Both teams missed the MLS Cup Playoffs in 2016, so the clubs used the offseason to retool in hopes that it returns them both to the postseason.
In the opening game, Crew SC hosted the Chicago Fire and while the team got off to a bright start, ultimately couldn’t keep it together for 90 minutes and settled for a 1-1 draw.
Ethan Finlay opened his account early with a surprising header goal, but a loss of possession in midfield in the second half led directly to David Accam beating his Ghanian countrymen to pull level.
The Dynamo meanwhile welcomed in the defending MLS Cup champions and dispatched of the Seattle Sounders 2-1 in an impressive performance.
New Houston head coach Wilmer Cabrera, employed a three-man front line that pressured the Sounders and didn’t allow them to get into a groove early. Sitting on a 2-0 lead, thanks to goals from forwards Erick Torres and Romell Quioto, the Dynamo sat back and looked to counter as the Sounders pushed forward.
It should be an entertaining affair between these two sides in search of bounce-back seasons. Let’s see what our staff expects from the game.
This game has the potential to be very interesting as both teams will continue to find their identity. Are the Houston Dynamo contenders this season, or was their first match against Seattle a fluke? Can Columbus get a solid performance from Federico Higuain and string together a consistent match throughout the course of 90 minutes? Both clubs had Jekyll and Hyde games last week. Look for them to both come flying out of the gates and taking a lot of shots early. The second half will be key for both teams as they look to close out the game. It wouldn’t surprise me if both the Dynamo and Crew SC take on more defensive formations later on in the game.
Houston Dynamo 1 Columbus Crew SC 1
I think the big story in this week's match will be how Crew SC responds to the Dynamo's defensive pressure. As seen against the Sounders, Houston plays a very press-oriented defense and looks to play very aggressive on the counter. This sharply polarizes Gregg Berhalter's style. While we saw some light pressing against Chicago, offensively the team will look to slow the ball down, retain possession and look to create quality opportunities. Expect Wil Trapp to, at times, drop behind the central defenders to help absorb that pressure. Berhalter's method of "countering" the press is a very passive one, and could cause issues if the team is not very clinical in their passing or their positional movements.
Offensively for Crew SC I expect them to gather a few chances in the match but it will be much more calculated play than that of Houston. Can they come with the pressure? After the showing against the Fire in the second half, it makes me uncertain. If the Dynamo is able to effectively stretch the gap between the defensive and midfield line of Crew SC then they will have many chances on the counter as the Fire did.
Crew SC needs some work in front of net and systematically defending as a team.
Houston Dynamo 3 Columbus Crew SC 2
I think this match, more so than the last one, will tell us a lot about this team in the early portion of the season. The Dynamo did two things well, high press and counter, against the Sounders in week one, both things that have hurt Columbus in the past. Crew SC players and staff talked this week about combating that and are confident in the game plan.
The movement has to be quicker than it was in the second half against the Fire in order to get out of Houston’s press and get the ball up field. I expect the Black & Gold to try and possess and carry through the Dynamo’s early pressure, as it fell off later in the game against Seattle. Wil Trapp worked on shooting from distance this week, a combatant to a compact defense we will likely see at some point.
I think Houston has a lot of firepower this season and think, until they run of gas this summer with their pressure, they will be a good side, especially at home.
Houston Dynamo 2 Columbus Crew SC 1
After last week’s 2016-esque performance, Crew SC visit a Houston team that just defeated Seattle while recording only 36% of possession. Through 1 game, Wilmer Cabrera has Erik Torres playing like it’s 2014 again, and a high press that caused Seattle multiple problems.
The worry for Crew SC is that the season quickly goes the way of 2016, squandering leads and losing matches while dominating the possession. Berhalter made multiple defensive signings to remedy last season’s issues, but costly turnovers and poor finishing continue to plague this team. Hopefully another week of practicing together can build the defensive cohesion necessary to avoid another late game collapse. After falling to old habits in match 1, I think it is important for Crew SC to shake off the cobwebs of 2016 and avoid starting the season in an early hole.
