HOUSTON – The Houston Dynamo visit Seattle on Thursday night knowing exactly what’s on the line.
Trailing 2-0 in the two-leg series, the Dynamo must win by at least two goals to give themselves a chance to capture their fifth conference title in club history.
While the task is a difficult one, it is not insurmountable. The Dynamo have won by two or more goals nine times this season, most recently when they posted a 3-0 win over Chicago on Decision Day.
Historically, the Dynamo have played well in the postseason when they've needed a result in the second leg of a series to advance. In six such situations, the club is 5-1 in the second leg, including a 2-0 mark in games where they had to have a win to move on.
The Dynamo can also draw strength from their recent road form, including a 2-1 win at top-seeded Portland in the second leg of the Western Conference Semifinal series on Oct. 30. Dating back to July 22, the Dynamo have picked up positive results in seven of their last nine away matches.
To get the win on Thursday, Houston will need their high-powered attacking corps to come up big.
Despite missing forward Alberth Elis, who is suspended due to yellow card accumulation, Houston can still rely on forwards Erick Torres (club-record 14 goals this season), Mauro Manotas (11 total goals) and Romell Quioto (7 goals, 3 assists), along with playmakers Alex (10 assists), Vicente Sanchez (2 goals, 5 assists) and Tomas Martinez (2 goals).
That unit will have to break down a Seattle defense that has not conceded a goal in its last 452 minutes dating back to Oct. 1 at Philadelphia.
Defensively, Houston will once again need to reshuffle the back line after right back Jalil Anibaba was sent off in the first leg of the series.
The one constant in the Houston back line all year has been center back Adolfo Machado, who has started and played every minute of all but one game this season - and that game he missed came the day after he played all 90 minutes for the Panamanian national team to help his country secure its first-ever World Cup berth.
Machado and left back DaMarcus Beasley, along with fellow defenders Philippe Senderos, Leonardo and Dylan Remick, will be tasked with shutting down a high-powered Seattle attack led by former Dynamo forward Will Bruin, U.S. Men's National Team star Clint Dempsey and Uruguay international Nicolas Lodeiro.
If the match ends 2-0 to Houston, it'll go to extra time and possibly on to penalties. If so, Houston can take comfort in the knowledge that goalkeeper Joe Willis has saved both penalties he's faced in his postseason career.