Seattle Sounders FC are only scheduled to face the Houston Dynamo twice this year. Once in the preseason match Wednesday and since they are in the Eastern Conference only one regular season game (10 August at CenturyLink). Regularly in the mix for a Conference title the Dynamo are a younger team in 2014 after parting ways with former Sounders Ching (still in the org, but no longer playing) and Weaver.
Helping guide us through those changes and how they will impact the match ahead is Fuzion from DynamoTheory.com.
SaH: The Dynamo got much younger in the attack (mainly through retirement and the Cascio acquisition). How does it play together?
DT: Surprisingly well. Cascio fits into the role Calen Carr played, and also provides a true pacey winger with seriously adept touch on the ball. He stays primarily on the left, which allows Brad Davis to move about as warranted in turn pulling a lot of the pressure off him to be the main source of service.
The defense is also much younger with Boswell leaving for DCU and David Horst becoming the most likely starter alongside Jermaine Taylor. Younger legs means far better recovery when mental lapses spring up. Also, Horst is fantastic in the aerial game, and that should return some of the set piece domination the club has been known for in previous seasons.
SaH: Who needs to show well to earn themselves more minutes or even a roster slot?
DT: Draft picks Mark Sherrod has shown well and should have a spot, while Alex Cochran will most likely be sent on-loan to Pittsburgh Riverhounds, the Dynamo USL-Pro Affiliate. I think at this point Alexander Lopez has to show something to earn a spot on the everyday 18, because he hasn't had a tremendous preseason by any stretch.
Michael Chabala and Euan Holden don't have contracts with the Dynamo, but are still with the club as of right now. If either has a good Carolina Challenge Cup, then that outside back slot is theirs.
Bryan Salazar is most likely gone from the club as Dominic Kinnear hasn't even put him on the bench for the entire preseason, but he could find himself with Pittsburgh on-loan as well.
SaH: Would you take Cam Weaver back if it was on a minimum veteran salary?
DT: Honestly? No. Weaver, while plenty capable, had a knack for missing wide open nets. He also became expendable with the trade for Cascio and the draft pick of Mark Sherrod. Sherrod is everything we hoped Weaver could become, but didn't, and Cascio gives up another attacking option who can play up top in a winger role if needed.
DT: For most teams the departure of an Eddie Johnson would hamper their ability to compete, however the Sounders still look poised to move up in the Western Conference with a serious shot at contending for an MLS Cup. What moves in particular do you feel were made over the offseason to bolster those chances?
SaH: It's hard to pin it to just one move since Seattle churned so many players out. I'll stick to two though. Kenny Cooper is capable of putting up the goal totals that Eddie did. He isn't as talented, but every few years he scores in double digits. In defense Seattle added two-time Defender of the Year Chad Marshall. There have been some great defenses up here, but none had a shutdown CB. Sounders FC now has that. There were a lot of others swaps that helped out in little ways, but adding two peak age vets who know success in this league sum up the other moves as well.
DT: Osvaldo Alonso was re-signed recently and is one of the most accurate passers in Major League Soccer. What is the most underappreciated contribution Alonso makes those who don't follow Seattle closely might not know?
SaH: His passing. Everyone in the league already knows about his ball winning. Only this year, particularly through MLSSoccer.com's deep dives into Opta data are general MLS fans starting to realize that Alonso's passing tree is so diverse. He is not just third in the league for most completed long balls, but of the 10 outfield players that completed the most long balls he has the highest pass completion percentage at 80%. Yep, 80% of his long balls were completed passes. He completes long balls at rate where that alone would have him as the 58th best passer in the league. Non-long balls he completes at a 90% rate.
Seattle has been looking for a deep lying playmaker for some time. It might just be that Alonso became the man for which they were looking.
DT: If you could take one player from the Houston Dynamo in a trade and send an equally talented player in return who would you pick and send back?
SaH: Tally Hall. It isn't that I don't have faith in Frei. It's more that things are pretty great with having Keller and then Hahnemann on the squad. Always having a Sounder as a keeper for the Sounders would be great. I'd guess that deal would have to be something like Frei and a player though. Keeper swaps are hard.
With this being a midweek preseason match rosters are highly in flux so an exchange of starting lineups was not done by my request. That feature will return for the regular season.