Looking to shore up their defense and run their home unbeaten streak to eight matches, Atlanta United attempt to exploit a struggling Houston Dynamo squad Wednesday night in an MLS interconference matchup.
The Five Stripes (9-3-8) have conceded 10 goals in their last three league matches, during which they have claimed just one point. The reigning MLS Cup champions had two costly breakdowns in the second half Sunday against Seattle, one in which Miles Robinson was bamboozled by Raul Ruidiaz in the 58th minute and a second 13 minutes later as Harry Shipp was left unmarked to meet a cross from close range to consign Atlanta to a 2-1 defeat.
“In the end we made a mistake and conceded the game to them,” coach Frank de Boer said. “It was quite frustrating because I can’t say we played bad. We had our opportunities. I really had a feeling that we were into the game. Very disappointed, of course, with the result because we had to get a minimum of one point out of this game.”
Josef Martinez had pulled Atlanta level on 65 minutes, heading home a Pity Martinez corner from six yards straight on. Whatever had been brewing between de Boer and Pity Martinez during the week was clearly defused as the Argentine had a solid match and had a goal disallowed for being marginally offside.
De Boer will need to make two changes on the back line, both at wide backs. Brek Shea will miss the rest of the season after tearing his ACL and suffering meniscus tears and other damage to his right knee Sunday. Right back Franco Escobar, meanwhile, must serve a one-match suspension for yellow card accumulation.
Atlanta had a six-match home winning streak end in its last match at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, a 3-3 draw versus the Red Bulls on July 7, but Brad Guzan knows his team cannot simply rest on its laurels and dominance at home to shake this funk.
“Whatever you want to call this – we need to find a way because it is not bad luck, it is not just one-off games,” the keeper said. “Another day, they could have had a few more. The second half they hit the outside post. First half they get behind us once or twice. It is certainly not bad luck, it is certainly not bad karma. It is down to us and we need to be better.”
Houston (8-3-8), though, will find Atlanta not the most inviting place to end a seven-match road losing streak and a run in which the Dynamo have four points in eight matches overall (1-1-6). The Dynamo suffered a 3-1 home loss to Los Angeles FC on Friday night, the match turning on a first-half stoppage goal by Adama Diomande, who struck again four minutes after the restart for the go-ahead marker.
“I think the first half we were very good and had enough chances to put the game away,” Dynamo coach Wilmer Cabrera told the Houston Chronicle. “We didn’t do it and with these types of teams that have some very good quality you have to take advantage of the opportunity.”
Romell Quioto gave Houston a 1-0 lead in the third minute, but the Dynamo have failed to find themselves on the front foot early during their road struggles. They have led for just 26 minutes in those seven road defeats and been outscored 15-4 in those matches.
The home team has recorded lopsided victories in both meetings, with Houston rolling 4-0 last year as Andrew Wenger, Philippe Senderos, Mauro Manotas and Darwin Ceren all scored in the first half. Atlanta won the first matchup 4-1 in 2017.
(Franco Escobar photo courtesy Atlanta United FC official Twitter account)