Preview | #HOUvMIN


Houston Dynamo FC vs Minnesota United FC

Shell Energy Stadium | Houston, Texas

07.12.2023 | MLS Matchday No. 24 | MLS Game No. 22

7:30 p.m. CT (AppleTV - MLS Season Pass, 1500 ESPN)

Hello, birdwatchers, the latest outing to the wilds of Allianz Field was a bit of a doozy. If you had your binoculars focused on the match, you would’ve seen the appearance of new Loons, some great offensive moments, and the frustration of dropping points to a resurgent Austin FC after those moments failed to produce goals. In the beginning of the game, MNUFC looked very much like a team on the rise. The strong showing against Portland had the Loons full of confidence, but as the minutes ticked by, and missed opportunities multiplied, the momentum swung in favor of El Tree. Now, the lads are back at square one and looking to build again against Houston Dynamo FC – a team that is sitting three spots ahead in the Western Conference despite having run into a recent rough patch of their own. 

Minnesota United

Run of Form: D-L-D-W-L

What can be said that hasn’t been already? Minnesota United has a talented team. There are moments of brilliance that can be seen from the squad, but the difficulty comes in consistently capitalizing on them. Emanuel Reynoso is always creating opportunities in his #10 role, Bongokuhle Hlongwane and Sang Bin Jeong can outrun anybody on the wings, and the defense is often very difficult to break down. With the addition of Teemu Pukki and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, the attack has added more weapons to its arsenal. All the pieces are there, and especially with the new Loons, MNUFC has everything it needs to make a midseason resurgence; they just need to go do it.

Houston Dynamo

Run of Form: W-W-L-L-D

Houston Dynamo went from comfortably defeating LAFC and San Jose, to losing 3-0 to Austin FC and 1-0 to Seattle Sounders, before playing to a 2-2 home draw against Sporting Kansas City. Trips to Austin and Seattle are certainly tall tasks, but nonetheless, after three winless matches, Houston will be looking to bring the heat for their home crowd and find their winning form once more. All-Star and captain Héctor Herrera is a force in the midfield, leading the team with a whopping nine assists and creating many of their opportunities. Center midfielder Amine Bassi is at the front of the pack with eight goals under his belt, and will be another major player to keep eyes on.

Keys to the Match:

Champing at the Bit

Both squads enter this match desperately looking for a resurgence. That type of urgency usually leads to chippier and more intense matchups. There is a high possibility of hard hits, aggressive play, and maybe even some cards being doled out. Since nobody wants to go down to ten men or add to yellow card accumulation, both sides will have to be careful to channel that aggression into the right areas. This is also where depth comes into play. As yellows accumulate and exhaustion takes its toll, subs will no doubt need to be made. Things are looking good for Minnesota in that department as new signings and returned players means the MNUFC roster will be stacked with contributors who can step in at any time and add to the match – DiBassy, Pukki, Tajouri-Shradi, and Rosales are just a few additional pieces getting added to the mix.

Midfield Madness

Both Minnesota United and Houston Dynamo FC generate a lot of dangerous plays through their center midfield. Herrera on the Houston side and Reynoso on the Minnesota side are big creators for their respective teams, and this game could very well be won or lost from the center. The Loons are great at forcing turnovers, which will certainly help them against an onslaught up the middle, but distribution needs to be quick to keep the ball away from the feet of Houston’s biggest weapons – Herrera and Bassi (both midfielders). Playing up the wings could be very successful as well, utilizing MNUFC’s speed to bypass the Houston center and thread the ball into dangerous areas. 

New Faces

Teemu Pukki and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi made their MNUFC debut’s last Saturday against Austin. Coming in when the team is down three goals is never an easy feat, but both players performed admirably in a hectic environment with a team they have barely acclimated to. This writer was impressed with the shift they put in and is excited to think about what they will do under better circumstances. It is clear that Minnesota United has signed some certified ballers to their roster, and for a team that has struggled to put away chances, these two may be the key to consistent success in the attack.