Category: CONCACAF Champions League

Weekly Soccer Notes-Saturday, April 29, 2017

Other news of interest in Texas Soccer this week:

Major League Soccer:

  • Very good news for FC Dallas this week as midfielder and Designated Player Mauro Diaz returned to training for the first time since suffering a season ending injury last year. (fcdallas.com)

https://www.fcdallas.com/post/2017/04/26/fc-dallas-midfielder-mauro-diaz-takes-another-step-return-achilles-injury

  • The MLS Players Union released their semi-annual salary figures earlier this week. The union takes great pains to point out that these numbers are not absolutely accurate, but they can serve as a good point of comparison. As usual, the Texas MLS teams are near the bottom of the spending curve. FC Dallas’s (FCD) payroll is 17th in the league at $6.51 million.   The Dynamo are ranked 22nd at $5.03 million. The results FC Dallas generates with a significantly lower payroll are eye-opening. There are now a number of smaller market MLS teams that have adopted copy-cat strategies, including the Dynamo to a certain extent.  Diaz is the highest paid FCD player.  Forward Erick (Cubo) Torres is the highest paid Dynamo player. (espnfc.com)
  • The Houston Dynamo announced the hiring of a new Executive VP and General Manager, Juan Rodriquez, for their facility-BBVA Compass Stadium. Rodriquez, who previously spent 14 years working at then Reliant Stadium in Houston, will start the new job in June. (Houston Business Journal)

United Soccer League (USL):

USL rolled out a video and website in support of their new USL Division 3 (D3) league that will begin play in 2019.  When the USL D3 announcement was first made in March, USL Commissioner Jake Edwards commented that the league was not sure whether it would initially launch only on the East Coast or roll-out nationwide.  Subsequently, it was confirmed that the roll-out will be national.  The league has appointed a D3 Vice President, Steven Short, and he has been on a Southeast tour this week with stops in Lexington, Kentucky and Knoxville, Tennessee.  One additional piece of new information on the website was the requirement that cities joining the USL D3 have a stadium capacity of 3,500. Currently US Soccer Division 3 mandates only specify a 1,000 capacity. The speed of the launch efforts may, in part, be to counter efforts by Peter Wilt and Cloud 9 Sports (described in an April 17 article by Nipun Chopra on Soc Takes) to potentially launch an alternative D3 league that could begin play one year earlier in 2018. (usld3.com) (soctakes.com)

National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL):

After a loss in Seattle last week, the Houston Dash (1-1) return to action at 6 p.m. CDT tonight at the Maryland SoccerPlex against the Washington Freedom.  It appears that neither key midfielders Andressa and Morgan Brian will be available to play. Center back Janine Van Wyk, who also missed the Seattle match, is expected to play tonight. (chron.com)

CONCACAF Champions League:

Dallas Oak Cliff native and U.S. International Omar Gonzalez became only the third American to be part of a team that has won the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) title. His LigaMX club Pachuca, on a goal from forward Franco Jara, beat Monterrey Tigres UANL 1-0 at home (2-1 on aggregate) last night to capture their second CCL trophy. Gonzalez, who played the full 90 last night in center defense, is the only MLS veteran of the three American winners. Prior to last night, the previous CCL champions were Longview-native and U.S. World Cup participant Jose Torres and Ventura Alvarado, both of whom have played their entire professional careers in Mexico. (espnsoccernet.com)

National Premier Soccer League (NPSL):

Houston Dutch Lions FC:

The Dutch Lions play an exhibition match against North American University at HDL FC Soccer Facility tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. There have been 4 NCAA D2 players that have been added to their 2017 NPSL roster.  Two are from Texas universities, midfielder Shane Dockery from West Texas A&M and forward Pablo Covarrubias   from St. Edwards University. (houstondutchlionsfc.com)

Ft. Worth Vaqueros:

The Vaqueros defeated Sporting Fort Worth 2-0 in a preseason game last Saturday night. (facebook.com/fortworthvaqueros)

Tyler FC:

