PORTLAND, Ore. – The Houston Dynamo have advanced past the Portland Timbers with a win in hostile territory, but the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs aren’t about to get any easier.
Now, with the Seattle Sounders lying ahead after the FIFA international break, the Dynamo are again going to have hold their own in one of MLS's toughest environments against a team that gave them trouble during the regular season. If anything, Sunday’s 2-1 win over the Timbers showed the Dynamo, the lower seed, are capable of another upset.
"We had a good game tonight and there’s no reason why we can’t replicate something,” said Dynamo midfielder Eric Alexander, who assisted on Mauro Manotas’ game-winning goal.
“This is the standard for us now,” he added. "That kind of effort, that kind of commitment, that kind of focus. Even though the Timbers finished first [in the Western Conference], Seattle was a close second and they’re also a very good team. Having two legs is always tough, especially because here and Seattle are probably two of the toughest places to play. But we know what to expect on the road now.”
Dynamo coach Wilmer Cabrera said it was too soon to think about Seattle – “Tonight, we’re just going to enjoy the game we have won,” he said – but he’ll have plenty of lineup choices to make. That two-leg Western Conference final series won’t begin until Nov. 21, but the Dynamo's approach all season has been one of rotation.
"We’ve had 36, 35 different lineups every game,” Cabrera said. “We’ve been criticized for that but it’s been working so far.”
Some of that rotation on Sunday was not by choice due to a suspension and injury. But when defender Dylan Remick came in as a last-minute replacement for DaMarcus Beasley, who strained his quad, Remick said he felt comfortable stepping into an important match because of Cabrera’s frequent rotation.
“It’s good that he’s rotating – everybody stays fresh that way and everybody feels part of the team,” he said. “When somebody has to come into a big game like this, you don’t feel out of place. You have your rhythm and the guys feel confident with anyone coming in.”
Remick, a former Sounder, admitted he had already started to think about returning to Seattle just moments after the Dynamo’s win over the Timbers ended.
"I’ve started,” he laughed. “It’ll be cool to see some old faces. It’s another amazing atmosphere just like tonight was, so it gets you hyped up to play.”
For Cabrera, there’s plenty of work to do over the long break before the playoffs continue, but Sunday’s result adds more motivation.
"It’s rewarding for the players and for the work we’ve been doing,” he said. “Now, we continue dreaming and thinking about the possibilities that are in front of us."