Nico Estevez considers FC Dallas' trip to Houston Dynamo FC a "great opportunity" for his side to lay down a real marker.

Dallas defeated Austin FC 2-1 last time out and have now taken seven points from the last nine on offer on home soil.

Away from home, however, they have taken just one point from a possible 15 this season, with Estevez now after points plus performances in his side's fourth Copa Tejas outing of the campaign.

"I think the team is working well," he said. "They are energetic and we are improving both in results and the level of play.

"We have to continue growing. This game is a great opportunity to do so away from home; to be able to achieve something more than just points and to be able to achieve something important that will help us.

"We are going to have to do many things well to be able to win against a rival as important as Houston."

The Dynamo went down 1-0 to Austin late on in midweek, placing them eighth in the Western Conference and six points better off than their next opponents, having played a game more.

Houston have scored the fewest goals of any side in the West (11), which head coach Ben Olsen acknowledged is down to a lack of quality in front of goal.

"It's decision making and quality in the moment," he said at his pre-match press conference. 

"It's not for the lack of getting in dangerous areas on the field. Checking boxes, you don't need a 2.0 expected goals to win games."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Houston Dynamo - Amine Bassi

The Dynamo had 17 shots against Austin without finding the net, six of which were on target - and three of those via Bassi alone.

Bassi's 1.8 shots per game is bettered only by Ibrahim Aliyu (2.5) this season among Houston players, yet he has registered zero goals thus far. That is something that must be put right.

FC Dallas - Petar Musa

Musa played a part in both of Dallas' goals in their victory over Austin, as he scored the opener himself and then assisted Jesus Ferreira for what proved to be the decisive goal.

The Croatia international has now contributed to five of Dallas' last seven MLS goals - three goals and two assists - meaning he is the man for Houston to stop.

MATCH PREDICTION: HOUSTON WIN

Houston's loss to Austin was their fourth defeat in their past seven league matches, compared to just two losses across their previous 17 outings dating back to last July.

Dallas have won three of their past four games in all competitions, meanwhile, having won just three out of 17 prior to this upturn in form. 

However, not since November 2020 have Dallas won three successive games across all competitions, while the home team in this fixture is unbeaten in the last 20 encounters between these sides - albeit 11 of those ending all square.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Houston - 42.2%
Draw - 29.3%
Dallas - 28.5%

Ben Olsen had to hold a few "tough conversations" to get the Houston Dynamo out of their slump, with Saturday's Texas derby at Austin FC offering them the chance for back-to-back wins.

The Dynamo approached Saturday's trip to Sporting Kansas City both winless and goalless in three MLS matches (one draw, two defeats), while they were also dumped out of the U.S. Open Cup by Detroit City FC.

However, goals from Hector Herrera and Ibrahim Aliyu handed them a 2-1 road win and lifted them into the top seven of the Western Conference – above Austin by a single point. 

Speaking ahead of Wednesday's grudge match against a team that won the reverse fixture less than a month ago, Olsen credited his players for coming through a tough patch. 

"I think some people were questioning us, and we've had a few tough conversations, particularly with the U.S. Open cup knockout. This was just a really good response," he said.

"We have to figure out when we are at our best, to think, 'who are we, at our best?'

"It was our defensive effort that we hung our hat on last year, so it's a bit of a renewed feeling of that being there."

Austin, by contrast, were on a run of four wins in six games before they were beaten 2-1 by another Texas rival in FC Dallas on Saturday.

Despite that reverse, centre-back Julio Cascante has praised the defensive work done by coach Josh Wolff, with Austin looking far more competitive than was the case in their dismal 2023 season.

"Despite everything, we've worked very hard on the defensive side," Cascante said.

"Emphasis has been placed on the defensive side, but defending is done as an entire team. It starts with the number nine. I think that makes the difference."

PLAYERS TO WATCH 

Austin FC – Sebastian Driussi

Driussi scored a consolation from the penalty spot at Dallas on Saturday, his third goal of the season in eight MLS starts. 

Only Diego Rubio, who has started three additional games, has matched that tally for Austin this year. The Argentine will be looking to carry his team's attacking hopes again here.

Houston Dynamo – Amine Bassi 

Bassi recorded his third assist of the season by teeing up Hector Herrera's 31st-minute strike against Sporting on Saturday. 

All three of Bassi's assists have come on goals from outside the box this season – Houston's only three strikes from outside the penalty area.

MATCH PREDICTION – AUSTIN FC WIN

Houston have won three of their first five road matches this year, having only recorded more than three regular-season away wins in one of the last 10 campaigns, winning four times on their travels in 2022.

However, Austin have won all four of their previous home matches against Houston, netting multiple goals in each contest. The Dynamo are one of two teams – alongside Kansas City – that Austin have hosted more than once while posting a 100 per cent record.

Austin have also won three straight at home after only winning once in their previous 10 outings at Q2 Stadium. Back on home soil after Saturday's derby loss, they will expect a different result. 

