Dynamo visit Minnesota, seek first road victory (Jul 19, 2017)

BY AP • July 18, 2017

There's no doubt that the Houston Dynamo have been one of the most surprising teams in the MLS this season.

But the Dynamo have played nine road matches this season without a victory (0-7-2), an aspect they seek to rectify against expansion Minnesota United FC on Wednesday at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

Houston and Minnesota will be short-handed as several of their key players continue to play for their respective national teams in the Gold Cup but there will still be plenty of fireworks between two of the league's most explosive offenses.

The two sides played to a 2-2 draw in their only previous meeting at Houston on April 15.

The Dynamo (8-7-4, 28 points) return to play from the extended Gold Cup break without midfielder Boniek Garcia and forwards Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto (all with the Honduras national team) and leading scorer forward Erick Torres (Mexico).

Houston prevailed in its last game before the break 3-1 over Montreal on July 5 in which the Dynamo scored in the first minute and never looked back.

"It's a dream that one minute into the game you score the first goal," Dynamo coach Wilmer Cabrera said. "In the first half we should have scored more goals. We needed to be more clinical in our finishing because we had good chances to go with three or four goals at halftime."

Houston made off-the-field news Monday when they signed Argentinian Tomas Martinez on a full transfer from Portuguese first division club S.C. Braga. He is classified as a Young Designated Player. The earliest Martinez could play is July 29 versus Portland.

Minnesota United (5-11-3, 18 points) is 5-4-1 at home and is one of only three MLS teams to have a negative home goal differential.

The Loons have won only once in their last six matches but return from the break only six points out of the sixth and final Western Conference playoff spot. They have proven potent enough offensively to mount a charge if they can shore up their league-worst defense.

Minnesota United FC coach Adrian Heath said Tuesday that his team's next three matches were pivotal for the season.

"The next three home games are going to be massive for us," Heath said. "Obviously we've got this game tomorrow, which we knew wasn't going to be easy. Then we've got the Red Bulls coming into town, who for me are probably one of the best teams in Major League Soccer, and then D.C. United a week later.

"I honestly think we are capable of taking seven to nine points out of these three games. I really believe that. And if we do, this league table will look an awful lot different, and I think it will give the squad a lot of confidence and a lot of belief to move forward."

In an attempt to fix its defense, Minnesota United FC signed New Zealand international defender Michael Boxall on July 12.

Boxall spent the past two seasons with the South African Premier Division side SuperSport United, scoring five goals in 68 league and cup appearances. He brings prior MLS experience to the Loons, having broken into the professional ranks with Vancouver in 2011.

Minnesota has a more extensive injury report, with midfielders Bernardo Anor (left lower leg) and Thomas de Villardi (left Achilles), defenders Marc Burch (sports hernia surgery) and Brent Kallman (right knee), forward Abu Danladi (right thigh) and goalkeeper John Alvbage (right thumb) ruled out of Wednesday's game.

Houston's injury list includes defender George Malki (ACL) and midfielder Eric Alexander (undisclosed).

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