Since the Union snuck out of Houston with a 2-1 victory on July 25, they have won six of nine games. The Dynamo have done almost exactly the opposite, losing six of nine and dropping out of the playoff picture in the west.
Houston has collected only five points in the league since July 25, but four of them have come in the past two games. They have not been good, but this is a team with enough attacking firepower to remain extremely dangerous.
The front four firepower
The fun thing about a Houston Dynamo game is that they won’t try to fool you. This is not a movie with a surprise twist at the end; it’s an action film and you know that when Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto get the ball things will get hype.
Don’t let those two excellent wingers distract though: The secret sauce that brings the whole attack together is in the middle, and it’s made of equal parts Mauro Manotas and Tomas Martinez.
Manotas is a young, mobile striker who makes his living in the spaces that teams leave open when they look to limit space on the wings. He rolls early, he moves quickly, and he is particularly good at finding little pockets in the box when eyes are out wide.
Martinez plays an underappreciated linking role between the back six and the front three. His best quality is an ability to drift into gaps behind the opposition midfield, often in the half-spaces, and provide a third dimension to Houston’s wing-focused attacks. This attention can both free up space for Manotas and create more dynamic combinations up the wings, with Martinez, Beasley, Quioto, and Manotas linking to create the Dynamo’s goal against the Union on July 25.
Basics at the back
The name of the game for Houston defensively is to protect the box. Given how they approached their match last weekend against Orlando, it’s likely they will try to maintain two players in front of their box to prevent the Union from directly penetrating (remember Borek Dockal’s two assists last time these teams met? That’s what they want to stop).
Former Union wing man Andrew Wenger is a likely starter at right back for Houston. Wenger remains an athletic, strong runner, but his defensive positioning is suspect. The Union should be able to attack him with Fafa Picault and create space for Cory Burke to run down the channel.
The Union and Dynamo meet in the 2018 US Open Cup final on Wednesday, September 26 at 8PM EST in Houston on ESPN2.