The Seattle Sounders can clinch a postseason berth tomorrow at the Houston Dynamo. All three points in the Bayou City would finally put the summer slog behind us and allow the Sounders to focus on the ultimate prize, MLS Cup.
This match should be a gimme. I repeat, should. Houston has given Seattle trouble in the past, but those were the Dominic Kinnear days, back when this club had championship aspirations. With the coach returning to his former stomping grounds in San Jose, the Dynamo just aren’t very good. First-year coach Owen Coyle’s squad has bumbled through their season with a 1.28 ppg average. Their big offseason acquisition Erick “Cubo” Torres hasn’t been the goal-scoring robot (seewhatIdidthere) the Orange had hoped for.
Torres was supposed to be a coup for MLS. With the dissolution of Chivas USA, the league worked hard to ensure the striker stayed stateside and Houston signed him to a DP contract. It was rightly deserved as Cubo had scored 22 goals in 44 games, or a goal every other game (equal to Oba’s rate entering this season). However, due to loans to Chivas de Guadalajara and the Mexican U23s, Torres has played in just 10 games for the Dynamo. He’s started just twice and has an assist and a lone shot-on-goal during his tenure.
It would’ve been nice to beat up on Houston three times this season. Oh, the joys of the unbalanced schedule. When SKC and the Dynamo joined the Western Conference this offseason, MLS’s infamous schedule got wonkier. Where all Western clubs used to play their Western foes three times, now each plays a select group of three only twice. Houston (along with Dallas and RSL) is one of the opponents we play just twice. It’s nice to avoid a third game with redhot Dallas, but two more games against underwhelming squads would’ve been nice (I wonder what team only had to play L.A., SKC and us twice).
This schedule quirk shouldn’t matter much as the Sounders have been on a tear lately. They haven’t lost a league match since August, going 3-0-3, and have had a lovely two weeks off to rest the wounded. We should finally see a healthy Valdez, Friberg and Marshall complementing an ideal eleven.
Bold Prediction: The wildcard in this match is context. The Sounders know a win and puts them in, while Houston is essentially playing for pride. This dynamic could greatly affect the match
Technically Houston has not yet been eliminated, though their chance at the playoffs is mere mathematical ephemera. IF Houston won today AND next week at Vancouver AND BOTH San Jose and Portland lost their remaining games THEN Houston, Portland and San Jose would all be tied at 47 points. The first tiebreaker is wins, and all three would be tied with 13. The next tiebreaker is goal differential and Houston is currently tied with Portland at -4 and trails San Jose (currently at +3). THEREFORE Houston needs to win both games big, San Jose needs to loss its final game big, and Portland just has to lose twice. Yeah, Houston is still in the playoffs but… no.
With a healthy Seattle squad playing for a berth to extend their playoff streak to 7 straight years and Houston bumbling down the wire, the win is an easy one. 3-1, Sounders.