Three Points: Houston Dynamo Face Portland Timbers in Critical Group F Match
HOUSTON - The Houston Dynamo look to build on their opening game of the MLS is Back Tournament as they return to action on Saturday to face the Portland Timbers at 7 p.m. on ESPN and ESPN Deportes.
The Dynamo went toe-to-toe with the 2019 Supporter's Shield winners last Monday and earned a point in a 3-3 draw with LAFC. Academy product Memo Rodriguez finished with a brace, his second with the club, and Darwin Quintero finished with two assists in his first start for the Dynamo. Quintero's second assist found Alberth Elis inside the box for his first goal of the season.
Defensively, the Dynamo look to shore up their backline after allowing three or more goals in back-to-back games. Houston held on to the draw after a challenging second half that saw two players make their MLS debut. Sam Junqua was called into action after Adam Lundkvist left the game out of precaution. Nico Lemoine also entered the match in the second half and finished with two shots in his first MLS shift.
Dynamo head coach Tab Ramos will face off against his former NY/NJ MetroStars teammate, Gio Savarese, with a share of first place on the line. The Timbers are the only team to claim a victory in the group after they defeated the LA Galaxy 2-1 last Monday.
Houston close group play on Thursday, July 23 against the LA Galaxy. This will be the second meeting between both clubs this season after a 1-1 draw on opening day at BBVA Stadium.
WHO: Houston Dynamo vs. Portland Timbers
WHEN: Saturday, July 18 - 7:00 p.m. CDT
TV: ESPN (Jon Champion and Taylor Twellman) and ESPN Deportes (Richard Mendez and Alex Pareja)
RADIO: TUDN Radio Houston 1010 AM (Daniel Mejia and Lester Gretsch)
Here are three key points ahead of Monday's game:
DEPTH CRITICAL IN TOURNAMENT PLAY- Darwin Ceren and Victor Cabrera took the field on Monday with a combined 208 appearances in league play. Ceren, a seven-year MLS veteran, has earned two appearances for the Dynamo this season and was brought on to win the ball in the trenches against LAFC. On the other side of the spectrum, Nico Lemoine was brought on last Monday to attack LAFC's backline and spark a game-winning opportunity. These players reflect the balance available to head coach Tab Ramos outside of this starting XI. With three games in a little over two weeks, the options on the bench will be critical to Houston's success. The Dynamo feature five players who have earned 50 or more league appearances in Cabrera (94), Ceren (114), Niko Hanson (50), Tomas Martinez (76) and Tommy McNamara (127). The bench also offers youth with players like 20-year-old Lemoine, 23-year-old Sam Junqua and 19-year-old Marcelo Palomino. Ramos will be tasked to find a balance for each match as he navigates the tournament with five substitutions per game.
DYNAMO BACKLINE KEY FOR CONTAINING TIMBERS -- Monday's showdown with Diego Rossi, Brian Rodriguez and Bradley Wright-Phillips was the first competitive match for the Dynamo in nearly five months due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Dynamo held firm for the final 20 minutes of the game after a heavy second-half push from the 2019 Supporter's Shield winners. The Dynamo made 30 clearances on Monday, the most since the opening game of the season against the LA Galaxy (25). Maynor Figueroa led the team with 10 clearances, twice as many as Zarek Valentin who finished with the second most clearances against LAFC. The backline will be critical on Saturday as they look to contain one of the most aggressive and dynamic frontlines in MLS.
PORTLAND FIRING ON ALL CYLINDERS - Jeremy Ebobisse and Sebastian Blanco led the Timbers to three points on Monday and their second victory of the season. The Timbers feature a veteran group with weapons like Sebastian Blanco and Diego Valeri. The Timbers also feature promising talents like Ebobisse, a U.S. Men's National Team player that had a breakthrough season in 2019, finishing with 11 goals and one assist. Yet, the Timbers offense continues to run through Valeri who enters his eighth season with Portland. The Argentine midfielder has two goals and an assist this season in three games for the Timbers. The midfield is also managed by Diego Chara, Portland's all-time leader in games played (265), games started (262) and minutes played (23,336) . The 10-year MLS veteran has been a constant for the Timbers who have qualified for the playoffs in the last three consecutive seasons.
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