A preview of Thursday night's contest.On Form
Salt Lake: RSL are brimming with confidence after dismantling San Jose on the road in their season opener. No doubt this team believes they can beat anyone right now. The fact that they scored three goals on 12 shots spells bad news for their opponents - converting shots into goals was Real's Achilles' Heel in 2009. If they keep converting at this rate, look out. Also, Javier Morales is the hottest player in MLS at the moment. Houston will need to keep an eye on him every second.
Houston: Houston's 1-1 draw in Frisco over the weekend might of been a touch disappointing for fans but the reality is, a point on the road against a rival in the season opener is never a bad thing. Sure there were some issues and an injury, but most MLS teams begin the season looking a bit rusty. Basically, don't panic. Mike Chabala had a man of the match performance on Saturday, scoring the lone Houston goal and causing all sorts of problems on the left side for Dallas. He certainly secured the starting left back position with his play and makes the Dynamo more dangerous with his ability to get involved in the attack.
Salt Lake: There are plenty of questions on defense. Salt Lake were actually out-shot by San Jose last weekend, a rare occurrence for this team whether they win or lose. Injuries to both center backs - Nat Borchers and Jamison Olave - threaten to make a questionable situation even worse. Backup Rauwshan McKenzie is capable, but he is not at the same level as Borchers or Olave. This isn't a good time for RSL to be playing on four days rest.
Houston: The offense wasn't clicking on Saturday. Brian Ching had a quiet match against Dallas but you know he'll come around shortly. Dominic Oduro continues to split opinions between his supporters who like his pace and how he can stretch a defense and his detractors who point out he can't consistently finish. Luis Angel Landin was a late match sub and had a brilliant chance off a cross that he sent over the cross bar. Until Cam Weaver is healthy, it seems Kinnear will be content to start Oduro and bring on Landin late.
Salt Lake: Depending on the extent of the injuries, RSL should trot out the same lineup as last week - no reason to mess with what's working. But they will likely try to get star forward Robbie Findley more involved by playing a little more directly. Findley has been slowed by an injury, but he still has speed to burn and RSL will look to exploit that more in Houston.
Houston: Do we even need to write this section for Houston? The 4-4-2 will be in full effect with Ching and Oduro up front. Expect the midfield alignment to stay the same unless Kinnear decides to debut Lovel Palmer or Adrian Serioux in a defensive mid role to help deal with the dangerous RSL attack. Geoff Cameron is still getting comfortable in his new role but he showed promise at times and will only get better as the weeks go by. Ryan Cochrane will likely start in the middle next to Bobby Boswell with Eddie Robinson out after straining his hamstring against Dallas.
Salt Lake: In their last four road/neutral games dating back to last season, RSL are an impressive 2-0-2 after 90 minutes. Could they have unlocked the secret to winning on the road? It's too early to say, but the trend is certainly positive. And if the players are feeling overly confident about their current form, head coach Jason Kreis will put a quick stop to that.
Houston: Robertson Stadium. It's the home opener, it's a national TV game, the stands will be packed with Dynamo fans ready to cheer their side on to victory. The Dynamo have never lost a home opener in Houston and it helps when you have a tremendous home field advantage. That said, the above average number of home draws last season likely cost Houston home field in the Western Conference Final, so getting off to a good start against RSL will be key.
Salt Lake: Real Salt Lake 1-1 Houston Dynamo (Findley, Oduro) - Real's offense is clicking and Morales is on fire, scoring two scintillating goals last week. But Houston is not San Jose (although ironically, they literally were San Jose a few years ago), and RSL will encounter much more resistance this time around.
Houston: This will be a tough one for Houston. RSL may have been the best looking team in Week One and their multiple attacking options will test the Dynamo back line. Despite that, the offense will bounce back and give the Dynamo a 2-1 victory. This match should be an excellent gauge of just how far along these two clubs are.
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