It has been 126 days since LAFC last played a match. Last time they were on the pitch, the Black & Gold tied Philadelphia in a thrilling 3-3 draw March 8 at Banc of California Stadium. We all know what has transpired since. But on Monday evening, finally – LAFC returns in a Group F showdown against the dangerous Houston Dynamo in the MLS Is Back Tournament.
LAFC defeated Houston twice last season, and remains undefeated against the Dynamo in MLS regular season play with a 3-0-1 record – although Houston did knock LAFC out of the 2018 U.S. Open Cup Semifinals in heartbreaking fashion.
New Houston coach Tab Ramos is looking to re-charge the Dynamo and lead Houston back to the Playoffs for the first time since 2017, although they are off to a rough start in 2020, drawing 1-1 on Feb. 29 vs. the Galaxy and losing 4-0 to Sporting Kansas City on March 7 in their last match.
LAFC VS. HOU | July 13 at 5 PM PT
Where To Watch
TV: FS1, TUDN
RADIO: ESPN app, 980 AM (Spanish)
In recent years, the Dynamo have been known as a dynamic counter-attacking team with dangerous players on the wing, like Albert Elis and Ronell Quioto. This season, Elis remains, but Quioto (15 goals in 72 games with Houston) is gone after a trade to Montreal, and exactly what kind of identity the Dynamo will exhibit under Ramos is still being worked out. The constant with the Dynamo is their explosive attack. Elis, Mauro Manotas, and the newly acquired Darwin Quintero pose one of the most dangerous offensive combinations in the league. A main focus for LAFC will be to contain Manotas – a lethal finisher with good movement.
TAB THE UNKNOWN
In Houston’s first two games under Ramos, the Dynamo appeared to be evolving into more of a pressing team, looking to create high pressure and attempting to develop an effective counter-press. After a long lay-off and playing in the draining Florida humidity, it is anyone’s guess on how Houston will approach their first game back, but LAFC will be ready to deal with the pressure if necessary.
WHAT BOB IS SAYING: “Houston has a talented group of players. Even in the past we’ve always had respect for what those guys were all about. Tab’s teams have always had those type of guys – players that are on the ball and capable of doing special things. In the first two games this year, I saw a mentality that they were a little more committed when they lost the ball to get it back quickly. We certainly know a guy like [Tomas] Martinez in the midfield is a really important player. Up top they are dangerous. We know that when we step on the field our ability to control and deal with their transition will be very important.”
The Black & Gold can exploit the Houston defense in transition. Houston center back Minor Figueroa has played the game at the highest levels, in the English Premier League and internationally, but the converted left back is now 37, and teammate Kiki Struna is nearly 30. Both could have their hands full dealing with the speed and mobility of the young LAFC attack led by Diego Rossi, Bryan Rodriguez, and Latif Blessing, especially if Houston continues to press like they did to open the season. If they do, look for LAFC to focus on exposing the space between the Dynamo midfield and center backs Figueroa and Struna.
HOUSTON CAN WIN IF…
The Dynamo can provide quality service to Manotas. With Ellis, one of the most dangerous players in MLS when healthy, and Quintera on the wings, the Dynamo attack is potent. If the Dynamo concentrate on counter attacks and getting Manotas the ball in dangerous situations, they can pull off the victory.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT:
In their first two games of 2020, Houston only had one starting defender over 6-0 (Kiki Struna). Overall, Houston lacks height, and LAFC has a great opportunity to take advantage on set pieces and corner kicks. If the Black & Gold are able to execute and convert on set pieces – it could be a long night for the Dynamo.