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  • IT'S GETTING HOT IN HERRE: Houston Dynamo may be in last place in the Western Conference, but that standing belies their tremendous homefield advantage. With MLS being a summer league and Houston having an average temperature north of 90°F and an average dew point of 72°F in July and August, it’s just a gross place to play for much of the season. To wit, the last time Houston made the playoffs in 2017, they won only a single road game while absolutely dominating at home with 12 wins, four draws and only one loss. Even in 2019, when they finished 10th in the Western Conference, they pulled 34 points at home — as many as the fifth place LA Galaxy that year. Simply put, even when the Dynamo are not great, they’re at least good at home. This season, 14 of their 19 points have come at home and they’ve needed them, because they and the Chicago Fire are the only two clubs who still have yet to win on the road. MNUFC, however, have yet to win at BBVA Stadium in six tries, setting up a game that might not be pivotal for the Loons’ season, but which carries more weight that it should given the two draws the team had the previous week. A positive result in Houston is hard to come by, and getting all three points this week before the international break would go a long way towards establishing Minnesota’s bona fides heading towards the playoffs.
  • MIND THE GAP: The gap in the Western Conference between the top four teams and the rest of the field is becoming more pronounced. While the New England Revolution are running away with it in the East — where there’s a 15 point gap between their 49 and Orlando’s 34 — only three points separate Seattle at the top from Kansas City in second, and only seven points separate first from fourth place. But then another seven points separate the Galaxy in fourth from Minnesota in fifth, and the Loons are only two points clear of the playoff line at this point. Now that we’re past the midway point of the season, the question is going to increasingly become whether Minnesota can vie for one of those top four home seeds; whether any of the teams ahead of them will fall off; and whether any of the teams behind them can get hot and overtake them. Minnesota’s remaining opponents have won 53% of their games, giving them the second toughest remaining strength of schedule behind the Sounders. The good news is that both the Rapids and SKC’s remaining opponents have won 52% of their games, while the bad news is that teams behind MNUFC including the Quakes, the Timbers and RSL are facing teams with an overall losing record for the rest of the season. In short, as Head Coach Adrian Heath has often said, “It gets no easier.”
  • SING TO ME OF THE MAN, MUSE: The legend of Dylan Wolpers begins in June of 2018 at a U.S. Open Cup game between Minnesota United and the Houston Dynamo. Dylan was turning 26 that day, and his girlfriend got the Dynamo to put up a happy birthday message on the big board at BBVA Stadium. The message was supposed to be on the board for mere seconds, but it stayed for more than a minute and — unbeknownst to fans in Houston — was broadcast on Minnesota’s livestream of the game, taking over the picture while the commentary continues underneath. It was exactly the kind of weird and funky mishap that soccer fans love and quickly, MNUFC fans started flooding Reddit with birthday wishes to young Wolpers. Since then, games between the two teams have been informally christened as the Dylan Wolpers Derby.

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