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Houston Dynamo vs. Portland Timbers | 2017 MLS Match Preview

Houston Dynamo vs. Portland Timbers
2017 MLS Regular Season
BBVA Compass Stadium – Houston, Texas
Saturday, July 29 – 8 pm ET
WATCH: MLS LIVE

Two teams coming off potentially season-changing wins will aim to keep the momentum going on what promises to be a steamy Saturday night affair in Southeast Texas.  

The Houston Dynamo will return to BBVA Compass Stadium with their first road win in tow, thanks to a 3-1 victory over D.C. United on Saturday. One day later, the Portland Timbers picked up a vital away result of their own, pumping the brakes on a six-game winless skid thanks to a 2-1 win at the Vancouver Whitecaps, despite missing a host of players due to injury, suspension and international duty.

With suspensions served and the CONCACAF Gold Cup wrapping up on Wednesday, both teams will be in a position to welcome back some critical players as they look to keep themselves comfortably above the playoff line heading into August.

There’s also the small matter of history here, with that particular aspect of the matchup giving some reasons for Dynamo fans to be hopeful. For one, Houston remain unbeaten at home (8-0-2) and will be looking to become the sixth team to finish the MLS regular season unbeaten (and the first to do it twice – they managed the feat in 2012 as well). Meanwhile, Portland are still looking for their first win in Houston after picking up two points from their first five trips to Space City.

With the mercury set to hit to 97 degrees on Saturday afternoon ahead of the game, it will be a tall task for Portland, but after an unlikely win fueled by plenty of self-belief last weekend, they’ll certainly feel good about their chances of reversing those historical trends.

Houston Dynamo

Despite picking up their first road win and moving six points above the red line, the Houston Dynamo are not about to rest on their laurels. In fact, A.J. DeLaGarza argued after the win in D.C. that a first road win would not mean a whole lot of the Dynamo can’t win the next one.

"We didn't come into the season wanting to win one road game," DeLaGarza said. "We still have a lot of work to do. We have [six] more road games. We have to continue to get points, and if we don't win this weekend then what really did that win at D.C. do for us?"

Wilmer Cabrera also emphasized the opportunity ahead of his squad, saying, "We respect the Portland Timbers, but this is our home. At home, we go for the three points."

To that end, the Dynamo have maintained one of the most prolific attacks in the league throughout July, and that was mostly without the services of Erick ‘Cubo’ Torres, who was with the Mexican national team during its ill-fated Gold Cup showing and will now be looking for a measure of redemption after a forgettable 45 minutes in their eventual elimination by Jamaica on Sunday.

Wilmer Cabrera can also potentially count on the services of newly-minted playmaker Tomas Martinez, a classic Argentine No. 10 who officially joined up with the club on July 17. However, with Alex, one of the revelations of the season, continuing to put up strong numbers in the playmaking role – including a hat trick of assists against D.C. – Cabrera can ease his new acquisition into the rigors of MLS play.

  • Suspended: None
  • Suspended after next yellow card: None
  • International Duty: None
  • Injury Report: OUT – George Malki (torn ACL); DOUBTFUL – M Eric Alexander (right knee MCL sprain); PROBABLE – GK Tyler Deric (lower right leg injury)

Projected Starting XI (4-3-3, right to left): Tyler Deric – A.J. DeLaGarza, Adolfo Machado, Leonardo, DaMarcus Beasley – Ricardo Clark, Juan David Cabezas, Alex – Alberth Elis, Erick Torres, Romell Quioto

Notes: Alex collected three assists against D.C. United, the third multiple-assist game of his career, all this season. Alex now has 10 assists, sitting in a three-way for the MLS lead (with Michael Barrios, DAL; Victor Vazquez, TOR). The three assists equal the second-most in a game in Dynamo club history (joining Corey Ashe and Brad Davis; record-holder is Dwayne De Rosario with 4, in the club’s first-ever game in 2006).

Portland Timbers

Portland’s backline still resembles something of a casualty ward, but the rest of their squad is slowly filling back in. They will welcome Darlington Nagbe back from Gold Cup duty, while Fanendo Adi returns from suspension and will presumably take the No. 9 spot back from rookie Jeremy Ebobisse, who announced his arrival on the MLS stage with a goal and an assist in a Man of the Match performance in the win over for Vancouver.

It’s perhaps unfortunate for Ebobisse, the No. 4 overall pick in this year’s SuperDraft, but the young forward is taking it all in stride and recognizes that his work is far from over.

"It's still not perfect, but I'm starting to get more of a rhythm of the game," Ebobisse told reporters at Portland training this week. "I'm learning a lot from the older guys. My game has adapted and I'm more comfortable playing quicker now. I understand that I shouldn't be trying to do too much and that sometimes I just need to be simple and let the game develop."

He added: "I feel like I've grown a lot in the last five months and I'm excited to see how much more I have to learn," Ebobisse said. "If there's another opportunity this season that I need to step in... I'll be motivated to push on and do even better than I did at Vancouver." 

  • Suspended: None
  • Suspended after next yellow card: None
  • International Duty: None
  • Injury Report: OUT – D Gbenga Arokoyo (Achilles tear), D Liam Ridgewell (quad injury), D Marco Farfan (ankle), D Chance Myers (hamstring injury); QUESTIONABLE: D Amobi Okugo (knee injury, D Vytas (calf injury), Dairon Asprilla (ankle)

Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1, right to left): Jake Gleeson – Zarek Valentin, Larrys Mabiala, Lawrence Olum, Roy Miller – Diego Chara, Darlington Nagbe – Dairon Asprilla, Diego Valeri, Sebastian Blanco – Fanendo Adi

Notes: Sebastian Blanco scored the fifth goal of his MLS career against Vancouver and his third in the last six matches, dating back to June 17. Blanco also added an assist, his fourth this season, the first time he’s had a goal and an assist in the same game; Blanco has three goals and three assists over the last seven games, since June 10.

All-Time Series

This is the second meeting between the two teams this season. Portland defeated the Dynamo, 4-2, at Providence Park on March 18.

  • Overall: Houston 4 wins (17 goals) … Portland 4 wins (17 goals) … Ties 3
  • At Houston: Houston 3 wins (9 goals) … Portland 0 wins (4 goals) … Ties 2

Referees

Referee: Jose Carlos Rivero
Assistant Referees: Jeffrey Hosking, Nick Uranga
4th Official: Ismail Elfath

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