RSL travels to face the cream-sickles in Houston this weekend in what is shaping up to be a very important match for both teams. Houston is very much in the hunt for a playoff spot in the East. If the playoffs started today, based purely on points, they would be one of the wild cards. In fact, they would play RSL in the wild card match-up. Both teams are looking to improve their playoff standings in hopes of avoiding that dreaded wild card play-in game.Typically this game would be just an assumed loss. RSL struggles quite a bit on the road, especially in Texas, and especially in Houston. In their entire history, RSL has never won the road game in Houston. They have salvaged one draw, but never a win. What is interesting, however, is that unlike the Toronto record, RSL has scored in each game they have played in Houston. Yes, that is not a typo, RSL has scored each and every time they've traveled to the Dynamo's home. If you know your RSL history, you will know this game tends to be one of the craziest games of the year (both home and away). For whatever reason, when we play the Dynamo things get heated, there is typically a lot of goals, and usually an ejection or two by the end of the 90 minutes.
For this particular game, RSL might just have a bit of luck on their side. While injuries continue to pile on (Wingert out six weeks with a busted wrist) RSL caught a break in that Houston had to travel to New England yesterday to play the Revs. The game was hard fought and looked to be a win for the Revs going into the 90th minute. In the dying moments of the game, though, Houston drew level 1-1. Many Houston fans were chalking that game up as a must-win, so while the draw (and the fashion it came in) were nice, it was still a disappointment. Thus, it will be interesting to see how Houston approaches this game Saturday. By all accounts, they need to get points, especially at home, if they want to maintain a playoff spot in the very crowded East. I would assume they will come out flying, even on the short rest, looking to get an early goal instead of leaving it up for late heroics.
RSL, similarly, is in need of points. As I stated before, if the playoffs started today they would be in the wild card match, not something they would like to do, you can imagine. They have to find a way to get back into the top 3 of the West, which means they HAVE to find a way to get points on the road. What better time than now? To do this, they will have to play one of their best games of the season. Houston is a very good side at home (7-3-3 record) and in relatively good form lately.
The lineup I think would best to use in this match-up is as follows:
- Will have to be big between the pipes. Some blame can go on him for the TFC goal last week, lets hope he makes up for it.
- Replacing Wingert on the left is pretty easy when you have 3 capable starters. Tony will have to be solid. I wouldn't be surprised to see him switch with Russell so that he would mark Brad Davis.
- Stone wall and Mr. Consistent has to be those two things. Against Ching and Costly, he is going to have his hands full.
- Olave might be able to get back in the lineup for this one, but at the same time it's not an ideal opponent for his first game back. Olave and Ching have a very colorful (literally, red and yellow) history with each other. I'd probably sit him out this one and let Schuler replace him.
- Like I said with Tony, he might switch sides. Russell's marking has to be solid this game or he will be the reason we get burned.
- Having to replace Will because of suspension sucks, especially when you have to pick between Alvarez and Warner. Neither have been good this year but I think I'd prefer Alvarez at this point. Hopefully he will be willing to use his right foot, or even the right side of the field, at times.
- He finally got a full weeks rest so hopefully he is set for a very big game. He has to be solid in the middle or we'll lose, plain and simple.
- I wouldn't be surprised to see Warner take Andy's spot. Andy really struggled in Toronto and simply doesn't have the legs to be a 90 minute guy every week. He was supposed to be a solid sub for us not all year, not a starter.
- Luis struggled in Toronto at times and at others looked solid. His work rate will have to be high for us to get anything going in the offensive third of the field. Shoot the ball kid, please.
- Fabian did everything but score in Toronto. The poor guy couldn't buy a goal. Hopefully he makes up for it at a place I've seen him score at before.
- If we can use him as our target more and work off of him we will succeed. The more he is in the middle of the pitch as the target, the better our offense will work.
Key Player for RSL: Tony BeltranIf you have watched any Houston games this year you will know that their attack runs through Brad Davis. I'd assume and hope that Beltran gets the assignment to mark him. If we are going to get even a point out of this game, we will have to take Davis and his solid left foot out of the equation as much as possible.
Prediction: Houston 3 - RSL 2
- Goals for RSL from Espy and Beckerman
Like many trips to Houston in the past, I expect this game to be wild and have some late heroics to it. I bet we go into the last 20 minutes of the game tied at 2 just for Davis to whip in a ball that Ching or Costly puts in to win it.
What I would give to be wrong, but history down there suggests it'll be ugly.
15 to 32