There’s no real favorite in a No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup, and this series is no exception – the No. 4 Houston Dynamo and No. 5 Real Salt Lake were only separated by a point on the table this season. They’ll meet in a Round One Best-of-3 series in the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs for a clash that could genuinely go either way.
This is Will Schwartz from The Game Day, here to give some analysis and insight on an intriguing Western Conference matchup between two teams who played a “series” of sorts in late August when they played consecutive matches due to the US Open Cup and MLS schedules intersecting. Houston won both matches, 3-1 at home and 3-0 on the road.
Salt Lake will look to flip the script and take two of three matches this time out, starting with Game 1 in Houston on Sunday, Oct. 29 at 6 pm ET, before a second match in Utah on Monday, Nov. 6 at 9 pm ET, and then if needed, a finale back in Houston on Saturday, Nov. 11 at 4 pm ET.
Houston Dynamo FC vs. Real Salt Lake MLS Cup Odds
MLS lines used for Houston Dynamo and Real Salt Lake were current on Tuesday, Oct. 24 at 8 pm ET on DraftKings Sportsbook.
- To Win MLS Cup: Houston Dynamo (+2500) • Real Salt Lake (+2000)
Interestingly enough, RSL have better odds to lift the Cup when all is said and done, even though they don’t have home-field advantage in this opening series. This makes some sense, considering their outstanding road record, but they’ll have to break what has been an exceptional home-field advantage for Houston.
Houston Dynamo FC vs. Real Salt Lake Best-of-3 Prediction
Houston Dynamo Win Series 2-0
Coming in hot is key in any knockout tournament, and by that criteria, Houston have a leg up on RSL in this one. They’ve lost just once since dropping a match 2-1 to Charlotte on Aug. 7 and ended the regular season with a pair of big wins. In September, they won the US Open Cup over a Lionel Messi-less Inter Miami CF, so they come in with plenty of tournament acumen. Conversely, RSL won just one of their final three matches and experienced a very uneven September and October.
Fans of European clubs will have a familiar face in this matchup: former Atlético Madrid midfielder Hector Herrera, who has been phenomenal for Houston. He’s earned a FotMob grade of 7.80, suitable for the fifth-best amongst all qualifying MLS players, and has racked up 17 assists.
For RSL, Braian Ojeda also had an excellent year and right midfielder/winger Jefferson Savarino has racked up seven goals and six assists in league play.
Both of these teams can score goals. Houston ripped in 51 during the regular season while RSL scored 48, but on the other end of the pitch, things were less symmetrical. Houston allowed a very solid 38 goals, and RSL let in a bigger total of 50. That incongruence could define this series, and it played out in those head-to-head matchups earlier this year; Houston scored at will against RSL.
These clubs both have a history of success, but it’s been a while for both. Houston’s last titles came in back-to-back fashion in 2006 and ‘07, but this is their first playoff appearance since a semifinal run in 2017.
RSL last lifted the trophy in 2009, but this is their fifth playoff experience in six years. It seems like Houston’s patience will be rewarded; their defensive superiority will allow them to sweep through this matchup and move on to a date with potentially the West’s top squad (St. Louis CITY SC).
Houston Dynamo MLS Cup Future
Houston Dynamo to Win MLS Cup (+2500) • DraftKings Sportsbook
Right off the bat, you can see some value in this wager by comparing Houston’s odds to Salt Lake’s. The Dynamo have home-field advantage, the best overall player in Herrera, and a much more vigorous defense.
That said, I’d shy away from adding this to your portfolio. Stick to backing the Dynamo in this series, as they’ll likely be running into St. Louis CITY SC, the West’s best team this regular season in terms of both points and goal differential. The Dynamo aren’t too far back in either regard, but having your entire season boil down to a road match at one of the league’s best teams isn’t ideal and makes me hesitant to invest in this future.