  • Tyler FC Kings will play Rafters FC in a preseason game tonight in Shreveport, LA at 7:00 p.m.
  • Tyler FC also announced this week that they will be helping to grow, structure, and organize an all new local mens soccer league in Tyler; the TFC Premier League. According to a press release on the team website, this step was taken to help address the long term decline and disorganization in the local mens league.  The team also sees this effort as a way to identify and source talent to play on their NPSL side. (tylerfootballclub.com)

Weekly Soccer Notes-Saturday April 27, 2017

Other news of interest in Texas Soccer this week:

Major League Soccer (MLS):

Austin-native Khiry Shelton, who currently plays for New York City FC, has been ruled out of action for 4-6 weeks.  Shelton suffered a hamstring injury near the end of a 2-0 victory over Philadelphia Union last Friday.

United States Youth National Teams:

  • Two North Texas youth players have been selected to the roster for the CONCACAF Mens U-17 Championship that started yesterday in Panama. Brian Reynolds Jr., a FC Dallas Homegrown signing, and Blaine Ferri from the Solar Chelsea Club are part of the 20-man selection for this tournament. This confederation championship doubles as the qualifying tournament for the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup to be played Oct. 6-28 in India. The United States opens group round play tomorrow against Jamaica.
  • Three players from the FC Dallas program will be part of the U.S. U-18 men’s national team that will travel to play in the 2017 Slovakia Cup.  Paxton Pomykal from the first team and two Academy members, midfielder Brandon Servania and forward Shaft Brewer, have been selected. Additionally, midfielder Koby Carr from Houston-area club Texas Rush will be part of this squad. Last year the U.S. sent a group of U-19’s and won the tournament.
  • Starting today, the U.S. Under-15 Girls’ National Team will hold a week-long training camp in College Station.  36 players, 3 of them from Texas, were invited to participate in this camp.  In two years the plan is for this group of players to become the core of the team seeking to qualify for the 2020 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup. Azul Alvarez from Austin-area Lone Star SC and Olivia Pena and Trinity Byars, both from North Dallas Suburban Solar Chelsea, are the Texans selected to participate.

National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL):

After their season opening 2-0 victory over Chicago, the Houston Dash head to Seattle to play at 9:00 p.m CDT Saturday night. Rachel Daly’s superb strike in the Chicago match was named the NWSL Goal of the Week.  Two key Dash starters, United States international Morgan Brian and Brazilian Andressa, will miss tonight’s match.

CONCACAF Champions League:

  • FC Dallas’s disappointing semifinal round exit from the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League a few weeks ago left two Mexican teams, Tigres UANL and Pachuca, to battle in the finals.  On Tuesday night, Pachuca managed to score a crucial away goal and tied Tigres 1-1 in the first-leg of the finals in Monterrey.  The second-leg will be played in Pachuca next Wednesday, April 26.
  • Panamanian defensive midfielder Amilcar Henriquez was shot and killed in Colon, Panama last Saturday.  Henriquez was a part of the Arabe Unido team that recently lost to FC Dallas in the qualifiers of the CONCACAF Champions League.  He also a key international who made 87 appearances for his country, including three CONCACAF Gold Cups played in the United States. Henriquez most recently played in the 1-1 World Cup Qualifying draw with the United States late last month in Panama City.  Panamanian authorities say they’ve arrested seven people and so far no motives have been advanced for this senseless killing.

National Professional Soccer League (NPSL):

Houston Dutch Lions:

Dutch Lions will play their second preseason game tonight against San Jacinto College at the Dutch Lions facility in Conroe tonight.  In other news, the team announced that 2016 top scorer Carlos Acevedo will return to the team for the upcoming season.  Acevedo was an Honorable Mention selection on the All-NPSL 2016 team.

Ft. Worth Vaqueros:

Fort Worth Vaqueros will play Sporting Fort Worth in a preseason game tonight.

Houston Regals FCA:

The Regals announced three player signings this week.  Two Brazilians from LSU Alexandria University, Pedro Diaz and Ricardo Caliman and a Spanish goalkeeper, Gonzalo Santa “Lalo”.

