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Sneak peek: Houston versus Salt Lake: forecast, news about the team

Sports Mole previews Sunday's Major League Soccer clash between Houston Dynamo and Real Salt Lake, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

In what will be their first MLS playoff appearance since 2017, the Houston Dynamo host Real Salt Lake in the opening match of a best-of-three series on Sunday at Shell Energy Stadium.

Orange Crush clinched home-field advantage for this series thanks to a 3-1 win over the Portland Timbers on Decision Day, as they wound up fourth in the Western Conference, a point above Claret and Cobalt, who won their previous encounter 1-0 versus the Colorado Rapids.

Match preview

VIDEO: Houston dynamo real salt lake MLS Cup (prediction)#shorts#soccer#edit#houstondynamo#realsaltlake

Houston Dynamo FC forward Aliyu Ibrahim (18) celebrates his goal with teammates on May 24, 2023© Reuters

The 2023 edition of the Dynamo will journey into foreign territory this weekend, going from the second-worst team in the Western Conference a year ago to a top-four finish this season.

Ben Olsen has helped orchestrate the turnaround with his team improving by 15 points from 2022 under the first-year head coach, claiming 51 points in 34 league contests this year, their highest single-season total since 2013 (51).

Houston finished the domestic campaign tied with St Louis City for the most home victories (11), while they were only held pointless at Shell Energy Stadium on two occasions in MLS play this year.

Being eliminated by Charlotte FC in the Leagues Cup round of 16 (2-1) seemed to light a spark in this group, who have only lost one of their last 13 competitive fixtures (2-1 versus Sporting Kansas City), capturing the US Open Cup along the way (2-1 win over Inter Miami).

During the 2023 domestic campaign, this team posted nine clean sheets at home while winning eight matches in Houston by two or more goals.

They are unbeaten in nine of their last 10 home playoff matches, with their only defeat over that stretch coming to the Seattle Sounders in 2017 (2-0).

Real Salt Lake attacker Cristian Arango (9) is congratulated on September 17, 2023© Reuters

Real Salt Lake will compete in the MLS Cup playoffs for a third successive campaign, reaching the 50-point plateau this season for the first time since 2019 (53).

After squeaking into the post-season in 2021 and 2022, this team took care of business much earlier in 2023, winning 14 matches for the second time in three seasons.

The Dynamo may be tough to beat at home, but RSL have been among the best road sides in the league throughout the campaign, winning eight domestic away contests in 2023, the most in the Western Conference and just one fewer than Orlando City for the most in MLS.

Pablo Mastroeni's men have begun the playoffs on the road in each of the previous two years, losing only one of their last four post-season contests away from home after 90 minutes (2-0 at the Portland Timbers in 2021).

RSL have only suffered one defeat in their last five MLS affairs (3-2 to Sporting Kansas City) while losing only once all season when scoring first (3-1 loss to Dallas in September).

Although they have not beaten the Dynamo in their last five visits to Houston in all competitions, they have not lost in normal time against them on the road since the 2017 regular season (5-1).

Houston Dynamo Major League Soccer form:

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Houston Dynamo form (all competitions):

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Real Salt Lake Major League Soccer form:

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Houston Dynamo FC head coach Ben Olsen reacts on September 17, 2023© Reuters

The Dynamo could be missing Tate Schmitt and Ifunanyachi Achara for this encounter as they are recovering from knee injuries.

Griffin Dorsey had a brace for Houston on Decision Day, with their other strike coming courtesy of Adalberto Carrasquilla, as the two of them have at least one goal contribution in back-to-back contests.

Amine Bassi set up all three of their goals at home to RSL in the US Open Cup semi-finals this year, with Carrasquilla, Hector Herrera and Luis Caicedo all finding the mark in that 3-1 extra-time victory, while Steve Clark has shut out Claret and Cobalt the last two times they have squared off in league play.

Brayan Vera will be questionable for Salt Lake this weekend as he has a sore ankle, Chicho Arango is doubtful because of a hamstring strain, Pablo Ruiz continues to recover from a knee sprain and Erik Holt might not be available due to a shoulder injury.

Last Saturday, Diego Luna collected his fifth goal of the MLS campaign, while Zac MacMath made five stops for his ninth clean sheet of the year and the 24th of his MLS career.

Claret and Cobalt have only netted once in their last three matches against the Dynamo in all competitions, with that lone strike coming from Anderson Julio at the US Open Cup this year.

Houston Dynamo possible starting lineup:
Clark; Dorsey, Sviatchenko, Micael, Escobar; Artur, Herrera; Carrasquilla, Caicedo, Quinones; Baird

Real Salt Lake possible starting lineup:
MacMath; Hidalgo, Glad, Oviedo; Brody, Gomez, Luna, Ojeda, Loffelsend; Julio, Rubin

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We say: Houston Dynamo 2-0 Real Salt Lake

VIDEO: Insane RSL goal
Christopher B Productions

If we were to go off playoff experience, RSL would have the edge. However, Olsen has brought a much-needed sense of poise with this team in 2023, and we believe the Dynamo workhorses in the midfield will allow them to be on the front foot throughout this encounter.

How to watch

VIDEO: HIGHLIGHTS: Houston Dynamo FC vs. Real Salt Lake | October 29, 2023
Major League Soccer

You can watch Houston Dynamo vs. Real Salt Lake and every MLS match this season live on Apple TV. Click here for more details on how to subscribe.

For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.

Top tip

VIDEO: Real salt lake end game

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting under 3.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 3.5:data

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