Houston Dynamo FC have had a tense but successful run so far in the Audi MLS Playoffs, but can they knock off the defending champs? LAFC doesn’t have the legendary Gareth Bale at their disposal anymore.
However, they’ve still cruised through the first two rounds of this year’s playoffs and are just a pair of wins away from becoming the league’s first back-to-back champ since their cross-town rivals, the LA Galaxy, did it over a decade ago.
Interestingly enough, Houston’s last MLS Cup was the second of two consecutive titles, and their previous two appearances in the final were in both of the Galaxy triumphs in the early 2010s.
With the top two seeds gone from the Western Conference, who will rise to the top and reach the final?
This is Will Schwartz from The Game Day, with your breakdown on a historic matchup between two seasoned clubs with a spot in the MLS Cup Final on the line. Don’t miss this match in Los Angeles on Saturday, Dec. 2, at 9:30 pm EST.
LAFC vs. Houston Dynamo FC Odds
MLS lines used for Houston @ Los Angeles were current as of Nov. 28 at 2:30 pm EST on FanDuel Sportsbook.
- Moneyline: Los Angeles (-170) • Draw (+300) • Houston (+420)
- Total Goals: Over 2.5 (-128) • Under 2.5 (+106)
- Both Teams to Score: Yes (-128) • No (+102)
This is a three-way moneyline, meaning it’s hard to hit, but the payoff can be significant. LA is favored in this one, while the odds imply that a good balance between offense and defense is expected.
LAFC vs. Houston Dynamo FC Prediction
LAFC 2-2 Houston Dynamo FC (Houston wins shootout)
Besides the fact they’re the defending champions, it’s tough to know why LA are as heavily favored as they are. That’s not to say the numbers should be flipped in Houston’s favor; these teams are incredibly even.
They finished third and fourth in the Western Conference, with LA owning the slight edge, and their goal differentials are pretty similar as well, with figures of +15 and +13. Their styles are comparable; both have a fair balance between attack and defense, as LA ripped in 54 league goals this regular season while allowing 39, while Houston’s ratio was 51 and 38.
If there’s any gap between these two teams’ resumes this year, it might be the head-to-head record. Curious enough, they played twice in five days back in June, and Houston dominated the mini-series. They won at home by a score of 4-0 and picked up another shutout win in LA, although it was a much closer one-goal effort.
Houston also have some silverware this season; they won the US Open Cup against a Miami side missing Leo Messi, while LAFC have come up short in every knockout tournament so far this year, including a heartbreaking loss to Club León in the CONCACAF Champions League final.
In terms of more recent form, you could be easily convinced that LA have had a more impressive run to get to this point. They opened up the tournament with two wins and a 6-2 aggregate scoreline in their Best-of-3 series against Vancouver before knocking out Seattle 1-0 in the Conference Semis, while Houston dropped a game in Round One, and all three of their wins have either been by just a goal or even in a shootout.
History is on the line for both clubs in these playoffs. LA have a chance to complete a rare retention of the MLS Cup, as they lifted it last season, while Houston could secure an epic double if they’re crowned champions, an unprecedented feat for a club that haven't had the best last decade, having not made the playoffs since 2017 or an MLS Cup final since 2012.
This is also one of the more star-studded matchups you’ll find in these playoffs, even with the legendary Bale off of LA’s squad and enjoying retirement, presumably on the golf links somewhere in Wales. His old side had one player on the recently-named MLS Best XI, and that would be forward Denis Bouanga, who ripped in a fantastic tally of 20 regular-season goals to lead the league, and he’s added four already in the postseason.
Houston was also represented on the all-league team; Hector Herrera, the Atlético Madrid veteran and legend of El Tri, has had a phenomenal season in Houston after adjusting a year ago; he’s scored once and assisted twice in these playoffs after recording a remarkable 17 assists in the regular season, behind only Atlanta’s Thiago Almada on the league leaderboard.
Both of these teams are full of creative talent and should be able to get good opportunities. That said, LAFC have played a considerable amount in recent months, and Houston might be missing a genuinely reliable goalscoring threat. I believe Houston is underpriced, but we’ll stick with the draw here.
As for the shootout, who might win? Red-hot LAFC keeper Maxime Crepeau is on fire, but don’t forget: He missed the shootout in last year’s final with a red card and hasn’t faced one yet this season, so we’ll have to see how it all plays out.
LAFC vs. Houston Dynamo FC Best Bets
Over 2.5 Goals (-170) • FanDuel Sportsbook
Audi MLS Cup Playoffs matches are notoriously action-packed – look at LA’s win over Philly in last year’s final and the earlier clash with rivals LA Galaxy – and this one should be no different. This team was fantastic at home this season, and with Bouanga in some of his best form yet, they should be able to give the crowd at least a couple of nice goals.
Of course, it’s been a while since June, but Houston have already shown an ability to rip in goals against a back line that has not necessarily been the best part of this LAFC squad. They’ll play an aggressive, pass-heavy style on the road as they look to build a lead, and LAFC’s midfield will struggle to keep up; look for plenty of chances for the underdogs.