The Black and Gold edged the Seattle Sounders 1-0 in the Western Conference semi-finals to advance to this stage, while Orange Crush defeated Sporting Kansas City by that same score and will play in the conference finals for the first time since 2017.
We saw a relatively passive approach from the reigning MLS Cup champions in Seattle, but in the end, it got the job done as LAFC posted a second successive clean sheet in the post-season.
Having the kind of top-end attacking talent that the Black and Gold possess provides Steve Cherundolo with a nice luxury to hang back and sustain plenty of pressure as their strikers rarely miss an opportunity presented to them.
Navigating a busy campaign for LAFC has been tricky, with this team competing in 51 matches across all competitions this year though they have yet to claim a title.
The MLS Cup will be their last chance to lift a trophy in 2023 after the Black and Gold lost the CONCACAF Champions League final versus Club Leon (3-1 on aggregate) and the Campeones Cup final to Tigres (4-2 on penalties).
Cherundolo tends to play a more wide-open style at home, with his side delivering more often than not in the attacking third, scoring five times in each of their last two matches played at BMO Stadium, while notching three or more goals in eight MLS fixtures this year.
The Black and Gold are 15-0-3 when scoring first in league play this year, winning seven of their eight playoff contests all-time when drawing first blood.
LAFC have only been behind in one of their previous six playoff fixtures, and it only lasted four minutes before a Gareth Bale header levelled the 2022 MLS Cup final at three a piece, with the Black and Gold defeating the Philadelphia Union on penalties.
All season long, the Dynamo have gotten by thanks to some exceptional ball-winning midfielders and chance creators, and that was the case last Sunday against KC.
Ben Olsen has been a massive success story in his return to MLS coaching, leading this club to their first trophy since 2018, capturing the US Open Cup earlier this year, while the Dynamo have not lost an MLS encounter in normal time since September 23 (2-1 defeat versus Sporting KC).
Orange Crush have not won a conference final match since 2012 when they were in the Eastern Conference and defeated Olsen's old team, DC United (2-1), advancing from that tie 4-2 on aggregate.
They have not won a playoff fixture away from home since defeating the Portland Timbers 2-1 in the 2017 conference semi-finals, with their last conference final triumph as the visitors occurring in the 2012 knockout round against the Chicago Fire (2-1).
Houston have never lost a domestic game this season in 90 minutes when leading at the half, though they failed to triumph in two of their previous three domestic fixtures as the away team despite being in front at the interval.
While they only won three matches away from home during the opening 34 games of the domestic campaign, the Dynamo defeated LAFC in both regular-season fixtures this year, including 1-0 triumph at BMO Stadium, their only ever road triumph against them.
Two changes were made to the LAFC starting 11 in their conference semi-final victory over the Rave Green, with Giorgio Chiellini and Carlos Vela entering the fold in place of Aaron Long and Mario Gonzalez.
Denis Bouanga is nearing the single-season club record for goals, netting for the 37th time across all competitions last Sunday, one fewer than Vela managed in 2019.
A brilliant header from Franco Escobar was all the Dynamo would need to defeat SKC in the conference semi-finals, with the Argentine netting his fourth career post-season goal, while Hector Herrera picked up his second assist of the 2023 playoffs.
Steve Clark collected his first clean sheet of the playoffs, stopping all four Kansas City efforts, while he has not conceded to LAFC this year, with Micael scoring the only goal when they defeated them at BMO Stadium during the regular season.
Los Angeles FC possible starting lineup:
Crepeau; Hollingshead, Murillo, Chiellini, Palacios; Bogusz, Sanchez, Acosta; Olivera, Vela, Bouanga
Houston Dynamo possible starting lineup:
Clark; Dorsey, Sviatchenko, Micael, Escobar; Artur, Herrera; Carrasquilla, Bassi, Caicedo; Baird
We say: Los Angeles FC 1-0 Houston Dynamo
The quality of an in-form Bouanga, along with the top-class goalkeeping of Crepeau, could be what separates these two evenly matched sides.
As strong as Houston are in the middle of the field, they do not have anyone in the attacking third with the finishing ability of a Bouanga.
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