Premier Development League (PDL):

2017 PDL Mid-South Preview from Aaron Cranford (uslsoccer.com)

http://www.uslpdl.com/news_article/show/783429?referrer_id=2242498

Brazos Valley Cavalry:

Three new players were added to the Brazos Valley Cavalry FC roster earlier this week. Huntley Munn, Emmanuel Usen Jr. and Matt Dorsey will join the team for the inaugural season which begins next month.  Dorsey, a Houston Dynamo Academy graduate from Spring, is currently a redshirt sophomore at the University of New Mexico.  Usen Jr., also an Academy alumnus from Katy, attends California State University Northridge. Munn is a defender who plays his college soccer at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington.

Final 2017 CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) update

After FC Dallas and Vancouver’s elimination from the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League, MLS participation in this competition is over for the 2016-17 competition. Previously, four U.S. based MLS teams and a Canadian MLS team would enter the Group Stage of the 2017-18 version of this tournament later this Fall.  Recent changes in the CCL format, however, have eliminated any MLS participation in the CCL until the knock-out Stage of the 2017-18 CCL, which will take place in early 2018 after completion of a new CCL qualifying round among non-US and Mexico clubs.

This change created challenges for US Soccer because, under current rules, there would now be four potentially different teams who will have qualified for the CCL prior to the start of the 16 team knock-out round in addition to the four who had already qualified.

According to Brian Strauss at SI.com, US Soccer has resolved this issue.  The four teams who qualified for the 2017-18 round, including FC Dallas, will still enter the competition in early 2018.  The 8-team issue created by the CONCACAF format changes will be addressed by having the MLS Cup and US Open Cup champions from this year and 2018 be the CCL representatives who enter the knock-out stages in early 2019.  For this season, the MLS Supporters Shield winner and the first place team from the conference opposite the Supporters Shield winner will not automatically qualify for the CCL.  The system will revert back to the original arrangement for the 2019-20 CCL.

For this year, as is usually the case, two LigaMX teams, Tigres UANL and Pachuca will contest the final of the 2017-2018 CCL tournament later this month.  The first leg of the match will take place on Tuesday April 18 at 8:00 CDT in Monterrey.  The second leg will be played in Pachuca on Wednesday, April 26 also at 8 p.m.

 

CCL-FCD-So Close and Yet So Far

F.C. Pachuca (Tuzos) 3-FC Dallas 1  (Estadio Hidalgo, Pachuca, Hidalgo, Mexico 

Pachuca:  Jara-38, Lozano-80, 90+2  FC Dallas:  Colman-86

Bitter, dispiriting and other adjectives of its ilk come to mind when discussing the exit of FC Dallas (FCD) from the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) semifinal round last night. Others would likely use uglier terms to describe yet another loss by an MLS club against Mexico’s LigaMX opposition in this tournament.  FC Dallas and MLS did all of the right things to prepare for this CCL round: extra salary cap money made available to CCL participants, a lengthy FCD preseason trip to Argentina to play multiple games against top-level Latino opposition, rescheduling last weekend’s roadtrip to Colorado to allow maximum rest and, finally, a weeks training at altitude in Puebla to acclimatize.  None of it mattered as the result was the same as it always is….the LigaMX side wins when it matters.

Progress-not so fast 

This whole series has a hint of deja-vu.  There has been talk recently about how much progress has been made by MLS and that victory in this tournament by one of its clubs is right around the corner.  Maybe that whole narrative is actually wishful thinking.

Ten years ago the Houston Dynamo played a two-legged CONCACAF Champions Cup (predecessor to the CCL) quarterfinal round against guess who…Pachuca.  Like Dallas they won the home leg 2-0 (should have been 3-0) and then went to Pachuca a few weeks later and lost 5-2.  The score was not as bad as it sounds.  After the Dynamo gave back the two-goal aggregate lead in the first 15 minutes, they got over the case of jitters and went after the Tuzos.  Twice the Dynamo took back the aggregate lead…only to see Pachuca tie the score 5 or so minutes later each time.  Eventually Pachuca won in extra time.

There is not a whole lot of difference between that series and the one that just concluded. Houston was among the best MLS could send out and FCD is the same now.  Pachuca had a lot of respect for Houston, just like they do for Dallas now.  The Dynamo gave up two penalties and FCD made two poor defensive plays to concede goals.  Ten years later the end result is the same.  Progress?

