Here’s the short preview: Houston Dynamo are currently ranked 5th in the Eastern Conference. That said, they’re only 5 points from division leader, New York Red Bulls. Both conferences are really close. But this game doesn’t feel as threatening as the Open Cup match against the Timbers. If the Dynamo was the unstoppable force they were last season, I’d be worried, but sitting comfortably at the middle of the table when RSL has more or less a full A team back and ready for action (with the possible exception of Javier Morales), Wingert and Beltran both back from serving their suspensions, I’d say Real’s chances are pretty good.
Both teams will try to keep possession. That’s what they do. But even when Portland held onto the ball almost 60% of the time on Wednesday, RSL was still able to keep the ball out of the net but for a well-placed header on a rebound by Diego Valeri — a perfect, right-place-right-time shot. At Rio Tinto, the Dynamo haven’t given Real Salt Lake fans much to worry about either, RSL has only lost once against the orange. I’m hoping for a clean, straightforward win. But what do I know. Things don’t always go according to plan, after all.
Having played the midweek Open Cup match, however, means we probably won’t see all of the same starters as Wednesday, and maybe not even the same lineup. Saborio was limping after a heavy tackle about the 60th minute against Portland and played out the rest of the match without running full speed, so I doubt he’ll start. On the other hand, Plata’s been waiting to get the starting nod and did fantastic when he came in, so I’d say it’s likely we see him up top. Plata/Findley? Plata/Garcia? That remains to be seen.
The midfield is likely to get shuffled as well. Javi might play — since he came in late on Wednesday — but he might not. This year, we’ve seen a lot of different faces in the midfield and, for the most part, it hasn’t been too concerning. But with Yordany out, whether or not Beckerman plays will make a big difference — particularly because of the crucial role Kyle plays on the team.
Carlos Salcedo was fantastic on Wednesday. Will he play? Will he rest? I don’t know. All I know is that I hope he gets a start because watching him reminded me what a good centerback looks like. He was consistently aggressive and stopping plays, he was everywhere he needed to be (almost) all of the time.
In the end though, if RSL loses this match, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Portland has a bye week, so they won’t make any advances on RSL’s first place rankings in the west, leaving the challenge to Colorado to knock Real off the top. The Rapids play Chivas which is all but a guaranteed win at this point. Tied for first with our conference rivals could be worse. That’s a worst-case scenario, and I have doubts that the Dynamo could pull off a win at the RioT, even given the potentially depleted RSL squad — more likely each would come away with a point and move on. But, still buzzing from the Open Cup win, I’d be perfectly happy just phoning this one in, so long as RSL manages to lift a trophy in October against DCU.