If recent history was used to determine who advances in the playoffs, then this matchup would be no contest as the New York Red Bulls own the Houston Dynamo. On May 31, 2008, Houston beat New York 1-0 on a Brian Ching goal in the 67th minute. Since that match, Houston has only won once against the Red Bulls.
The task this weekend will not be any easier, as Houston manager Dominic Kinnear was suspended for the first leg of this series due to the melee that occurred towards the end of the knockout round match with Montreal Impact.
Houston has been on a good run of form recently, having only lost once in their eight matches, but who was that loss to? You guessed it, New York. In fact, their last two losses have been to New York by a combined score of 7-1, and both of those matches were played in Houston.
For Houston to have any chance at either match in this series, they will need to play very well defensively and limit New York’s scoring chances. In every match that Houston has given up two or more goals in this season, they have lost, so it will be critical for them to shut down the high flying Red Bulls’ offense.
Shutting down that New York attack is much easier said than done, and if anybody understands this, it is Houston. New York has scored nine goals against Houston in three matches this season with eight different goal scorers.
New York comes into this playoff series flying high, having just won their first piece of hardware, and their fans are hungry for more. They are riding an eight game unbeaten streak in which they’ve outscored opponents 20-7, and have only lost two matches since Independence Day.
With their balanced scoring attack and brick wall-like defense, New York is primed and ready for a run at the MLS Cup. Injuries and card accumulations are two factors that could deter a title run, but the biggest issue for New York has been closing out matches. If the match is close late, it could swing the momentum over to Houston, as New York has given up 17 goals in the last 15 minutes of matches.
Houston Dynamo will host the New York Red Bulls in Leg 1 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals at BBVA Compass Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 3. Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m. ET and the match can be seen nationally on NBC.
First Leg Prediction: New York Red Bulls 2, Houston Dynamo 0
I don’t see this match finishing any other way than a New York win. Houston’s lack of success against New York this season, and the lack of their manager will show in this match. Unless Tally Hall and the Dynamo defense play absolute mistake-free soccer, there is no way that Houston gets a result to make the second leg interesting.