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Austin FC – 44.9%
Houston Dynamo – 26.9%
Draw – 28.2%

The Houston Dynamo took a "punch in the face" as they exited the U.S. Open Cup at the hands of Detroit City on Tuesday, but Ben Olsen expects his team to respond when they go to Sporting Kansas City on Saturday.

Defending U.S. Open Cup champions Houston squandered a 2-0 lead against their USL Championship opponents in midweek before losing a dramatic penalty shoot-out 10-9.

They now turn their attentions back to MLS, sitting eighth in the Western Conference with 14 points from their first 10 games of the year, and Olsen expects them to bounce back.

"It's a good punch in the face. But I think they'll respond," Olsen said.

"We have a good group in there and I think we have the right character to turn this into a positive."

Sporting KC trail Houston by just three points in the standings, but they made it through their own U.S. Open Cup tie against Union Omaha in midweek, winning 2-1 in extra time.

Boss Peter Vermes is not overly concerned by the physical toll taken by having to play 120 minutes, pointing out Houston did likewise only one day earlier.

"Houston had to do the same yesterday. The only thing is they have a day extra rest," he said.

"We have just got to do the best we can to recover and get ready for that game. It was good. We used all of our subs. 

"Everybody's getting minutes and now we just have got to get ourselves recovered and get ready for Houston on Saturday."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Sporting KC – Johnny Russell

Russell has scored eight goals against the Dynamo in all competitions, more than against any other opponent in his Kansas City career. He has scored against Houston at least once in each of the last six years.

Houston Dynamo – Ibrahim Aliyu

The Dynamo had a combined 22 shots on goal during their 0-0 draw with St. Louis City last Saturday, with top scorer Aliyu having five of those – the most by a Houston player in an MLS game this season.

The Nigerian has three goals this campaign and will be looking to get back on the scoresheet at the weekend.

MATCH PREDICTION: SPORTING KANSAS CITY WIN

Kansas City have won five straight home matches against Houston in all competitions and have only lost twice in their last 19 at home against the Dynamo in all competitions (11 wins, six draws) dating back to 2012.

However, Kansas City are winless in four straight home matches (two draws, two defeats) for the first time since a five-match drought between July and August in 2021. Sporting have conceded three times in each of their last four home matches, equalling the second-longest such streak in MLS history.

The Dynamo’s goalless draw with St. Louis City last week was their third straight regular-season match without a goal. Houston had been shut out in only two of their previous 18 regular-season matches dating back to last August. Their attacking issues mean Sporting go in as favourites. 

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Sporting Kansas City – 47.7%

Draw – 27.7%

Houston Dynamo – 24.6%

Bradley Carnell is eager to get going again when St. Louis City return to MLS action against the Houston Dynamo on Saturday, two weeks on from their last game.

St. Louis were last in action on April 21, when Tomas Totland's last-gasp equaliser saw them claim a 3-3 draw against rivals Sporting Kansas City.

Carnell's team have only lost one of their last eight MLS games, though five of those have finished level to leave them ninth in the Western Conference standings, one point behind the Dynamo.

Speaking about the challenges of their long wait for a game, Carnell said: "The week off was nice, it gave us some time to plan and prep for the next few weeks and where we're going.

"There's going to be a ton of games so it's really important for us to do that. We can't change the calendar and it is what it is.

"We're excited about the games coming up, there's a lot of good teams among our opponents in the next couple of weeks."

Houston, meanwhile, have lost three of their last four league games including each of their last two, both of which came against Texas rivals in Austin FC (0-1) and FC Dallas (0-2).

Despite their downturn, boss Ben Olsen is choosing to remain upbeat and is certain things will turn, saying: "I can take a loss and I will say the guys gave everything, they continue to fight. 

"We'll get back to work and try to make the fans proud next week.

"We prepare for St. Louis the same way we prepared for Dallas. We'll just get back to work and keep going. 

"It's very early in the season. The last two games didn't go the way we want so we have to learn from it."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Houston Dynamo – Ibrahim Aliyu

Aliyu is the only Houston player with more than one goal to his name in MLS this year, netting three times. However, he has failed to score in their last three games, so he will be desperate to end that mini-drought here.

St. Louis City – Joao Klauss

Klauss is St. Louis' joint-leading scorer this season, his three goals only matched by Celio Pompeu after both players were on target against Sporting KC last time out.

The Brazilian has attempted a team-high 29 shots this term as well as creating 12 chances for team-mates, a tally only bettered by Pompeu (17).

MATCH PREDICTION – HOUSTON DYNAMO WIN

The Dynamo's first victory over St. Louis came in the second leg of this year's CONCACAF Champions Cup first round, a 1-0 home win that saw Houston into the round of 16. 

St. Louis had previously gone unbeaten in the first three meetings between the teams (two wins, one draw), including winning both matches in Missouri.

After winning their first three away matches in club history last year, St. Louis have only managed three wins in 22 road trips (six draws, 13 defeats). Houston, meanwhile, have won two of their last three at Shell Energy Stadium so enter Saturday's game as favourites.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY 

Houston Dynamo – 42%

St. Louis City – 29.7%

Draw – 28.3%

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.