By Jeremy Branham

HOUSTON (SPORTSRADIO 610) – After a break that lasted a little over two weeks, the Western Conference Finals are set to kick off on Tuesday in Houston.

It will be 16 long days between the end of the Western Conference Semifinals and the start of the Western Conference Finals for the Dynamo as they hope to move one step closer to their third MLS Cup in franchise history.

For MLS experts, the Dynamo have overachieved, they have gone much further than anyone would have expected from the worst team in the Western Conference a year ago.  Wilmer Cabrera’s first year has not only brought the foundation of a promising future for the club, but perhaps that future is now.  Not only are the Dynamo one of just four teams remaining, but they expect to win.

The Dynamo finished strong down the stretch to guarantee themselves a home match in the Knockout Round.  The advantage of playing at home helped the Dynamo defeat Sporting Kansas City, 1-0 in extra time.  From there, the Dynamo went into Portland 0-0 on aggregate, and won at Providence Park to clinch their spot in the conference finals.

The path has been tough for the Dynamo, but now it becomes even more difficult, now they must dethrone the champ.  The Seattle Sounders, the 2016 MLS Cup champions, now stand in the way for the Dynamo.

Last year the ride for Seattle was a wild one.  Seattle saw their team at the bottom of the table, part ways with their long time head coach Sigi Schmid, sign Nico Lodeiro, eek into the playoffs and then win the MLS Cup without Clint Dempsey.

This season has been vastly different.  Unlike the down and then up 2016, the Sounders have been steady in 2017.  Yes, they’ve had to deal with injuries, notably Jordan Morris, but Seattle finds themselves in their second straight conference final.

For Seattle, their second place finish allowed them to avoid the Knockout Round and put them straight into the semis.  In the semifinals, they dispatched Vancouver 2-0 with all the goals coming in the second leg in Seattle.

Both teams, as is often the case this time of year, come into the conference finals in tremendous form.  The Dynamo are undefeated in their last nine matches, while Seattle hasn’t lost in their last four.

Entering Tuesday, both teams are also very good at home.  The Dynamo’s 12-1-4 home record was the best in the Western Conference during the regular season, while Seattle’s 11-1-5 road record was the second best.  Seattle had a better road record on the season at 3-8-6 compared to the Dynamo’s 1-9-7.

In addition to those numbers, Seattle finished with a positive 13 goal differential, the best in the Western Conference.  Their 39 goals allowed were second in the West behind Sporting Kansas City, while their 52 goals scored were third in the league behind Portland’s 60 and Houston’s 57.

Seattle is led by Dempsey’s 14 goals, while former Dynamo, Will Bruin, is second on the club with 11 goals.  Lodeiro, the 2016 MLS Newcomer of the Year, leads the club with 12 assists and has seven goals to boot.  Erick Torres paces the Dynamo with 14 goals while Alex leads in the assist category with 11.

The second leg of the aggregate will be played in Seattle on November 30, and the winner advances to the MLS Cup where they will play either Toronto or Columbus.

Listen to Tuesday’s match beginning with an 8:30 p.m. prematch show on Sports Radio 610.

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