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Match Preview: Whitecaps @ Houston Dynamo

Vancouver aims to end their “Forever O-fer” in Space City as the Whitecaps square off this weekend against the Houston Dynamo

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Houston Dynamo Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off their season opening defeat of Montreal, the Vancouver Whitecaps (1-0-0) head deep into Texas for their first away match of the season against the Houston Dynamo (1-0-0).

Match Information

Where: BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, TX

When: Saturday, March 10th at 3 pm PST

How: TSN1, TSN4 (TV); TSN 1040 (Radio); MLS Live (Internet)

The Whitecaps got the 2018 campaign off to the right start last week. Contrary to last season’s peculiar and sometimes derided “Sit Back & Wait For Deadballs” style of play, Vancouver instead consistently pressed and pressured the Impact into conceding goals from Kei Kamara (his first for the Whitecaps) and Alphonso Davies (his first in the MLS!), before having to defend the worst possible lead in soccer and holding on for the 2-1 win.

While Vancouver’s style was certainly unexpected, the Dynamo also defied expectation in their own way, by soundly throttling high flying Atlanta United by a score of 4-0, with goals from Andrew Wenger, Philippe Senderos, Mauro Manotas, and Darwin Ceren.

In 2017, Vancouver and Houston split their two matches, with the home side winning both times 2-1. Overall, Vancouver are 6-4-1 when facing the Dynamo, but are 0-4-1 when having to travel to Houston.

Who’s Available?

Though neither club will be absent players due to suspension, both will be forced to deal with various injuries.

While A.J. De la Garza (torn left ACL) and George Malki (concussion) continue to be unavailable for Houston, the club are left to deal with the inactive Juan David Cabezas, who suffered a quadriceps injury early on in last week’s defeat of Atlanta United.

For the Whitecaps, Aly Ghazal and Doneil Henry will both be unavailable due to their respective left hamstring strains, while defender Brett Levis is recovering no longer appears on the MLS Injury Report, though is uncertain to make the bench this weekend.

Who’s Worth Watching?

Alberth Elis & Marcel de Jong

Houston’s thorough thrashing of Atlanta demonstrated how capable the Dynamo are at moving the ball through the center of the park, but that doesn’t mean the Whitecaps should simply ignore the speed and dynamism of a player like Alberth Elis. After all, he did finish last week with two assists and three shots on net. In years past, it was wingbacks like DaMarcus Beasley that proved dangerous for the Whitecaps and Elis will likely do the same, only starting further up field.

Vancouver shouldn’t be as fragile up the middle as Atlanta was in Week 1 (though the Waston/Maund pairing will need to put in a full 90 this time around), meaning the Dynamo game plan may be to attack the wingbacks, namely Elis’ likely adversary for the afternoon, Marcel de Jong, who will have to keep the action to the sideline and rely on his centerbacks to clear out the threats in the air.

Who’s Going to Win?

The club is having no qualms in reminding the general public that the Whitecaps have been fairly successful on the road for the past few years. And why shouldn’t they? The numbers speak for themselves.

Well, those general, overall numbers do. The data specific to this weekend’s match-up paints a different, orange-hued picture: zero wins, four losses, and one tie from five Whitecaps visits to Houston since joining the MLS, with the club scoring only three goals while conceding 12(!).

I’m all for positivity and optimism given Vancouver’s recent road record, particularly in Texas after last season’s 4-0 pummeling of FC Dallas. But credit needs to be given to Houston parlaying last season’s strong finish into the start of 2018, which leads me to believe the Dynamo will take Saturday’s match, 2-1.

Potential Lineups:

Vancouver Whitecaps - Marinovic; Nerwinski, Waston, Maund, de Jong; Juarez, Teibert; Techera, Reyna, Davies; Kamara.

Houston Dynamo - Seitz; K. Garcia, Machado, Senderos, Beasley; Alexander, Ceren; Elis, B. Garcia, Wenger; Manotas.

Officials:

Referee: Ted Unkel; AR1: Jeffrey Greeson; AR2: Cameron Blanchard; 4th: Marcos Deoliveira; VAR: Ricardo Salazar.