Coming off of their 4-0 friendly win against Everton and riding a five league game unbeaten run, Minnesota United will be trading the North Star for the Lone Star this weekend as they take on Houston Dynamo FC. Just 6 points separate these two in the Western Conference standings, but MNUFC sit in fourth position while Houston remains below playoff qualification in eleventh. Will the Loons keep their run-of-form going, or will the Houston heat prove to be too much for them?
The Occasion: MLS Week 21; Game No. 22; Road Game No. 11
The Opponent: Houston Dynamo FC
In a fixture that has been played 15 times, MNUFC has the edge with a record of 6-5-4 against the Dynamo. Though they haven’t played yet this season, Saturday's game will be the first of two meetings, with the next coming on August 27. These are familiar foes, but new faces and rising stars will be writing the headlines leading up to this edition of the matchup.
Their Run of Form: L-L-D-L-W
Week 16 – 1-2 L at Portland Timbers (goal from Darwin Quintero)
Week 17 – 1-2 L vs. Charlotte FC (goal from Fafà Picault)
Week 18 – 2-2 D vs. FC Dallas (goals from Thorleifur Úlfarsson and Teenage Hadebe)
Week 19 – 1-3 L at Austin FC (goal from Adalberto Carrasquilla)
Week 20 – 2-1 W at San Jose Earthquakes (goals from Sebastián Ferreira and Thorleifur Úlfarsson)
Four points in their last five games is not a great look for the Dynamo. While they have managed to score in each of their last five, they have also allowed at least two goals every time. Despite playing against teams that are around them in the table, Houston has been unable to get the results they need recently. However, the addition of Mexican international Héctor Herrera from Atletico Madrid did provide enough of a spark to earn them a road win in San Jose. A win is a win, no matter who it’s against.
In the 2021 season, Minnesota United played Houston a total of three times: twice at Allianz Field and once at PNC Stadium. In each game, the Loons scored twice, while Houston only managed a single goal across the lot of them. In short, Minnesota dominated the Dynamo last season.
The first match saw Robin Lod score a rebound from a Wil Trapp laser to put the Loons up 1-0 at half. A few close calls gave Houston hope, but nothing ultimately found the back of the net for the Dynamo. Defender Brent Kallman iced the game in the 71st minute off a corner kick, capping off an exciting back-and-forth game.
When next they met, it was Minnesota United who found themselves on the road. Houston seemed to be ready this time, as a goal in the first minute of play from Adalberto Carrasquilla immediately put the home team up 1-0. However, this start turned out not to be a sign of things to come, as an Adrien Hunou brace ended up tipping the scales back in favor of the Loons. A final score of 2-1 sent all three points back up north.
In their final meeting, MNUFC decided that they wanted to show Houston how to manage an early lead. Like Houston did in the previous match, the Loons found the back of the net in the first minute of play via Robin Lod. This time, the early goal scorers kept pushing, as Ethan Finlay got the second goal in the 17th minute. While the game kept its intrigue and had plenty of exciting moments, it ultimately ended in a 2-1 victory for the Loons.
That was then, this is now
In 2005, MLS decided to move the original San Jose Earthquakes to Space City. With a new brand and completely new club identity, the Houston Dynamo began playing at Robertson Stadium in the 2006 MLS season. Evidently, the Texas weather suited them, as they went on to win MLS Cup in each of their first two seasons of existence (’06, ’07). Since then, they haven’t managed to capture another championship, though they finished as runners-up in 2011 and 2012.
Recently, though, things have been different. Since 2014, Houston has only managed to make the playoffs once. Though they made it to the conference final that year, it turned out to be a blip in an otherwise abysmal stretch. In that same span, they finished last in the conference on three occasions, including each of the last two years. If the Dynamo want to see the glory days come back around, something needs to change. Fans will be hoping that new signing Héctor Herrera can be the start of something better.
In the history of the team, talented players like Dwayne De Rosario, DeMarcus Beasley, Brad Davis, and many more have played for Houston’s MLS outfit. One notable name on their current roster should be familiar to Loons fans, as former MNUFC player Darwin Quintero has been with the Dynamo since the 2020 season. In two seasons in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Quintero made 57 appearances, scoring 27 goals for the club. He is currently Minnesota United’s all-time top goal scorer, though midfielder Robin Lod is just one goal behind him.
This season, Quintero has been leading the way for Houston’s attack, along with Paraguayan DP Sebastián Ferreira. The two of them have tallied seven goals thus far and will likely be the MNUFC defense’s biggest problems on Saturday. In addition to Ferreira and Quintero, Icelandic winger Thorleifur Úlfarsson has played in all 21 games this year, adding four goals for the team.
To fill out the front-line, Houston typically employs right-winger Fafà Picault. MLS fans should be well acquainted with Picault by now, as he has played in the league since 2017 for three different teams. Across his stints with the Union, FC Dallas, and Houston, he has accumulated 38 MLS goals.
Just behind the forward line, midfielder Adalberto Carrasquilla offers a spark, chipping in two goals this year. We will likely see Carrasquilla start with Mexican international Héctor Herrera and Matías Vera in the midfield this weekend. If they continue to use the 4-3-3 formation that earned them the win against San Jose, expect Vera to be most involved in the attack, with the other two providing cover and attempting to control the middle of the pitch.
In the back, Houston has their final Designated Player, Teenage Hadebe. The Zimbabwe international center back has paired most often with Tim Parker to be the foundation of the Dynamo’s defense. While they have allowed 29 goals in 21 games, this isn’t too far off of the league average.
In the fullback positions, Adam Lundqvist has played 20 of the teams 21 games at left-back, while the right side has been filled by either Zeca or Griffin Dorsey. Regardless of the lineup, Houston doesn’t get a ton of production from their right-back, while Lundqvist has contributed a team high five assists.
The final piece is MLS veteran Steve Clark in net. Clark has played for four MLS teams in his career, as well as teams in Norway and Denmark. He provides an experienced, steady voice from the goal.
The Western Conference is very tight right now. With the season getting shorter and shorter with each passing game, every point is becoming increasingly important. While Houston is just three spots above the bottom, they aren’t dead yet. Héctor Herrera has brought UEFA Champions League pedigree to their midfield, providing a needed boost for a team with everything on the line. Saturday’s matchup is sure to be a real firecracker, as MNUFC tries to keep Houston from starting a late playoff surge.
Minnesota United FC v. Houston Dynamo FC
PNC Stadium | Houston, Texas
07.23.22 | MLS Game 22
7:30 pm CT (MLS Live on ESPN+, Bally Sports North EXTRA and 1500 ESPN)