MLS Week 3 Preview

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Both Texas MLS teams face interesting, yet very different, challenges this weekend.  FC Dallas, fresh off the 2-1 midweek victory over Pachuca in the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) semifinal, returns to league play this weekend at home to the New England Revolution.  The Houston Dynamo go on the road for the first time this season to play Portland Timbers at one of the most difficult and intimidating road venues they will encounter this season.

New England (NE) heads to Dallas (7 p.m. CDT) to play only their second game of the season, since their home opener was postponed last Saturday due to frigid weather in the Boston area. The Revolution had previously lost their season opener at Colorado 1-0 two weeks ago.  FCD has a losing all-time (16-23-3) and home (9-11-2) record against New England, but has won the last 5 games in the series and last lost to NE at home in 2008. The Revolution will be well rested, contrasted with FCD’s rapid turnaround (only 3 days after the Pachuca game). Recently, the short rest doesn’t seem to present a problem for FCD however.  20 of the league high 45 games FCD played in 2016 occurred 5 days or less after their previous game. Remarkably, their record in these matches was 12-2-6.  One of the reasons  for this success is that FCD was able to deploy their deep roster effectively, using 37 different starting lineups in all competitions last year. They seem to be uniquely built, working within the constraints of the MLS salary cap, to handle the rigors of multiple competitions. Hopefully, they will have the opportunity to put this theory to the test.  If they advance to the finals of the CCL, they will have played 13 games before the end of April this year.

New England is in a bit of a rebuild as they did not make the MLS playoffs last year.  They will be making their first visit to Toyota Park since losing the US Open Cup Final 4-2 here last September. They are loaded up front with attacking players, including Kai Kamara, Juan Agudelo, Diego Fagundez and Plano native Lee Nguyen.  Their defense is a work-in progress though.  The two new starting center-backs, Slovenian international Antonio Delamea and Ivory Coast international Benjamin Angoua, did not join the Revolution until late January.  NE did enjoy late season success in 2016 after a switch to a 4-4-2 Diamond formation…with Juan Agudelo particularly energized and dangerous.  This will be the only regular season meeting between FCD and NE this year.

Houston looks to build on its 2-0 start on the road against Portland (9:30 p.m. CDT) after exciting opening home wins against Seattle and Columbus. The Timbers are off to a 2-0 start also and come off of an impressive win in Los Angeles last weekend.  The Dynamo and Portland have only played 10 times since the Timbers entered the league as an expansion franchise in 2011, with the Dynamo holding a slight winning record in the all-time series (4-3-3). The Dynamo have only won one time in Portland….during the Timbers inaugural season. Since the beginning of 2016, the Timbers are 13-3-2 at home and have won 6 in a row. Houston will be looking to make amends for the disappointing result the last time they played in Portland.  Up 2-0 at halftime, the Dynamo conceded 3 goals in the second half, including 2 Diego Valeri penalties, to lose…a game that summed up the awful 2016 Dynamo season.  The Dynamo did return the favor late in the season in Houston, winning 3-1 on a Mauro Manotas hat trick, dealing a severe blow to Portland’s fading, and ultimately unsuccessful, goal to make the playoffs.

Portland will be slightly short-handed as two of the opening game starting defenders could miss the game Saturday night. Additionally, off-season signing David Guzman, who has paired effectively with Diego Chara in the midfield this season, is listed as questionable after suffering a shoulder separation in Los Angeles last weekend.  Hopefully, the Dynamo Honduran wingers, Elis and Quioto, will be able to take advantage of the disrupted Timbers backline.

The return regular season fixture will be played in Houston on July 29.

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