Preview: Houston Dynamo vs. Real Salt Lake 8/18
The Dynamo might be looking at a must-win game in the playoff race this Saturday when they host Real Salt Lake. Real Salt Lake currently occupy the last playoff spot while Houston is mired in 10th. But the playoff race in the Western Conference is a dogfight so that only represents a six point difference. So both teams will be ready to scrape and claw for these three points.
Houston lost last Saturday facing the Crew in Columbus, conceding a goal in injury time of the second half to lose 1-0. But there are a lot of positives you can take from the game as a whole. I mean the simple fact that the Dynamo managed to keep a road game tied into the final moments of the game is an improvement. Especially since Wilmer Cabrera was serving a touchline ban and Elis, Ceren, and Fuenmayor were serving suspensions. Maybe someday soon we’ll talk about VAR.
Meanwhile, RSL will be visiting Houston on short rest, losing to a slumping LAFC 2-0 yesterday. Quoting the RSL twitter feed, “it just wasn’t our night”. Christian Ramirez scored a first-half brace against an RSL backline made of swiss cheese. Nick Rimando, a consistent presence in goal, also left at the half with a hamstring issue. However, the performance is more or less in line with Salt Lake’s road performance this season. I did see a lot of comments on the Twitterverse that the officiating was dodgy, while I can’t outright confirm that there were five yellows issued to RSL and only one to LAFC.
The Teams So Far
As I already mentioned, Real Salt Lake have been bad on the road, as in one win all season bad. On the other hand, the Dynamo have lost three straight home games and generally have been all over the place recently. Both of these teams are, at this point in the season, fringe playoff contenders at best. Sure, RSL currently occupies a playoff spot but it’s far from comfortable. With the White Caps just two points away and the Sounders three points away, there’s no time to waste for Salt Lake. In my opinion, both Seattle and Vancouver have stronger squads than Salt Lake and more consistent squads than Houston. And yes, I realize the latter isn’t really a tall order. None of this to say that these two teams aren’t competitive, but that both teams really need this win to start a true push towards the playoffs.
Things To Watch For
Houston got a full week of rest, so Wilmer Cabrera won’t be benching any potential starters. I’m curious to see whether or not Fuenmayor gets the start and how he plays if he does. Over his last two starts, he’s been hyper-aggressive at times. No matter what your opinion is, referees have seen Fuenmayor’s general play as over the line. On some level, that quality is a liability to the Dynamo’s success right now. Generally, I’ll be interested in how the Dynamo adjusts to the recent circumstances because while it may be true that some of the reds could’ve been (maybe should’ve been) yellows, they weren’t. It doesn’t seem as though Houston will be given the benefit of the doubt on those borderline calls.
On the other side of the ball, It’ll be interesting to see whether or not Nick Rimando starts in goal for Real Salt Lake. As I mentioned earlier, he left after 45 minutes yesterday with a “left hamstring injury”, and though Andrew Putna did an admirable job filling in for him, he’s also their fourth-string goalkeeper. But, RSL’s story of the match will be the potential to improve their awful road record (1W-2D-10L).