If Crew SC are able to avoid costly turnovers and fouls in dangerous positions, then they should be able to secure their first 3 points of the season.
Columbus Crew SC 2 Houston Dynamo 0
I think this match will be tough treading for a still gelling Crew SC team. Houston pressed Seattle really well, and the Black & Gold struggle under that kind of pressure.
I see Houston harassing Columbus from the opening kick, forcing an early mistake out of a back line and keeper who are still working to get on the same page. After that the Dynamo will settle in to a compact defensive block, cedeing possession and looking to counter. Crew will dominate possession after that but struggle to break down the Dynamo defense. I see Houston picking up a second goal on the counter as Crew SC look to score, followed by a big push from Columbus which gets them a consolation goal.
Houston Dynamo 2 Columbus Crew SC 1
Houston presents a different challenge than years past as Wilmer Cabrera has brought new energy to a team that has struggled with identity and results. This is a team that dominated Seattle with a dynamic attack and a solid defense, offseason changes made an instant impact. Crew SC's new additions are still in an adjustment period and struggled with a dynamic and direct attack, much like what Houston is capable of. That coupled with challenges of playing on the road don’t bode well.
Houston Dynamo 3 Columbus Crew SC 1
Week one was a mixed bag for Columbus, but week two brings an opportunity to leave season-opening rust a little further behind. The problem is Crew SC has to do that on the road against a Houston side that put together one of the more surprising performances of last weekend. The Dynamo looked energized under Wilmer Cabrera. This is MLS, and early-season MLS at that, so it's hard to draw conclusions, but this should be a fair challenge for the Black & Gold. I think they will perform OK, but I'm finding it difficult to bet against the home team, so I think Columbus will have to wait one more week for its first win of the season, and a I think the early buzz for Houston will continue. Also, I'm still waiting for CCSC to show and prove before I feel confident.
Houston Dynamo 2 Columbus Crew SC 1
Following the assumption that Houston’s defense is forced to compact, I think Crew SC dominate possession and create chances from Harrison Afful out-swingers and Justin Meram in-swingers—in typical fashion.
It’ll be difficult to penetrate the 18-yard-box, but Ola Kamara will be a stronger presence this Saturday, honing his positioning and fighting to get on the end of crosses. There could be a temporary switch to some distance shooting, so expect those attempts to take deflections around a congested Dynamo box. Maybe those shots lead to a few opportunities at corners. If that happens, we may get a chance to see Jonathan Menah’s aerial abilities.
Ultimately, I think Crew SC create more chances and one finally pays off. If they can sufficiently button up defense in the dying minutes of the match, I see them taking the win.
Columbus Crew SC 1 Houston Dynamo 0
This week's key word will be "improvement." After picking up in 2017 from where they left off in 2016, will Columbus Crew SC start soccering better against an improved Houston Dynamos in week two? Well, with approximately a 50 percent turnover in starters for Crew SC, improvement is really all we can hope for at this point. The midfield needs to focus on limiting turnovers and pressuring to get the ball back as soon as it's lost. The offense needs to become fully committed to the counter attack. A newly extension signed Justin Meram should be more relaxed. Federico Higuain needs to pace himself. Sadly, I can't see the Crew winning this game.
Columbus Crew SC 1 Houston Dynamo 1
This should be one of those fun games where offenses are supposed to prevail over defenses. On one side, Houston’s Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto can give Harrison Afful and Jukka Raitala a hard time with their pace and skills. On the other, Ethan Finlay and Ola Kamara can have Leonardo and Adolfo Machado on their knees with their speed.
For Crew SC, the key for a good result is controlling the pace of the game. The more the Black & Gold can break the Dynamo's intensity with their possession-oriented game, the better it will be. It is also important that Columbus' back line is composed for the entire match as Houston's offense works better on counter attacks and fast-paced plays.
Columbus Crew SC 2 Houston Dynamo 2
Well Crew SC fans, how do you see this game playing out? Can Columbus leave Houston with a result or will it be another good day for Dynamo?
Let us know in the comment section below.