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New York Red Bulls ready for a brand new Houston Dynamo

Under new coach Wilmer Cabrera, the Houston Dynamo has found a new look and fresh momentum.

Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Red Bulls have had an interesting start to the 2017 MLS season, eking out seven points from their first four league games thanks largely to two match-winning own goals. Last week’s scoreless draw against Real Salt Lake and the loss in Seattle that preceded it were reminders that RBNY is a team still finding its way into the new campaign.

The back-to-back wins that opened this MLS season were welcome, but subsequent results have served to highlight that the Red Bulls are still a work in progress. This week, they travel to Texas to take on a new-look Houston Dynamo.

Under new head coach Wilmer Cabrera, Houston - the worst team in the Western Conference in 2016 - has opened up 2017 with two home wins and a 4-2 loss in Portland. There is cause for excitement in Houston as the 2017 edition of the Dynamo looks lively and dangerous in front of goal. Attackers Erick ‘Cubo’ Torres, Romell Quioto, and Alberth Elis look to have quickly found individual and collective comfort with Cabrera’s high-pressing tactics, forming one of the more dangerous scoring units in the league at the moment.

The Dynamo will have to make do without Quioto against RBNY, but Jesse Marsch knows Cabrera and counts him as a coach whose work he admires: "I know Wilmer personally well," said the Red Bulls head coach, citing their time together as part of the US Soccer coaching set-up earlier in their respective careers. "I have a lot of respect for the kind of guy he is and the work he puts in - and I’m happy he has an opportunity to work in the league, and so far he has done a good job."

As has been made clear by the Dynamo’s first few outings of 2017, Cabrera sends his team out to apply heavy pressure to an opposing back line. Marsch has a clear idea of what to expect in Houston:

Their style is totally different as they press with their front three and want to put you under pressure and make you make mistakes. If you break their pressure they are quick to drop and they count on their front three guys to counter attack.

Sacha Kljestan has returned from US Men’s National Team duty and will have no issues getting ready to start against Houston. The Dynamo’s new look has got the RBNY captain’s attention:

They are more wide open than in the past - kinda have three guys up front and defend with about seven. When we were down in Houston two years ago we lost 4-2, it seems like in two years there have been a lot of goals.

Hopefully we tighten things up in the back and we are good enough to break them down on the ball and we are fully aware of them on the counter.

Kljestan’s not wrong about the recent history between these two teams. The Dynamo’s 4-2 home win in 2015 was followed by RBNY winning 4-3 in a wild one at Red Bull Arena last season. Goals have been the only reliable feature of games between these sides over the last couple of years.

In other news out of RBNY training, Marsch was keen to make clear he is pushing to get Michael Murillo up and running in the near future:

He’s definitely playing this coming Wednesday, but we have to clear up the loan situation, but definitely playing on the USL team on Wednesday, April 5th. So it will be great to see him get a full 90-minute game with us. His clarity on the role is pretty good.

It’s just a demanding position for us [Note: Murillo is a full back] and it’s important that they are clear on their roles and I have been a bit reluctant to throw him in and it’s been more on me than on him, but I just want to set him up to succeed. I hope he gets that USL game under his belt and then we can integrate him with the first team.

The international break is over and RBNY is at full(er) strength. The Red Bulls head to Houston looking for their second road win of the young season. Kick-off is at 8:30 pm, Eastern, on Saturday, April 1.