Paulo Nagamura has not been disheartened by the Houston Dynamo’s disappointing MLS form and now believes a U.S. Open Cup victory can kickstart their season.

The Dynamo have fallen out of the playoff players in the Western Conference after three straight defeats, including two to Texas rivals in FC Dallas and Austin FC.

Given Nagamura’s announced desire to be “the best team in Texas”, those losses were seen as significant setbacks.

But the coach remains positive and oversaw a win over another Texas side in San Antonio FC on Wednesday, encouraging further optimism ahead of this weekend’s game against Nashville SC.

“We want to be fighting for championships,” Nagamura said. “We want to win trophies. We want to be in the playoffs at the end of the year. It’s a step-by-step process.

“Every time we step on the field,that’s the goal – to put this club where we want to go. It’s a process, but we build from this.

“We know that it’s step by step, but we are definitely going to build from this win.”

Nashville also won in the cup, beating Atlanta United, but Gary Smith acknowledged it took a “monumental effort” to recover from 2-0 down and win.

“I don’t think there’s an awful lot I could say to describe the events,” Smith said. “Just a flat-out cup tie that I think every single fan that was in the stadium would have enjoyed.

“Atlanta were better than us first half and we were better than them second half.

“It took a monumental effort to turn around a difficult start, but in the end I think we showed all the characteristics of a team that has so much spirit, so much fight, so much character.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Houston Dynamo – Sebastian Ferreira

Ferreira has been clinical for the Dynamo in the league this season, scoring four goals from eight shots over his past five appearances. The forward was not quite so ruthless, but he still netted the winner from one of four attempts and heads into the weekend full of confidence.

Nashville SC – CJ Sapong

Houston cannot afford to switch off against Nashville, for Sapong has scored in the 92nd minute of consecutive matches, crucially taking the Atlanta game to extra time. The striker started that game from the bench, too, and so should be relatively fresh.

KEY OPTA FACTS

– Nashville collected four points from their two previous meetings with Houston, both in the 2020 season. Hany Mukhtar scored twice in the second of the two meetings, a 3-1 away win for Nashville in October 2020.

– Houston have lost three straight games after losing only once in their first seven MLS matches this year (W3 D3). The Dynamo are no strangers to four-match losing streaks having recorded two of them since the beginning of August 2021.

– Nashville ended a three-match winless run with a 2-0 victory over Real Salt Lake on Sunday. Nashville have recorded consecutive wins just once since the start of September, beating the Crew and Sporting Kansas City in early April.

– The Dynamo managed just 10 touches in DC United’s penalty area in the 2-0 defeat on Saturday. Houston have averaged an MLS-low 16.0 touches in the opposition penalty area per match this season.

– Dave Romney has scored two goals in a single MLS season for the second time in his career after finding the net against Real Salt Lake on Sunday. Romney scored two goals for the Galaxy in the 2017 season, netting against Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City, the same two teams he scored against this season.