Check the top of the Western Conference standings and you’ll find first-place LAFC, followed by the LA Galaxy and then a tie for third between the Seattle Sounders and the Houston Dynamo.
That’s right, Houston. The same team that has missed the MLS playoffs four out of the last five years, including last season when they scuffled to a 10-16-8 record.
But this Dynamo team has played up to its name in 2019. Houston enters Saturday’s 7 p.m. game against the Sounders at CenturyLInk Field with 19 points in a league-low eight games, going 6-1-1. They’re averaging over two goals per game, having scored 17 times so far.
The Sounders are aware that this Houston team could cause a problem.
“They’re a very good attacking team,” Sounders forward Jordan Morris said. “They have some good weapons, some speed and some good finishers up front so it’s gonna be a battle and (we have to) be up for it.”
They Dynamo have been led by forward Mauro Manotas and midfielder Alberth Elis. Manotas scored both of Houston’s goals in their 2-1 victory over Dallas last Saturday. Manotas ranks eighth in the league with five goals and has four assists. Elis ranks fourth in the league with five assists while scoring four goals.
“I think Houston has changed their game a little bit,” Seattle midfielder Cristian Roldan said. “They used to be a strictly counter-attacking team, they do a good job of keeping possession. I think that was something that they struggled with last year and they’ve been finding the right balance with finding ways to score goals but also defending against counter-attacking teams.”
Historically, the Dynamo have not fared well in Seattle. All-time, the Sounders are 7-0-2 against Houston. Last season, the Sounders won both of the matchups, winning 4-1 and 3-2.
To keep that streak of dominance going, the Sounders are going to have to break out of their four-game slump that’s featured three ties and a loss. Seattle’s last victory was a 3-2 victory over Toronto on April 6.
“We were starting out games really quick and getting off to the right foot,” Morris said about the Sounders’ play before the four-game slide. “Get back to that, especially playing at home. Get on top of the opposing team; hope we can do that.”
Good health will help on Saturday, too. Six players have been out of the lineup with injuries but last week, forward Raul Ruidiaz, who had been sidelined with a heel contusion, played almost 10 minutes in the 1-1 draw vs. Minnesota United FC last Saturday.
Schmetzer on additions
Help is on the way, just not this week.
On Wednesday, the Sounders signed midfielder Joevin Jones (SV Dormstadt 98 / Bundesliga 2) and center back Xavier Arreaga (Barcelona S.C. / Ecuador) before the transfer window closed. It will be a while until they see MLS action due to getting visas processed and each player fulfilling their international duties. Jones plays for Trinidad and Tobago in the Gold Cup and Arreaga for Ecuador in Copa America.
Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer is looking forward to adding them to the mix and figuring out how it all works.
“I could write 15 lineups up on the board but once you get them out on the field and you see how everybody fits together it’s usually a little bit easier,” Schemtzer said. “So I’m not going to stress out too much, I’m gonna put three or four up on the board. Not 15, and we’ll start from there.”
One player not in the lineup mix anytime soon is Gustav Svensson, out with a strained hamstring that Schmetzer labeled as “long term.”