Pre-Match Analysis
by Charles Therrell (DISK DOKTOR)

Greetings to my brothers and sisters in Green. We have come to the point in our MLS Cup journey where we travel to Dowling Street, Houston, Texas, to play multiple personality disorder sufferer (San Jose Earthquakes? San Jose Clash? San Jose Earthquakes? Houston???) and abortive attempt to re-shirt the Honduran national team in orange, Houston Dynamo.

Our title defence is alive and well, thanks to a brace of goals from resurgent chieftain, Clint Dempsey in the steady and insistent Seattle rain. With the Vancouver Whitecaps dispatched, we must travel to face the next challenger, the Creamsicles of Houston.

As always, but particularly now in the Cup, support is vital. Link up with the Green family whether you’ve made the trip to Texas, or marshall support at your mate’s houses, Sounders FC pubs, and such. Make noise, be merry, sing well, and support the lads.

Join me before kick-off in the auld toast: TO THE SEATTLE SOUNDERS FOOTBALL CLUB…AND VICTORY!!!

Really, Houston, San Jose v. 3.0 or whoever you are, Orange and White? In Heaven’s name why? I double dog dare you to defend those colour choices.

The Good News
There’s a chance Morris may be fit enough to play as his injury status has been downgraded from “out” to “questionable”.

Dempsey’s back to his old self, hitting goals as if he were back at Craven Cottage.

Despite our lack of success at Houston, we can be confident that the squad we have now is much stronger than the side that lost 2:1 on matchday one of the league schedule back in March. Credit due to Sounders General Manager, Garth Lagerwey for significantly strengthening the squad in the summer transfer window.

As this is a two-legged cup tie, we don’t have to win at Houston in order to advance to the Final. We have yet to concede a goal in the MLS Cup. That level of stifling defence plus an away goal at Dowling Street could be just what we need to punch our ticket to the Final.

The Bad News
In eight attempts we have not yet managed to win at Houston in the league. We have also never won there in the MLS Cup, though it was only one match in 2009.

Alonso is still listed as out.

Houston is a club of sneaky quality. Just look at the clubs that these guys have played for: Saprissa, Deportivo Cali, River Plate, Arsenal, Chivas of Guadalajara, Monterrey, and Alex was produced by Gremio. Madness, yeh?

Truth be told, the result of this cup tie is bloody difficult to predict. Although there’s plenty of data, the context of cup football generally suggests that most of that can be thrown right into the bin.

Sounders haven’t played against Houston in the MLS Cup since 2009 where we lost on an aggregate score of 1:0 in the MLS Cup Quarter-Finals.

Only Toronto, Chicago, Atlanta United, and Portland scored more goals than Houston’s 57 in the league this year.

Only Toronto and Kansas City conceded fewer goals than Seattle’s 39 in the league this year.

At this time of year, managers keep injury information rather close to the vest. It’s understandable, yet also frustrating if you’re trying to predict a result.

The second leg of the Quarter-Final against Vancouver revealed a reborn Clint Dempsey. His goals were nothing short of magical. Does Houston posses the equal of that? I really don’t think so.

Score Prediction by Metrics
From a sample size of 34 league matches:
(SGF+HGC)/2 : (HGF+SGC)/2= HOU 1.42:1.43 SEA

Analysis of result:
We have played two matches of cup football, and Houston have played three. Neither of those samples are large enough to generate a meaningful statistical model. Therefore, we use the numbers relative to the two sides’ overall performances scoring and defending over the entirety of the league schedule.

The best that I can infer from this statistical result, is that the two sides are evenly matched to the extreme. You could infer that both teams are likely to score at least one goal. You could also say that this cup tie will be decided by the side that makes the fewest critical errors. You would be correct to say that that statement is quite obvious, and could be applied to any match within our parity-happy league. Although narrow margins are common in matches between MLS clubs, the margins are generally not as razor thin as in this specific analysis of Seattle and Houston.

Know Thine Enemy
Goalkeeper –
Willis, 29, is a domestic product developed by Denver (NCAA). Saw limited playing time with Houston this year playing in only eight league matches. During his seven-year MLS career, he has compiled 60 matches of MLS experience with 11 clean sheets. Won the US Open Cup with DC United in 2013.

Defence –
Remick, 25, developed by Brown (NCAA), was a former Sounder (see below) for four seasons. He moved to Houston this season on a free transfer. He’s played 14 times for his new club this season. He has 58 matches of MLS experience in his career.

