Fight fire with fire: Houston Dynamo will look to stop Real Salt Lake by controlling possession

HOUSTON – When facing Real Salt Lake it’s easy to predict that they’re going to try and possess the ball. On Saturday (9:30 pm ET, watch on MLS Live), the Houston Dynamo, a team that seeks to control the ball itself, will need to beat RSL at their own game if they want to continue their late-summer surge.

Houston, currently on a four-game unbeaten streak, and RSL both are teams that want to, and often do, dominate possession. With the game at RSL – where Houston’s notched just one win in eight tries – winning that battle and taking the home team out of their comfort zone is the first priority for the visiting Dynamo.

“The midfield’s always been given credit for the way they play and rightfully so,” head coach Dominic Kinnear said Friday. “It’s just a good team. They have a lot of experience. In order to stop them defensively there’s two things to it: You have to stay with runners and make sure you win your tackles and you have to have possession in their end of the field.”

One running theme among the Dynamo revolves around the pressure Kinnear talked about. Houston prides itself on reacting quickly when the ball turns over and trying to win the ball back. That will be key for Houston this weekend against the possession-minded RSL – who have scored six goals in their last three regular season games despite not being able to notch a win. That pressure will lead to more time on the ball. 

“They have to be able to keep it and deal with us putting our pressure on and squeezing teams, which is what we’re known for,” said Giles Barnes. “When we’ve got the ball we’re just as good as anybody. We’ve found our cutting edge as well.”

That cutting edge has been present in Houston’s last four games, where they are undefeated and have outscored opponents 7-3. That’s the opposite of RSL, who have struggled lately with absences and injuries – which could hit again with Javier Morales, questionable for the game, and Kyle Beckerman also uncertain against the Dynamo.

Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.