The regular season of the inaugural MLS Next Pro League is in the books and now we get to what everyone has been waiting for; the playoffs. On Sunday night, the Houston Dynamo 2 are on the road against the Tacoma defiance in round one.
The Houston Dynamo 2 led initially by current Houston Dynamo FC interim head coach Kenny Bundy were from start to finish one of the best in the MLS Next Pro. They flashed a strong offense, a tough defense and excellent goalkeeping all the while keeping their humility. Now they get an opportunity to take out the top offensive team in the league when it matters most.
The Tacoma Defiance found the back of the net and astounding 57 times in just 24 games and that wasn't even tops in the league. So how do you stop an offensive juggernaut? You play good defense and that is exactly what the Houston Dynamo 2 do. They led the Western Conference in fewest goals conceded and tied for the league lead with the Columbus Crew 2. Both surrendered 22 goals or less than a goal a game.
This game features two of the best players in the MLS Next Pro League. Houston Dynamo 2 captain and defender Talen Maples along wit Tacoma's midfielder Marlon Vegas were named the leagues inaugural Best XI for the season.
The teams have played twice this season and split the series. Tacoma handed Houston its first loss of the season back on May 1st snapping a Houston four game unbeaten streak. The Dynamo Dos returned the favor closing on the month of June with a 1-0 win at AVEVA Stadium. The only goal of the match on a curling set piece by Marcelo Palomino in the 89th minute.
Sunday night's match will hold much of the same drama as the first two except this time it means the winner moves on and the loser goes home.
Houston's interim head coach Daniel Roberts summed up what Houston must do to come out on top.
“There's a couple of things that we need to do well," explained Roberts. "I mentioned earlier, our counter prevention shapes. When we have the ball, how we're setting up to counter their counterattack. It's going to be really, really important. Inevitably, at any part of the game, we're going to get pushed back, they're going to get pushed back. Making sure that we stay compact, we create density, and we protect our goal. That's something that we've done all year, we've been superb in those moments where we do get pushed back. We don't give up any chances, we don't give up any shots. If we do, we're there to make a final ditch challenge and layout for the ball. Those are the biggest things that we've stressed this week and we'll continue to stress leaning into the weekend.”