Maybe the problem isn’t just about the difference in money between MLS and Mexico

I am not sure that any reasonable amount of new dollars that MLS chooses to invest in its rosters are going to make a lot of difference in these CCL knock-out rounds.  I had the distinct impression that Pachuca could and would score as many goals as they needed to win the aggregate competition in 2007 and I had the same feeling last night.  I personally believe that the issue is much more than the higher salaries paid by Mexican teams.  It has something to do with the ability to play on the big stage, the professionalism baked into the DNA of the club that comes from 80+ years of history, tradition and character in the Mexican league and, importantly, the expectations that come from a fan base that will not tolerate losing to a U.S. team.  This kind of experience and pressure don’t exist in MLS and it probably won’t for a long time.

(April 6 update).  In an interview today with host Jason Davis on SiriusXM’s United States of Soccer, Canada’s TSN Broadcaster Peter Schaad, who called the other semifinal match in Vancouver last night, succinctly summed up this dilemma.  He talked about the cultural gap between soccer in the United States and Mexico…especially the major difference between the sense of entitlement here vs. the hunger down there.  Until we change the culture and find the “hungriest kids”, Schaad stated, “who are most in love with the game, who are willing to do the work and don’t feel they are entitled to it, this gap will always appear”.  He then talked about his conversations with former Canadian National Team players who mentioned that this gap was the same way 10 and 20 years ago.  He did allow that additional money is required, but said his National Team sources talked about how the difference is in the “DNA’ of Mexico.  He finished by saying that the Mexican players had the game in their “soul” and that it would take a long time for us to catch up.

I suppose it is possible that the stars line up perfectly and an MLS teams manages to win the competition in the near future.  Even if that happens, given the state of the intangibles that divide soccer in the U.S. and Mexico, I doubt that the competitive balance between the two leagues will be equal over, say, 10 years of knock-out round home and away matches between the leagues.  The gap is still huge, despite the wishful thinking and Public Relations coming out of MLS.

A good place to start closing this gap would be figuring out how not to give up awful goals 15 seconds before extra time, like FCD did last night.  Bad luck…partially yes, but MLS seems to have a quite a bit of that all of the time in the CCL.

Will FC Dallas Champions League dream continue?

Tomorrow night FC Dallas (FCD) will play one of the most important games in the history of the franchise.  There is a certain amount of pressure on the club because no MLS team has never won the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL).  The league came close to breaking through twice early in the decade.  Real Salt Lake and Montreal both unfortunately lost bitter final round second-leg home matches to Mexico’s LigaMX opponents.  This year, there is a belief that FC Dallas may actually represent MLS’s best hope ever to win the Champions League because of the talent, experience and depth of their 2017 squad. On the heals of their first-leg victory two weeks ago, they now take a 2-1 aggregate-goal lead down to Mexico tomorrow night (8 p.m. CDT) where they will play at C.F. Pachuca in the second-leg of one of the CCL semi-final rounds.  It will be challenging…Pachuca has not lost at home in more than a year.

Dallas traveled to Mexico last Wednesday to train for close to a week, in an attempt to acclimate to the almost 8,000 feet altitude in Pachuca.  This luxury was possible because its weekend MLS regular season game at Colorado was rescheduled.  FCD was hosted by Mexican club La Noria FC in Puebla and had the opportunity Saturday to play (and win 2-0) an exhibition match against the reserves of LigaMX side Puebla.  Coincidentally, Pachuca played a LigaMX regular season match against Puebla (which ended scoreless) also on Saturday.  Pachuca manager Diego Alonso basically ran out a first choice side against Puebla, in what turned out to be a physical and chippy match….39 total fouls and 5 yellow cards.

Pachuca has an extremely deep and loaded roster.  One significant change to the team that faced FCD a couple of weeks ago is the reintroduction of young star Hirving Lozano to the lineup.  Lozano was injured earlier this season and was out-of-action for a number of weeks.  He appears to be back at full fitness and started and played the full 90 minutes against Puebla.

