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Houston Dynamo will look to guard their fortress and register their first win of the 2023 Leagues Cup against Pachuca. The club enjoyed a four-match unbeaten streak at home in the MLS, which was broken during their 0-3 loss to Minnesota over a week ago. However, the Ben Olsen-managed side will look to bounce back to winning ways at home in the knockout stage of the Leagues Cup.
Olsen is expected to bank on his 4-2-3-1 formation to break the duck in the tournament. In their last home fixture against Minnesota, Houston Dynamo fielded Aliyu Ibrahim as the lone forward, while Corey Baird, Amine Bassi, and Nelson Giovanny Quinones Iturre played behind him. Artur and their Mexican star Hector Herrera featured as defensive midfielders, while Franco Escobar, Erik Sviatchenko, Micael, and Daniel Steres formed the four-man defense.
Meanwhile, the Liga MX Apertura 2022 champions Pachuca will look to give a good account of themselves in their first encounter of the Leagues Cup. But they will have their task cut out while playing away from home. After taking the game to penalties against Santos Laguna, Dynamo Houston are now without a win in regular time in seven consecutive games – a statistic Pachuca can exploit.
However, the Mexican side has shown a slump in form as they failed to register a single win in their last four fixtures across all competitions. In fact, the Apertura 2022-23 champions registered a 1-1 draw against Oviedo in a friendly fixture earlier in July. However, it will be interesting to see if Guillermo Almada opts for his three-man-at-the-back formation in the upcoming Round of 32 contest against the Houston Dynamo.
The clubs will face off for the first time since their meeting in the North American Liga in July 2010. Hosts Houston Dynamo clinched a slender 2-1 victory over Pachuca in that fixture. Zimbabwean forward Joseph Ngwenya scored a brace in both halves, while Damian Manso netted the lone goal for Pachuca in the 51st minute.
Despite playing in different domestic leagues, the clubs have faced off seven times in the past. Their rivalry shaped up between 2007 and 2010 due to their fierce encounters in the CONCACAF Champions Cup and the Super Liga. Their previous meetings have been neck-and-neck, as Houston Dynamo has won three matches while Pachuca registered victories on four occasions.
In these matches, a total of 20 goals have been scored, with both sides netting ten goals each. The Leagues Cup will be an important fixture for both clubs to renew their rivalry and give their fans something to cheer about.
The home side has struggled to get all three points on board in the 2023 Leagues Cup. But it will be a good chance for Houston Dynamo to register their first win in the competition and make a statement with their win over the top-seeded Liga MX side.
Both group stage encounters of Houston Dynamo went to penalties. Losing the first one against Orlando City put them under pressure for the final group stage encounter against Santos Laguna. The match went to penalties again, but fortunately for Houston Dynamo, the club did not replicate the outcome of the previous game and secured qualification after a 5-4 win.
Now, the club will be itching to take the next step in the right direction by claiming a win in regular time – a feat they have failed to achieve in the last seven games in all competitions.
Houston Dynamo will be banking on their star midfielder Hector Herrera to provide creativity and allow the attack to flourish. Interestingly, Herrera has a connection with the opponents as his youth career began with the Mexican club before graduating into their senior team, making his debut in July 2010.
Herrera featured in 52 games for Pachuca and scored twice for the club after which he left for FC Porto. The 33-year-old has been a pivotal player for Houston Dynamo, as he has scored three and assisted six goals in 20 MLS appearances this season.
Houston Dynamo will expect their talismanic attacking duo of Amine Bassi and Corey Baird to step up to the occasion and find their club's first win in the competition. Apart from Herrera, Bassi and Baird have also been instrumental in the club’s victories in the MLS this season.
Bassi has netted eight times in 19 appearances, while Baird has netted three and assisted two in 23 appearances.
The Mexican outfit will enter the Leagues Cup as heavyweight after nabbing direct passage to the knockouts as the top seed from Mexico. However, their current form has raised a large concern.
The Almada-managed side will have a brand new opportunity to break their four-match winless run across all competitions. Their winless run started at the Campeon de Campeones final, where the club registered a 1-2 loss to 2022-23 Clausura winners Tigres UNAL.
Following that encounter, they registered a 1-1 draw against Mazatlan in the Liga MX Apertura before receiving a 4-0 beating against Club Leon. The club later registered a 1-1 draw against Pumas UNAM in the last Liga MX Apertura encounter before the Leagues Cup..
The goalscoring onus for Pachuca will be on forwards Lucas Di Yorio and Miguel Rodriguez. The Apertura season is still in its early stages but Di Yorio has already got off the mark, and the assist for that goal came via Rodriguez.
The spectators will be expecting a similar link-up in the match against Houston Dynamo. Unsettling the opposition defense in the early stages can allow Di Yorio and Rodriguez to run riot in the final third.
After winning the previous Apertura phase, Pachuca added a seventh Liga MX title to their trophy cabinet. However, the domestic league titles are not the only trophies Pachuca have earned. They have won the CONCACAF Champions League five times and won the Copa MX twice.
In club cup competitions, Pachuca have always been a tough nut to crack. Now, they have a new trophy in their sight. Winning the Leagues Cup could act as the perfect boost to get their Liga MX form back on track.
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With an interest in strategy and mathematics, applying that to sports writing was the natural progression. A writer at night and the founder of a gaming company, Nikhil’s previous experience includes working with ESPN for five years. His specialization includes soccer, basketball, tennis, and esports betting. Email: [email protected]More info on Nikhil Kalro
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