On Sunday, both the Houston Dynamo and Montreal Impact slid into Major League Soccer’s playoffs on the last day of the season. Now, as the fourth and fifth seeds in the Eastern Conference, they will face each other in the dreaded one-off play-in game.
The match will take place in Houston, courtesy of the Dynamo’s higher finish in the standings and will kick off on Thursday at 8:30 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network.
Here is breakdown of the matchup.
The Houston Dynamo, despite their lowly finish in the standings, are still a team to be feared in the playoffs. Last season, the Dynamo finished in fifth place in the Eastern Conference before dispatching the Fire in the play-in game in Chicago, top-seed Sporting Kansas City in the conference semifinals and D.C. United in the conference finals.
While the Dynamo went on to lose to the L.A. Galaxy in the MLS Cup in 2012, it was Houston’s second straight appearance in the league finals and they return a roster full of experience.
Led by Dominic Kinnear, who helped the Dynamo win back-to-back MLS Cups in 2006 and 2007, Houston has more top-to-bottom talent than any other team in the league. Their back line is anchored by goalkeeper Tally Hall and MLS veteran Bobby Boswell, and they have two of the best outside backs in the league in Corey Ashe and Kofi Sarkodie.
Their midfield is run by MLS stalwart Ricardo Clark, and Houston has two of the best wingers in the league in Brad Davis and Boniek Garcia. The Dynamo front line is led by bruising front-runner Will Bruin.
Maintaining the home-field advantage for the match, Houston is 9-4-4 at home in 2013, but tends to grind out wins at home. Of all MLS playoff teams, Houston has the least number of home goals scored and the worst home goal differential.
Entering the playoffs, the Dynamo are 4-3-3 in their last 10 games. In head-to-head matchups against the Impact, they beat Montreal 1-0 in Houston on October 4, but lost 5-0 in Montreal back in August.
The Montreal Impact literally limped into the playoffs, going 2-6-2 over their last 10 games. Having to win a one-off in Houston is going to be a difficult challenge for Montreal, who are 4-9-4 on the road in 2013 and have the worst road goal differential of any of the five Eastern Conference playoff teams.
The ace up Montreal’s sleeve, however, is 20-goal scorer and MVP candidate Marco Di Vaio.
Di Vaio is one of the most feared forwards in the league and has the ability to take a game by the throat and win it himself.
The big question for Montreal is whether or not they can reverse the form that had them in danger of not even making the playoffs. When the Impact played on Saturday, they knew they needed a win to guarantee themselves a spot in the playoffs. But despite playing lowly Toronto, they couldn’t get the job done and lost 1-0, thereby relying on other results to keep them alive.
Earlier this season, the Impact were one of the most feared teams in the league. They will need to recapture that form if they are going to pick up a victory in this must-win playoff game in Houston on Thursday.
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