Fresh off a scoreless draw in which D.C. United were able to fend off the third most shots in MLS history (35), Ben Olsen’s men head to the Lone Star State in search of another positive result against the Houston Dynamo on Saturday night. The Black-and-Red will face another stiff test at the back when they line up opposite of one of the league’s most electrifying attacks
The Dynamo have been quietly taking care of business in the Western Conference and currently occupy fourth place. They have secured 20 points to start the season, compared to D.C.’s 24, while playing three fewer matches to this point. It will be interesting to see who Olsen elects to face the men in orange, given the wholesale changes he made in the previous midweek match. Only four regulars saw action from the opening whistle in Toronto, and a return to the three-man back line with Steve Birnbaum, Jalen Robinson, and Fred Brillant worked to perfection.
The offensive tandem of Mauro Manotas and Alberth Elis have propelled Houston to their solid 6-2-2 start. Manotas has found the back of the net on six occasions, while adding four assists. Meanwhile, Elis has takes top spot in assists and is just behind his Colombian teammate with four goals.
Manotas was on the scoresheet once again on Wednesday night against the Portland Timbers, and guess who played provider? You got it.
Prolly shouldn't forget about Mauro in the box ?♂️https://t.co/hBIqIMJsBp— Houston Dynamo (@HoustonDynamo) May 16, 2019
Houston’s well-known ability to turn defense into attack in the blink of an eye and flood numbers forward was on full display two weeks ago in a Texas Derby triumph. FC Dallas were pushed up for a corner and were subsequently punished, as a Tomas Martinez clearance ignited a foray forward that ended in a one-touch Manotas finish.
Nothing has changed with the team’s ability to carve open defenses on the break, but they’ve been able to control games a bit more this season with an increase in average possession to add to their ability to get behind defenders with pace and deliver incisive through balls. Although he has yet to register an assist in 2019, veteran midfielder Boniek Garcia has been instrumental on both ends of the field and is second on the team with 1.6 key passes per game.
Homegrown player Memo Rodriguez lines up on the left side of the attack and had a bright start to 2019 after patiently waiting for playing time over the last couple of seasons. The 23-year-old was ahead of his teammates in the scoring department in the first few weeks with four goals to his name, but he has since cooled off. Head coach Wilmer Cabrera will be hoping he and Martinez, who plays just behind Manotas in midfield, can produce more in front of goal to help take the load off Manotas and Elis.
While Manotas currently leads the way in goals, it’s no secret that Elis is the engine that keeps this team running. The Portland Timbers were the latest team to illustrate the team’s dependence on Eli by limiting his influence just enough to earn a valuable road point. Containing the Honduran is easier said than done, but the teams who have managed to do so have been the ones to take points from the Dynamo. Elis was kept off the score sheet three out of four times in losses to the LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders and stalemates with both Real Salt Lake and Portland.
While chances are D.C. United will not face a near-record shots again, they will need to show the same composure and organization at the back that helped steal a point in Toronto if they are to stifle another talented front line and escape the pressure-cooker of BBVA Compass Stadium with a result.