MLS Preview-Week 9

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Toronto FC vs. Houston Dynamo

BMO Field-Toronto, Ontario, Canada-6:30 p.m. CDT, Friday, April 28, 2017

The Dynamo travel to Toronto to play its only 2017 match-up with Toronto FC Friday night.

  • Toronto FC is off to a slow start after an MLS Cup finalist appearance last year. They are currently 2-1-4 and tied for 6th place in the Eastern Conference with 10 points.
  • In addition to playing a road heavy early season schedule, part of the reason for the slow start is because Sebastian Giovinco had not shown his previous dominating form until last weekend.  He broke out against Chicago last Saturday, scoring two goals and was recognized as MLS Player of the Week for his performance.  His brace doubled the number of goals that Giovinco had previously scored this year. He was substituted late in the Chicago game and was none to happy about it…..blowing past his coach, Greg Vanney, and heading straight to the tunnel after his removal.  Vanney said this week that all had been patched up.
  • Trips to Canada have generally been a house of horrors for the Dynamo, except when they play in Toronto.  Houston has a combined record of 0-10-1 in Montreal and Vancouver, but are 3-3-4 when playing in Toronto. The Dynamo has only lost once in the last 11 total regular season meetings between the two sides dating back to July 2011.
  • The Dynamo are currently 3rd in the Western Conference with 13 points.  The rub is that 5 of the 7 games Houston has played so far has been at BBVA Compass Stadium….all 13 points have been earned there. The team has lost its only two road games and Toronto FC doesn’t promise to be any easier.  At least the match will not be on artificial turf, another historical set of horrors for the team.
  • The Dynamo are definitely not a possession team.  So far this year they have held only 43% of the possession, yet have the third most goals in the league (15).  The Dynamo media staff calculated that the team has scored a league leading one goal per 18.24 minutes when the ball has been in its possession.  Houston has also been very direct about doing it, as only 3 of the 15 goals have required more than 2 passes before they were scored.  On the other hand, Toronto FC is more of a possession team and builds their attack through Giovinco, a very smart strategy. The contrasting attacking styles hopefully will make for an attractive game.
  • It is interesting to note that Toronto FC’s salary budget is more than 4X the Dynamo’s.  According to Corey Roepken at the Houston Chronicle, three Toronto players, Giovinco, Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley, make more than the entire 27- man Houston roster.

FC Dallas (FCD) vs. Portland Timbers

Toyota Stadium-Frisco-7:00 p.m., Saturday, April 29, 2017

  • For the second week in a row, FC Dallas plays the most intriguing game of the MLS weekend when Portland Timbers come to visit.  Portland is currently in first place in the Western Conference, two points ahead of FCD, but the home side has two games in hand.
  • Dallas is 6-1-2 all-time against Portland at Toyota Field and won all three 2016 matches played between the two teams.  FCD, the last remaining undefeated team in the league, is off to its best start in franchise history. They have only given up 3 goals this year…2 of them on penalties.
  • FC Dallas will have the good fortune of playing against a Timbers side missing midfielder Diego Valeri, arguably the best player in MLS this season. Nobody needs to tell the Houston Dynamo how good Valeri is, as he regularly torches them every time he plays, including a 4-2 victory earlier this year. Benjamin Baer from mlssoccer.com documented Valeri’s dominance by noting that he has contributed the most expected goals assisted of any player this season according to data provided by Opta. His chances created have amounted to an expected goals value of 3.42, a full goal more than any other player.  His absence will create selection choices for Timbers coach Calen Porter, perhaps even a change away from the Timbers preferred 4-2-3-1 formation. Portland starting goalkeeper Jake Gleeson also will miss the match.
  • Valeri and forward Fernando Adi have each scored 5 goals this year to lead the team in scoring.  Without Valeri, U.S. International Darlington Nagbe will be expected to help fill the void.  His 5 goals are the most ever scored by a Timbers player against Dallas.
  • Last Saturday, FCD head coach Oscar Pareja made a point of describing the key role Carlos Gruezo played in the victory over Sporting KC.  This effort was recognized by the league, as Gruezo was named to the MLS Team of the Week.  He truly was the engine against SKC, converting an outstanding 95% of his passes on Saturday.

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