Senderos, 32, is a Swiss national developed by Servette. His career reads like a whistle-stop tour of European football destinations. He is most known for his time at Arsenal (where he moved from Servette for £1.35M) and Fulham. In addition, Senderos played for Servette, had loan spells at AC Milan and Everton, and saw time at Valencia, Aston Villa, Grasshoppers, and Rangers. Released from Ibrox in May, he joined Houston in the summer transfer window in August. Though he only played twice for Houston in the league, he has played every match in the MLS Cup so far.

Machado, 32, has played nearly 300 times for clubs in Guatemala, Panama, Honduras, and Costa Rica. Moved from Saprissa to Houston in December of 2016 and played 33 matches for his new club. Machado once served a two-year ban after testing positive for a banned substance. Machado has 65 caps for Panama.

Anibaba, 29, developed by Santa Clara and North Carolina (NCAA), is a former Sounder (see below). He has played 38 times for Houston in his two years at Dowling Street. Overall, he has 166 matches of MLS experience and was selected at youth levels four times by United States.

Midfield –
Cabezas, 26, was a loan signing from Colombian giant Deportivo Cali in the off-season. He has played over 150 times as a professional including nearly 75 appearances for Deportivo Cali and over 130 times total in top-level Columbian football. In this, his first year with Houston he has played 27 matches in the league, and all three MLS Cup matches.

Alexander, 29, is a domestic footballer developed by Indiana (NCAA). He moved from Montreal to Houston in 2016 and has since played 22 matches for his current club. His seven-year MLS career has seen him play in 191 matches scoring eight goals. Alexander has two caps for United States.

Martinez, 22, is an Argentine national produced by River Plate. He has also seen spells at Tenerife and Braga. Martinez moved from Braga to Houston for €1.68M in July of the 2017 summer transfer window. Played nine league matches in his first year for Houston, and has played in all three MLS Cup matches. Martinez has 10 youth caps for Argentina.

Elis, 21, is a recent loan signing from Monterrey of the Mexican Liga MX. He has scored 10 goals in 26 matches this season for Houston. The Honduran national played 62 times for Olimpia scoring 25 goals and has 28 caps, six goals for Honduras. He has played in all three MLS Cup matches.

Alex, 28, has over 240 appearances as a professional, nearly 90 matches of his experience were played in Switzerland with Wohlen and Gossau. He was produced by Gremio, of Brazil. His six-year MLS career has seen him play over 150 matches for Chicago and Houston, scoring 12 goals. He has 62 appearances and seven goals for Houston. He has played all three matches in the MLS Cup.

Forward –
Erick Torres, 24, has played over 90 times in MLS scoring 36 goals. Produced by Chivas of Guadalajara, he played over 70 matches for the club that developed him and over 40 matches on loan at Chivas USA in MLS. He has represented Mexico 21 times at youth levels and has seven senior caps. For Houston, this season, he has scored 14 goals in 49 matches, with all his goals scored this season. He has played in all three MLS Cup matches.

Familiar Faces
Former Sounders FC players Jalil Anibaba and Dylan Remick now play for Houston. Anibaba played 16 times for Sounders FC in 2014. Remick made 44 appearances for Seattle and was a substitute defender for us just last season.

Houston from: Willis, Deric, Brown, Anibaba, Beasley, Garcia, Hunter, Machado, Remick, Leonardo, Senderos, Alex, Alexander, Cabezas, Clark, Escalante, Garcia, Holland, Martinez, Memo Rodriguez, Ward, Wenger, Elis, Manotas, Quioto, Sanchez, Erick Torres.

Sounders FC from: Frei, Meredith, Miller, Alfaro, Fisher, Jones, Leerdam, Marshall, Nouhou, Torres, Delem, Kovar, Lodeiro, Mallace, Mathers, Neagle, Victor Rodriguez, Roldan, Shipp, Svensson, Wingo, Adekoya, Bruin, Dempsey, Morris.

Injury List
(note: This is all relative to MLS.com’s injury list. Keeping in mind that this is cup football, barring a shredded ligament or broken bone you’ll just as likely see a player in the team as not.)

Houston –
OUT: Malki (ACL), DeLaGarza (ACL).

Sounders FC –
OUT: Evans (back), Alonso (quadriceps).
MATCHDAY DECISION: Morris (hamstring).

No players suspended on either side.

Out next match if booked:
Houston – Senderos, Clark, Machado, Quioto, Elis, Alex, Boniek Garcia.
Sounders FC – Roldan, Lodeiro, Torres.

Fun Fact
United States U-14s have invited Sounders Academy players Sota Kitahara, Daniel Leyva, and Nico Rei McMillan to its 2017 camp. Well done, lads. Do us proud.