The Houston Dynamo travel to Portland for an important mid-week match with the Timbers. Houston looks to build on the momentum of a stirring 2-0 win over the Chicago Fire on Wednesday night. Portland looks to build on a 3-0 home thrashing of the Colorado Rapids.
Houston has not fared well in Portland. Not including the MLS is Back Tournament which was played in the bubble in 2020 in Orlando where Houston was considered the road team, the Dynamo have not posted a win in Providence since 2011. The 2011 win was the first game ever in the yearly series with the Timbers. Since that loss, the Timbers are unbeaten at home against Houston recording a 7W-0L-1D mark. So yes, you would think the odds would begin to fall Houston's way. So what must Houston do to win this match. Here are three keys.
First, urgency is the name of the game. Score first and make the other team chase you. make no mistake that over the years Houston has been a horrible road team. After all seven wins in your last 68 road outings is nothing to write home about. On the bright side side two of those seven have come inn 2022. That's a start in the right direction. When the Dynamo score at least three on the road this season, they are unbeaten. That's good news. Now the bad news. Second half goals allowed have been their achilles heel. They have surrendered seven second half goals after the 57th minute including three after the 87th minute. Houston is not a come from behind team. They have not won a road match in which they did not score first. So who will we see in Portland? Will it be the one that thoroughly handled the Los Angeles Galaxy (3-W) in Northern California or the team that lost 3-0 six days later at Salt Lake? Urgency will be the key.
Second, scoring has been enigma for Houston franchise against Portland however they may have found their scoring form of late with rookie Thor Uhlfarrson, veteran Darwin Quintero and Sebastian (Sebas) Ferreira. Thanks to the increasing improvement of the wing play, these three have score five of the last six Houston goals. Expect Houston to continue to create multiple scoring opportunities. Ferriera was held out of the goal column against Chicago but not for a lack of effort. He had a goal called back against the Fire following a VAR reveiw. The young Paraguayan has scored in two of his last three games and in three of the last six so expect him to find the back of the net.
For Houston, Quintero is the only current Dynamo player who has scored against Portland however his lone goal and assist came as a member of Minnesota United FC. He is scoreless in four matches against Portland wearing the orange.
Portland not only is a team that has been able to ripple the nets against Houston but their defense is stout as well. The Timbers have defeated Houston by identical 2-1 scores in each of the last three meetings including the 2020 game in the Orlando bubble. Since 2017, Houston has been held to four goals not including the own goal in Orlando. The Timbers enjoy a goal differential of plus 10 as you might expect.
This season the Timbers hold a home goal differential of plus five skewed a bit by a seven goal outburst against SKC last month but overall they are minus one in that department. The sliver of offensive hope continues though as Houston despite their road record has a road goal differential of minus four and plus one overall.
Two of Houston's biggest scoring headaches Diego Valeri and Jeremy Ebobissi have moved on. Valeri is no longer around to cause them misery having retired following the 2021 season. In the last six matches in which he featured, Valeri scored six times. Ebobisse who had scored twice in the last four matches has moved on to San Jose.
Finally it all comes down to the second half defense. Four times Houston has been even or leading at the half on the road only to see the lead evaporate in two of them. Two of the other three matches , they were down just a goal after the first 45 but ended up losing by multiple goals. They cannot afford to chase the game. The urgency must be continuous for the full 90 minutes plus.
The replication of Saturday night's urgency through the full 90 minutes plus, will determine if the Dynamo celebrate their third road win of the year and the first at Providence Park since 2011. Stay tuned.