo attack, playing box to box. It can’t be understated how impressive it was for the Dynamo to only concede one goal after the first red. Houston stayed in the game and, to their credit, challenged SKC a lot.
LAFC is coming to Houston with a day less rest, after losing to the NY Red Bulls 2-1 this Sunday. With the loss against the Red Bulls, LAFC has now gone four games without a win for the first time since May. To their credit, Bob Bradley’s side did make a noticeable tactical adjustment against the Red Bulls notorious high press. Knowing they would need to do something to create more chances, LAFC played a lot more long balls than I’ve ever seen from them. Alas, in the end, it wasn’t enough. Despite getting more chances on the goal, LAFC still struggled to finish.
The Teams So Far
Both sides are mired in slumps heading into play this Wednesday, and both offenses are sputtering. A dynamic offense, or the utter lack of it, has defined both of these teams seasons so far. It should be the deciding factor on Wednesday. LA’s weakness at this point in the season is somewhat obvious: finishing. But that doesn’t just mean goals, it also means matches. That inability to shut down matches has twice in the recent past turned a win into a draw. Houston’s problems have also involved finishing, that is, finishing matches with all the people you started with. Some of those calls could’ve been yellows and one of them was a red card rescinded on appeal, but it doesn’t change the optics and it doesn’t change the need for correction.
Neither team is expected to be running out the ideal starting 11, especially LA who may be without a couple of key offensive pieces. LAFC will definitely play without Mark-Anthony Kaye, who is out for the season with a fractured ankle. But it’s also possible that Diomande won’t be starting after coming up lame on a run during the NYRB match. Carlos Vela, like Elis, played in the All-Star game and played all 90 on Sunday so he may not be on the team sheet. Houston will continue to be without Senderos, the hero of the match the last time Houston and LA faced each other. You have to imagine that after playing with 10 men for nearly 90 minutes on Saturday, some of the Dynamo defenders will be pretty tired. I do expect Elis to start the game, or to at least be available off the bench since he’s ineligible for the match vs. Columbus this Saturday.
Things To Watch For
The real battleground of this match will probably be in the middle third. Both LAFC and Houston have explosive attacking midfielders and LAFC specifically loves to run combination plays through the midfield. It will be interesting to see who Cabrera ends up starting in the two defensive midfield slots. It will probably be Eric Alexander and one of Ceren or B. Garcia, though I think that Memo Rodriguez would be a better bet to keep up with LA’s style of play. Keep an eye out for Quioto who has been in fantastic form over the last couple of weeks, especially his crosses. But I wouldn’t expect for Quioto or Elis to be taking shots from the wings, instead, I imagine Houston will looking at Monatas as a target man for the match.
On LAFC’s side, there’s Costa Rican international Marco Urena, a representative at the 2018 World Cup, who should be starting and is always a joy to watch. As is Diego Rossi, who scored LA’s only goal against NYRB and has finally seemed to come back into form over the last couple of matches.
Finally, if Houston wins this match they would be through to the U.S. Open Cup Finals which would be hosted in Houston if the Chicago Fire lose their Semi-Final match.