Weekly Preview-MLS Week 6, USL Week 3

Major League Soccer (MLS):

New England Revolution vs. Houston Dynamo

Gillette Stadium-Foxborough, MA-1:00 p.m. CDT, Saturday April 8

The Dynamo travel to New England to play their second road game of the season against the Revolution.  Houston will be playing short-handed again this weekend.  Center-back Leonardo is out for a second week with a hamstring injury, as is Agus, who has not played yet this season with the same injury.  Rommel Quioto and Juan David Cabezas will likely also not be available. Backup goalkeeper Joe Willis, who suited up for the game against New York last week, is fully available again.  Cubo Torres, who is off to a blistering start, has managed to get himself in disciplinary trouble already.  He is two-yellow cards away from a mandatory one game suspension, which is pretty hard to do after only 4 games.

The Dynamo are 5-10-7 all-time against New England….though they did win the 2006 and 2007 MLS Cup matches against them.  Curiously, their away record is actually better than their home record against the Revolution. Unfortunately, this fact brings back distressing memories of Kelli Dube scoring game winning goals against the Dynamo in Robertson Stadium too readily.

The eighth-place Revolution are only 1-2-1 this season, but they have played three tough Western Conference opponents and only one home game so far.  Plano-native Lee Nguyen leads the team with 3 goals this season, including the surprising (at least to Timbers fans) late tying goal in Portland last weekend.

Since his trade from Columbus last year, New England is still waiting for former Dynamo Kei Kamara to demonstrate the form he showed when he scored 22 goals in 2015.  In an interview with Glenn Davis on his Soccer Matters podcast this week, Kamara talked about his trade from Houston to Kansas City in 2009.  He attributed much of the reason for the trade to the need for the Dynamo to play Mexican Designated Player forward, Luis Angel Landin, who arrived in Houston with much hullabaloo late in the 2009 season.  That worked out really well for the Dynamo.  Since departing Houston, Kamara has scored 73 MLS goals, despite spending parts of two seasons playing in England during that time. Landin stayed in Houston for less than a year, scored 2 goals when he was there and now plies his trade in Costa Rica.  Now that Cubo Torres is playing lights out this year, Landin remains the absolute worst signing in Dynamo history.

This is the only regular season match-up between the Dynamo and Revolution this year.

FC Dallas (FCD) vs. Minnesota United

Toyota Stadium-Frisco-7:30 p.m., Saturday April 8

FC Dallas (FCD) will attempt to forget the bitter midweek CONCACAF Champions League loss to Pachuca when they return home to face expansion side Minnesota United in their first ever meeting Saturday.

Because of the international break and a rescheduled match, FC Dallas has not played a league game since March 18.  They are currently 2-0-1 and, despite only playing 3 games, sit in 3rd place in the Western Conference….only one win behind the leaders. They will need to get creative to determine who will play left back this weekend.  Maynor Figueroa, who has been the starter to this point, is suspended for this game.  His main potential replacement, Anibal Chala, has not played yet this season due to Sports Hernia surgery.

Minnesota United (Loons), who have played shockingly bad defense in their first season, are certainly in for a challenge.  Over the last three seasons, FCD is 38-7-7 at Toyota Stadium. Despite giving up an MLS record 20 goals in their first five games, Minnesota has picked up 4 points and sits in eighth place because of their dangerous attack. Forward Christian Ramirez, who was a carry-over from last year’s Twin-Cities NASL team, leads the team with 4 goals.  Kevin Molino, who was reunited with his old coach Adrian Heath late in the preseason, has already scored 3 himself. Minnesota completed a trade with Colorado late last week to try and address their defensive issues.  It is likely that new holding midfielder Sam Cronin and left back Mark Burch will immediately enter the lineup against Dallas.

The Loons won their first game ever last Saturday, shockingly defeating Real Salt Lake 4-2 in at their temporary home, TCF Bank Stadium, in Minneapolis.

United Soccer League (USL):

San Antonio FC (SAFC) vs. Colorado Springs Switchbacks

Toyota Field-San Antonio-8:00 p.m., Friday April 7

SAFC enters this game on a roll.  Their streak of two consecutive clean-sheet victories is on the line when they play Colorado Springs tonight.  Last year the two teams split the points…..both teams winning their home fixture.

Christmas came early for the Switchbacks earlier this week when the USL announced that Tulsa had to forfeit their opening game 4-1 victory over the Switchbacks because an ineligible player was used.  As a result of this 3-0 “win” the Switchbacks are now in 5th place at 1-0-1.  They drew last Saturday with OKC Energy on a snowy-lower 30 degrees Colorado Springs night.

Despite a playoff appearance last year, Switchbacks head coach Steve Trittschuh made significant changes to OKC’s roster this offseason.  There is a decidedly international flavor this year, with new signings bringing experience from a wide-variety of leagues…including South Korea, Cameroon and Jamaica.

Colorado Springs, who are beginning their third year in USL, are an independent club with no official MLS affiliation.  There has been some easy-to- understand speculation about a potential partnership with Colorado Rapids, who are right up the Interstate in Denver.  Interestingly, the Rapids chose to affiliate with USL Eastern-conference Charlotte instead for the second straight year.

OKC Energy FC vs. Rio Grande Valley FC (RGVFC)

Taft Stadium-Oklahoma City, OK-7:00 p.m., Saturday April 8

RGVFC Toros will attempt to get their first points (and score their first goal) of the new season in Oklahoma City tomorrow night.  The lack of production has been surprising, given the strong first season they put up last year.  It is not for lack of trying.  The Toros are tied for eighth in the league with 31 shots through 2 weeks.  They also have tripled the number of shots on goal of their opposition in the two losses.

RGVFC may have some extra motivation tomorrow night because OKC knocked the Toros out of the Western Conference playoffs in the quarter-final round last year.  Two extra-time goals by Colin Bonner, who was on loan to the Energy from FC Dallas, led to a bitter 3-2 loss for RGVFC in Edinburg last October.  What made it even more difficult to stomach at the time was, because Sacramento lost in the first round, that RGVFC would have home field advantage for the remainder of the Western Conference playoffs. Bonner must have decided that this lifetime memory was his 15 minutes of fame and it wasn’t going to get any better, because he retired in the off-season at the age of 22! Regardless, the Toros have ample reason to want to get their first victory of the season.

OKC, after opening with two road games, is tied for 10th place at 0-1-1.  They lost their opener against Swope Park Rangers and came back to tie Colorado Springs last week.

Former Dynamo Homegrown midfielder Alex Dixon, who has scored one of OKC’s two goals this season, came to the Energy after playing last season for NASL’s Jacksonville Armada.  He is still the only Dynamo Academy graduate to have scored an MLS goal for Houston, an epic 93rd-minute game winner against Real Salt Lake in 2011 (below).   Midfielder Coy Croft is on a season-long loan to OKC from FC Dallas, OKC’s MLS affiliate.

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