One note to keep an eye on.  FCD starters Hernan Grana, Matt Hedges and Carlos Gruezo picked up yellow cards in the first-leg of the series in Dallas two weeks ago.   Should FCD be fortunate enough to advance to the next round, a yellow card for any of the three in the second leg would see them suspended for the first leg of a potential championship round.

In the other CCL semifinal, MLS side Vancouver Whitecaps face a daunting challenge against Tigres UANL at home Wednesday night.  Tigres defeated the Whitecaps 2-0 in Monterrey two weeks ago and are one of the best teams in the Americas.  Vancouver is coming into the game with some momentum however.  The Whitecaps came back from a late deficit to score three unanswered goals in the last half-hour against LA Galaxy Saturday night for their first win of the season.

Texas Soccer Notes-Saturday April 1, 2017

Additional Texas soccer news of interest this week:

Major League Soccer (MLS):

  • FC Dallas (FCD) finally got around to extending Head Coach Oscar Pareja’s contract this week. Pareja, whose .609 winning percentage is the best coaching record in FCD’s history, won the Supporters Shield (best regular season record) and US Open Cup in 2016. He was also named MLS Coach of the Year last season.  “Oscar Pareja represents everything that we want to accomplish at FC Dallas,” said FC Dallas president Dan Hunt in a FCD Press Release issued this week. “His commitment to our Academy players, his knowledge of the game and his strategic vision are unmatched.”  Per team policy, no terms of the contract were released. (fcdallas.com)
  • Austin-native Kekuta Manneh was traded from the Vancouver Whitecaps to the Columbus Crew on Thursday.  Columbus received midfielder Tony Tchani and $300K in allocation money in return.  The deal also included some additional considerations depending on what happens when Manneh’s contact expires at the end of this year.  Manneh moved from Gambia to Austin as a teenager and played club soccer in Austin and Houston.  He also played with Austin Aztex when they were in the Premier Development League.  Manneh recently received his citizenship and is now eligible to play for the U.S. National Team.

United Soccer League (USL):

  • San Antonio FC defender Sebastien Ibeagha has been named to the USL Team of the Week. Ibeagha played a pivotal role in the club’s clean sheet and 1-0 win over rivals RGVFC on the road on opening weekend.  Ibeagha recorded 10 total clearances and won two aerial duels while completing 70% of his passes in the victory on Sunday. (sanantoniofc.com)
  • San Antonio FC entered the first-week iteration of the 2017 USL Power Rankings tied for 5th in the 30 team league.  (uslsoccer.com) 
  • This week San Antonio FC announced the creation of the SAFC Community Soccer Network – a newly-launched initiative designed to strengthen engagement between the professional club and the local soccer community.  19 current youth clubs and organizations throughout the South Texas area will initially participate in the network. SAFC will provide network clubs with recognition, website hosting, fundraising opportunities and opportunities to engage with SAFC players. (sanantoniofc.com)

National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL):

The National Women’s Soccer League is a professional league that is organized and operated by US Soccer.  This version of women’s professional soccer has existed since 2012 and is beginning its fifth season this year.  The only Texas team currently in this league is the Houston Dash, which began operation in 2014.  The Dash are owned and operated by the Houston Dynamo and play their games in BBVA Compass Stadium.  The team is currently in preseason and will open its regular season at home on Saturday, April 15. (various sources) 

CONCACAF Champions League:

According to Bleacher Report’s Big D Soccer, FC Dallas has been training in Mexico since Wednesday, ahead of the second-leg of their Champions League semifinal against Pachuca next Tuesday night.  This early arrival will hopefully help acclimatize the team to the high altitude (over 7,900 feet) in Pachuca.  A number of scouts for European soccer clubs are said to be planning to attend the match to observe selected players from both sides.  FCD has the week off from MLS play as their previously scheduled game in Colorado was postponed until October 7.   After the international break, Pachuca will resume play at home against Puebla in the LigaMX Clausura tournament tonight. (various sources)

United States National Teams:

  • The United States tied 1-1 with Panama on Matchday 4 of the Hexagonal Qualifiers last Tuesday night. After completion of this round, the U.S. has 4 points and is ahead of Honduras in fourth place on goal differential.  Six Texas-native or Texas based players played on Tuesday night.  Clint Dempsey and Omar Gonzalez went the full 90 minutes for the U.S. and Dempsey scored their only goal.  FCD’s Kellyn Acosta came in as a second-half substitute for the Americans.  Houston Dynamo’s Panamanian Alfredo Machado played the entire match as a right back and it was his long throw that directly led to Panama’s only goal.  The Dynamo’s Alberth Elis started and went the distance for Honduras in their home draw with Costa Rica. Houston’s Boniek Garcia was substituted on in the second half for Honduras.  FCD defender Maynor Figueroa started and went the distance for Honduras also.  As was suspected, Dynamo Rommel Quioto did not play for Honduras on Tuesday because of a shoulder injury he picked up on Matchday 3 in San Jose, CA a week ago Friday.  (various sources)
  • U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team head coach John Hackworth has called eight players (in addition to the players currently on the U.S. Soccer Residency roster) for a set of international friendlies against Japan in Bradenton, Fla. The matches, which will aid in preparation for the 2017 CONCACAF U-17 Championship, are set to take place on March 19 and March 22.  Three of the U.S. Residency players who are part of this camp are from Texas youth clubs: Blaine Ferri from Dallas Solar Chelsea, Marcelo Palomino from the Houston Dynamo Academy and Bryan Reynolds Jr. from FC Dallas’s Academy program. None of the additional eight players called into camp are from Texas. (ussoccer.com)

Premier Development League:

The Brazos Valley Cavalry (a Dynamo affiliate) announced their first three signings this week.  Former Houston Dynamo Academy players Quayyum Murana, Kevin Rodriguez and Louis Thomas will join the team for their inaugural season starting in June.  Murana is a native of Ibadan, Nigeria and is currently a center back for the University of St. Louis.  Rodriguez, a Pasadena native is a sophomore midfielder for Northern Illinois. Finally, Houston-native centerback Thomas comes to the Brazos Valley from West Virginia University. (houstondynamo.com)

Youth Development:

  • San Antonio is hosting the 2017 USL Experience this weekend, which will convene some of the top players from the Super Y League (SYL) and allow them to experience life as a USL professional.  Seventy two U13 thru 16 boys and girls, after excelling in regional evaluations throughout the season, have been selected to participate in this program. Founded in 1999, the Super Y league was initially led by current SAFC Managing Director Tim Holt, who worked in the USL league office at that time.  (uslsoccer.com)
  • Major League Soccer announced the details for the 2016-17 Generation Adidas Cup to be hosted by FC Dallas in Frisco this year.  This U17 Boys tournament, consisting of 34 total games over 9 days, will be played by 19 MLS Academy and 13 international teams.  Based on results from regional qualifying, MLS Academy teams were slotted into either the top level Champions Division or the Premier Division of this years Adidas Cup.  FC Dallas will play in Group A of the Champions Division and the Houston Dynamo will play in Group D of the Premier Division. International clubs have won the last three championships, with Argentina’s River Plate lifting the Cup in both 2015 and 2016. (mlssoccer.com)
  • On March 21 the Dr Pepper Dallas Cup announced the brackets for the Mens U19 Gordon Jago Super Group, the marquee competition of this prestigious annual tournament.  The Dallas Cup is the oldest international youth soccer tournament (this is the 38th iteration) in the United States and will be played this year from April 9th to April 16th.  Approximately 180 invited boys teams, ranging in age from U13 to U19, will play at fields throughout the Dallas area, including the Cotton Bowl. In addition to the FC Dallas Academy, teams participating in the Super Group include internationally recognized youth programs like Manchester United and Everton of England, Chivas de Guadalajara, Tigres UANL and CF Monterrey of Mexico, Cortiba FC from Brazil, Eintracht Frankfurt from Germany and 2 other MLS Academy clubs. (dallascup.com)

International Soccer in Texas:

As part of their preparation for the CONCACAF 2017 Gold Cup the El Salvador National Team defeated Honduran club side, Olimpia, 1-0 at Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium last Sunday. Salvadorian forward Efrain Burgos scored the game’s only goal in the 25th minute.  Three ex-Dynamo players participated in the match for Olimpia: Carlo Costly, Alexander Lopez and Luis Garrido.  It is great to see Garrido back on the field after the horrible leg injury he suffered in a 2015 World Cup Qualifier against Mexico.

