St Louis City v San Jose Earthquakes
The MLS is back in Citypark in the early hours of Sunday morning as the expansion team St Louis City SC look to maintain their perfect start to the season when they host the San Jose Earthquakes, who head to Missouri off the back of successive wins.
Fans in St Louis can be forgiven for getting carried away in the early stages of this season. Their high press, high energy style has led to an opening three wins and while they were the beneficiaries of some terrible defending in their opening two wins, they were good value for their win in Portland last weekend.
St Louis look to impose themselves on teams and are prepared to risk leaving themselves exposed in the hunt of winning the ball high up the pitch. This makes them a very watchable team but one which has a vulnerability to them as a result.
San Jose Earthquakes were a little unfortunate to lose their opening match of the season when two Thiago Almada thunderbolts in injury time undid their hard work in Atlanta, but they have beaten Vancouver and Colorado since then and are starting to find a groove in attacking areas. They have had 33 shots in the last two weeks and in Cristian Espinoza and Jeremy Ebobisse they have a goal threat in them.
This should be an entertaining tactical battle. St Louis are clearly going to press high and Lucho Gonzalez sides like to pass through the lines. That should create chances at both ends and so I expect the trend of St Louis high scoring games to continue.
Houston Dynamo v Austin FC
A growing Texas rivalry plays out another instalment in the early hours of Sunday morning when the Houston Dynamo welcome Austin FC for what is a big clash for both teams even without the local bragging rights being at stake.
Houston didn’t play last week as it was their bye week but they have lost in Cincinnati and New England. They now return home and play in front of their fans for the first time this season, which will give them added motivation should they have needed it.
With two weeks since their last outing, Ben Olsen has had plenty of time to reflect on his opening two matches. There was plenty to like about their performance in Cincinnati and while they didn’t quite hit the heights in New England, in Hector Herrera they have a class act and he can inspire his team here.
You would imagine we are going to get a thunderous reaction from Austin FC after their humiliating Champions League defeat in midweek. They will know that going out to Haitian opposition is not acceptable and the only way they can make up for that is with a big display and result here.
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Austin are lacking depth and numbers defensively and Houston can take advantage of that but the time has come for the likes of Sebastian Driussi, Gyasi Zardes and Diego Fagundez to stand up for the men in green.
This is a rivalry game and neither team will want to lose. There have been six MLS matches between this pair and a pre-season game and all seven have had over 2.5 goals. I see that trend continuing here.
FC Groningen v Heerenveen
Groningen’s last home game was somewhat of a landmark victory for them when they beat Excelsior 3-0. They looked so much better at just about everything that they had been failing at for most of the season. They followed that up with two promising performances at Feyenoord and AZ, but lost both 1-0. They battled hard and sat deep, but didn’t get a slice of luck to snatch a point.
I can see another huge game from the home side here to beat their local rivals. I have to say, I have found Heerenveen quite poor lately. Defensively they are not as solid as they had been, and I think Kees van Wonderen needs to revert back to the back five which made his side so tight at the beginning of the season.
Van Wonderen has been chopping and changing his side game to game, even making a triple substitution before half time last weekend against Ajax.
If you have watched Groningen recently, you will see that they are now battling for survival, looking much better going forward, and backed up in defence by the experienced Jetro Willems.
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