Late last night, the Portland Timbers learned their Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs Western Conference Semifinal opponent.
On Monday (6:30pm PT, FS1), the Timbers will play the Houston Dynamo in the first leg of the two-leg semifinals. That match will be on the road at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, with the return leg at Providence Park on Sunday, November 5.
Ahead of Monday's match, Timbers.com takes a look at this Dynamo team: its 2017 season, its record against the Timbers, its roster, and its form.
Monday's match will be the first-ever time that these two teams have met in the MLS Cup Playoffs. Previously, the Timbers and Dynamo have met 12 times since the 2011 season, with the two teams going 4-4-4.
In 2017, the Timbers went 1-0-1 in their two matches against the Dynamo. In the first of those, the Timbers came back from a 2-1 deficit at home to defeat the Dynamo 4-2 behind a brace from midfielder Diego Valeri. In July, the Timbers held on for a 2-2 road draw. That result means that the Timbers are currently unbeaten in five of their last six matches against the Dynamo.
The Dynamo are led in defense by long-time U.S. Men's National Team fullback DaMarcus Beasley. The 35 year-old Beasley, who joined the Dynamo in July 2014, has anchored a backline that's recently suffered through absence and injury (particularly the loss of AJ DeLaGarza for the rest of the 2017 campaign). Beasley is aided by goalkeeper Tyler Deric, whose late-season heroics ensured the Dynamo its first trip to the MLS Cup Playoffs since 2013.
Shielding Deric and the rest of the Dynamo back line is veteran defensive midfielder Ricardo Clark. Clark, who's been with the Dynamo since its first season in Houston in 2006, is the team's captain and engine. Now in his 13th MLS season, Clark is always in the thick of things, breaking up opposing attacks, circulating the ball through midfield, and even chirping in the referee's ear when necessary.
Up top, the Dynamo feature a trio of potent young attackers: 21 year-old Alberth Elis, 28 year-old Alex, and 24 year-old Erick “Cubo” Torres. Torres and Elis – who scored the team's game-winner in extra time against Sporting Kansas City – combined for 24 goals during the 2017 season.
Thursday night's extra time victory over fifth-seeded Sporting Kansas City has given the Dynamo a 4-0-3 record in its last seven matches. This current run of form comes after a summer in which the Dynamo failed to string together any consistent results and in which the Dynamo often went months with fewer than one or two wins.
2017 IN REVIEW
After finishing the 2016 season at the bottom of the Western Conference standings, the Dynamo surprised many by beginning the 2017 regular season with a 6-3-1 record in its first ten matches. The team, now under the leadership of new head coach Wilmer Cabrera, averaged over two goals a game in that span and demonstrated an attacking flair that caught many opponents by surprise. However, after such a strong start, the Dynamo then won just one match in all of May and June and just two in August and September, at times falling as far as sixth-place in the Western Conference.
However, positive results in September and October, combined with the erratic form of mid-table rivals the San Jose Earthquakes, FC Dallas, and Sporting Kansas City, kept Houston well above the playoff line, with the Dynamo ultimately finishing the season in fourth-place in the West.
Houston was particularly strong at home this season; its 12 wins at BBVA Compass Stadium was good for the most at home by any Western Conference team. By contrast, the team's record of 1-9-7 away from Houston is the worst of any Western Conference playoff team.