One week after resurrecting their season with a massive win in Vancouver, the Portland Timbers make one of the toughest trips in MLS — down to Texas to face a Houston Dynamo team that hasn't lost at home all season (5:00 p.m., TV on ROOT Sports).
The new-look Dynamo have been ruthless at home in 2017 — outscoring opponents 30-9 and dropping just four points along the way. The Timbers, however reinforced, have a daunting task ahead of them.
No mater how bad the Dynamo were under Owen Coyle and Wade Barrett over the last two seasons, they could always be counted upon to crush the Timbers in Texas.
Last September, the last time the Timbers visited Houston, the last-place Dyanmo won a 3-1 walkover behind a hat-trick from striker Mauro Manotas. Portland's May 2016 trip to Houston went similarly poorly, with the Dyanmo winning that meeting by the same 3-1 scoreline.
All in all, this series has been good to the home team. The Timbers has never won a game in Houston, while the Dynamo are winless in their last five in Portland since knocking the expansion Timbers out of playoff contention in their 2011 Jeld-Wen Field finale.
But the predictability of its results has not compromised this series' ability to entertain. The Timbers and Dynamo have combined for 29 goals in their last seven meetings — and this year, the two clubs are jointly lead the Western Conference in goals scored.
After winning in Vancouver last weekend with more than half of their first-team players unavailable, the Timbers should be at something more closely resembling full strength on Saturday.
The end of the Gold Cup means the return of Darlington Nagbe, David Guzman, Alvas Powell, and Darren Mattocks, while Fanendo Adi and Victor Arboleda will be available after serving suspensions last weekend and Vytas could be set to return from a hamstring problem that has held him out of action since the beginning of the month.
Adi should slot right back into the starting lineup — despite Jeremy Ebobisse's strong showing in Vancouver — as will David Guzman for Ben Zemanski. Vytas, if he's fit, will take Lawrence Olum out of the lineup with
Roy Miller moving back into central defense. If he's not fit, the backline will remain unchanged.
Nagbe, Powell, and Mattocks all started the Gold Cup Final on Wednesday night, and of that trio, Nagbe is the only player who could be in line to start on Saturday — especially if Dairon Asprilla's calf injury keeps holds him out action.
Fatigue could also be an issue. Houston in the summer is a miserable proposition for the freshest of teams — and the Timbers, as we know, are not that. Portland faded badly in the second half in both of their last two trips to BBVA, and that has to be a concern of Caleb Porter's going into Saturday night.
With that — and Houston's lethal transition game — in mind, Porter may decide to approach this game rather conservatively. The Timbers won a shootout against the Dynamo at home in March, but they won't win a similarly up-and-down affair in Houston in July.
90 - Gleeson
7 - Miller
13 - Olum
33 - Mabiala
16 - Valentin
21 - Chara
20 - Guzman
6 - Nagbe
8 - Valeri (C)
10 - Blanco
9 - Adi
Houston has been dominant at home this season, and the conditions on Saturday night — 96 and humid — will play right into their hands. Dynamo win 3-1.