For their second road trip out of 17 total, the Colorado Rapids are heading to Houston, Texas to take on the Houston Dynamo. PNC Stadium in downtown H-Town has been a profitable road trip for the Burgundy Boys in recent years. The Rapids have won their last three matches at the orangest stadium in MLS, gone unbeaten in the previous four and have picked up five wins since 2016.
But the Dynamo will feel like this time is different. They have new ownership, a new coach and a new direction since the last time the Rapids made the trek south. Paulo Nagamura is in his first season as the head coach of not just the Dynamo, but any MLS team. Previously, he managed Sporting Kansas City II for four seasons.

In three games under Nagamura, the Dynamo have experienced every soccer result you can. They tied their first match, lost on the road and then won last weekend. Given how top-heavy the Western Conference appears to be this year, if the Dynamo can pick up points at PNC Stadium and take some lumps on the road, it should be a good first year for Nagamura.

With that being said, they made headlines recently when they signed Mexican star and national team captain Héctor Herrera to a pre-contract. Herrera will join Houston on a free transfer in the summer at the conclusion of his Atlético de Madrid season.

Herrera obviously won’t feature for the Dynamo this weekend, but his signing does appear to signal a shift within the organization. While the Dynamo front office work on the longterm vision of the club, Nagamura and the current roster are overhauling the culture of the locker room.
The team has struggled to consistently make the playoffs in recent years, but they do have talent and just picked up their first win of the season last weekend, thanks to Darwin Quintero’s game-winning goal that propelled him to MLS’s Team of the Week. The Rapids will have their work cut out for them to pick up a road result, and here’s how I see it unfolding.

1) Set Piece Success

The Dynamo have conceded just two goals in 270 minutes so far. That’s pretty good, and if they can keep it up, they’ll be competitive and give themselves a chance to win just about every game they play. But where they’re defensively weak is in the aerial duels category. They have the fifth-worst win percentage on aerial duels with 43.7%, per The Rapids notched their first set piece goal last weekend (which admittedly was not due to an aerial duel), and it should give everybody a jolt of confidence that their success on set pieces can be recreated over and over again. Earn corners and free kicks let Jack Price whip in head-high balls for guys in burgundy to nod towards goal.

2) Dam Up the Dynamo

Per, the Dynamo have completed one pass from a dead ball that’s led to a shot attempt. That’s tied for worst in the league. They’ve completed 27 passes from a live ball that have led to shot attempts. That’s tied for second worst in MLS. The season is early, they’re learning a new system, they’re lacking an elite forward. There are a lot of reasons why they’re struggling in the attack. It’s the Rapids job to make sure those woes continue for at least another 90 minutes. It may be a similar match to the last two for Colorado where the Dynamo end up with the majority of the ball but can’t find any attacking avenues or open passing lanes.

3) Feed Diego Rubio

The Rapids scored five goals over the two games of this recent homestand. Tallying the game-winning goal in each was forward Diego Rubio. Historically, he’s been a player who scores in bunches. Right now we’re in the middle of a bunch, and we don’t yet know how bountiful this bushel will be. The only way to find out is to ride the hot hand as far as it will go. If he plays the rest of the season the way he’s played the last two weeks, we’re talking about him being an All-Star, making a solid case for Best XI and carrying the Rapids to even higher heights than last year’s 60 points.