 

MLS Week 5 Preview

After the international break, Houston Dynamo resume the MLS regular season at home against New York Red Bulls.  FC Dallas’s previously scheduled game this weekend has been rescheduled for later this season. The team is now in Mexico preparing for Tuesday nights huge second-leg CONCACAF Champions League semi-final match.

Houston Dynamo vs. New York Red Bulls

BBVA Compass Stadium-7:30 p.m., Saturday April 1

The Dynamo will be attempting to get back on the winning track after losing their first road game of the year in Portland two weeks ago.  The team is facing an injury crisis early in the season.  Forward Rommel Quioto, who has been the best player so far in this young season, will be out two to four weeks with a separated shoulder, suffered in a World Cup Qualifier for Honduras last Friday night.  Additionally, new holding midfielder Juan David Cabezas was declared out of tomorrow’s game because of a concussion he suffered in training this week.  Two other key reserves who have not played as of yet this season, goalkeeper Joe Willis and defender Agus, are also still on the injury list.  Further complicating matters, because starters Alberth Elis and Adolfo Machado played a full match in Qualifiers on Tuesday, Dynamo head coach Wilmer Cabrera stated this week that he is not sure if or how much either will play this weekend.

The Dynamo spent the break working on fixing mistakes identified early in the season and also continuing their work-in-progress implementing the new 4-3-3 formation.

“The coaching staff has been identifying some things that we could do better as we move this along after the Portland game,” said forward Andrew Wenger.  “We’ve just been trying to be a little bit more aggressive in the right areas and possess the ball at certain times.”  Wenger continued on Houston Dynamo.com,  “There has been probably two parts to it, we have been trying to implement some progress on what we are trying to do tactically, awareness-wise and playing-wise. Also, there is a little bit of base for the rest of the season.”

New York Red Bulls (NYRB) have been one of the most successful teams in the MLS Regular Season over the last few years, though they have struggled in the playoffs throughout their history.  They are led by forward Bradley Wright-Phillips, who won the Golden Boot as the leagues top scorer last season.  Wright-Phillips was rewarded with a new lucrative Designated Player contract earlier this week that will keep him with the club for the next few years. United States international Sasha Kljestan, who was a finalist along with Wright-Phillips for MLS Most Valuable Player last season, pulls the strings in midfield for Red Bulls and is a passing machine.

NYRB has struggled a bit this season as coach Jesse Marsch is implementing (at least starting out matches playing) a new 4-2-2-2 formation.  Additionally, key center-midfielder and former FC Dallas player, Dax McCarty, was traded to Chicago in the off-season.  He is being replaced by two promising, but inexperienced, youngsters from their Academy.  The Red Bulls are also trying to work Norwegian international forward Fredrik Gulbrandsen, a recent transfer from Austrian sister-club FC Red Bull Salzburg, into the lineup.

The Red Bulls play a high-pressing style and it will be interesting to see how the Dynamo, who now play a similar style, respond to the challenge of playing this talented side shorthanded.  Despite all of the early season changes in the Red Bulls, they have started 2-1-1, losing only to defending MLS champion Seattle Sounders on the road. NYRB did not take the international week off and, in only one of four MLS matches played during Week 3, finished with a 0-0 home draw against Real Salt Lake last Saturday…a game that will definitely not go down as one of the best in MLS history. New York has certainly been fortunate so far.   The Red Bulls technically have scored four times this year, but they have benefited from the fact that two of these were match winning own-goals against Atlanta and Colorado.

NYRB is 3-4-6 all time when playing in Houston.  The Dynamo wish they had that kind of record when playing NYRB away.   Despite the MLS success Houston experienced from 2006-2012, they never won in New Jersey during those years (or ever for that matter) (0-8-2).  The Red Bulls enter the match relatively healthy, but will likely still be missing Designated Player Argentinian forward Gonzalo Veron who has not played yet this season.