Next in our series of MLS previews comes the clash between Houston Dynamo and Real Salt Lake taking place at the BBVA Compass Stadium.
Last season saw Real Salt Lake squeeze into the playoffs by just a point ahead of LA Galaxy in 7th – and despite knocking out 3rd place LA FC 3-2, they came undone over two legs against Conference winners, Sporting Kansas City, 5-3 aggregate score. While Houston may have finished someway off of the playoffs, 10 points to be precise, the Dynamos enjoyed silverware success via the US Open Cup which they won 3-0 against Philadelphia Union – and with it secured Champions League football.
And it has been through their participation in the Champions League that Dynamo have been able to show off their talent during the off season; knocking out the Guatemala’s Guastatoya 3-1 on aggregate. Meanwhile, Real Salt Lake have been taking part in the Mobile Mini Sun Cup as their preseason warm-up. Despite starting brightly and beating Phoenix Sun 4-1 in the opening round, Salt Lake went on to lose 2-1 to FC Dallas and then 3-0 to the Timbers in their final match last weekend.
In terms of the Head-to-Head’s between these two, it’s been a while since the Dynamo’s have walked away from this fixture with more than one point, June ’17 to be precise; when they smashed Salt Lake 5-1. Yet, last season Salt Lake achieved a home and away double over their West Conference rivals, both finishing 2-1.
The team news as it stands is that a trio of Allen, Horwath and Silva will all be re-assessed on Saturday with their respective injuries as to whether they’ll be fit enough to feature for Salt Lake in Saturday’s opener. Houston Dynamo seem fully fit for their opener and raring to go following their progress to the quarters in the Champions League.
Prediction: It’s no surprise that Dynamo are seen by the bookies as firm favourites following their off-season successes in the Champions League, and respectively, Salt Lake’s somewhat poor showing in their pre-season cup. Just like the bookies, I can’t see past a Dynamo win here in their home opener and avenge the season double that Salt Lake inflicted upon them last season — a taste of their own medicine for Salt Lake as I expect Dynamo to walk away 2-1 victors from this one.