There's a lot of change recently down in Texas. The Houston Dynamo added DeMarcus Beasley and Luis Garrido as they attempt to push up from the lower reaches of the table and make a run at another strong playoff appearance.
Gribbs from Dynamo Theory answers three questions and asks four.
SaH: Run DMB was the left back for the USA. How is Kinnear going to be using him? Is that a good idea considering the roster?
DT: DaMarcus Beasley is pretty much capable of playing anywhere on the left side of the field from LB to LW, but has stated that his preferred position is left back. That's the position he played against D.C. United, and that's where I expect him to lineup on Sunday. I wrote an article about the many possibilities that DMB and our other signing Luis Garrido provide in terms of formations, but I expect us to trot out the same starting XI we used against DCU. It seemed to work brilliantly - DMB was mobile and able to defend and attack well, and Garrido's nickname "La Fiera" (roughly translated to The Beast) lived up as he made it a nightmare for DC to try and traverse the central midfield.
SaH: Is this a roster that's underperforming, or is building for next year already necessary?
DT: This is the time of year for our traditional playoff run and while it's too early to say that it's happening, I think that the signing of DMB and Luis Garrido show that the team isn't ready to give up on the season. I think the biggest reason for our listlessness over the early part of the summer was due to key players being injured and out on
international duty. Arguably our three best players: Brad Davis (USMNT), Oscar Boniek Garcia (Honduran National Team), and Ricardo Clark (concussion symptoms) missed significant time this year and when the team's best players are all out and all play pivotal roles in the midfield, the results aren't going to pretty. Now that these players are all healthy and have returned I expect our late playoff push tobegin soon which has coincided nicely with the arrival of DMB and Garrido.
SaH: What is Kinnear doing different this season after many years getting great results?
DT: For years Dominic Kinnear has been considered fairly predictable: 4-4-2, hardnosed defenders, and set pieces are all traits of a traditional Kinnear system which has worked for most of his time in Houston. He broke his mold a few years ago by implementing a 4-3-3 that helped see us through to the MLS Cup final, but this year our defense has been lacking, set pieces haven't been our bread and butter, and we rarely see the 4-3-3. Kinnear has done his best to patch up the defense with the addition of DMB and Garrido provides holding support with Clark in central midfield.
Honestly, I don't see too much difference in tactics or personnel, but what I do think is different is a switch towards creative types that influence the offense through the run of play. Giles Barnes, Boniek, Garrido, and Brad Davis all provide excellent service. It isn't a huge difference, but by utilizing those types of skills on top of his
system, he's added a new dynamic for the team to find success. It's been a rough year trying to find that success, but now that the team is healthy, present, and hungry for wins (it is that time of the year for Houston), maybe we'll see the strength of the system - both new and old.
Lineup: Hall; Beasley, Horst, Taylor, Sarkodie; Davis, Clark, Garrido, Boniek; Barnes, Bruin
Prediction: 2-2 Draw
Seattle isn't easy to beat at home by any measure, but I think a rejuvenated Houston side and the absence of Yedlin may prove enough to see the Dynamo earn a valuable road point.
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DT: The Sounders are on a two game skid and have fallen to 2nd place in the overall standings (oh how we envy 2nd place from where we're sitting). What are some of the problems that have led to those results and how have the Sounders remedied those issues ahead of Sunday's clash?
SaH: The biggest issue is the offense. Yes, the easy answer is a defense that lacks Chad Marshall is average at best, but the attack used to put up two goals a game and now looks anemic. That should change Sunday as Clint isn't in Brazil and Oba is healthy. But if the midfield can't get those two service it won't matter how amazing they can be together. I guess I just pointed out issues with the defense, the attack, the midfield. Just to round things out Frei can be prone to mental errors while still having awesome save numbers.
Yes, I'm saying that everything has been flawed. That may be a sign of expectations. In the last five games Seattle is earning a "mere" 1.2 PPM (that's still good enough if it was a season long number it would be 13th). That's highly dissatisfying for a fanbase that is expecting greatness, not just good.
DT: The Sounders have consistently been one of the best in not just the West, but the league, though they've only reached the conference finals once in their short history. What makes this year different: the combination of players, the chemistry between them, players maturity, fresh faces, or anything else?
SaH: When the club kept Sigi Schmid they went all-in on the coach. The players brought in fit his vision and mold more than in previous years. That meant nabbing two-time Shield and Defensive Player of the Year Chad Marshall, two-time 18-goal scorer Kenny Cooper for the bench, and former Fire great Marco Pappa. In addition to those big names league vets Barrett, Bowen, and Anibaba are on the squad. It's younger, faster and yet more veterany than the team that has been good, but fallen short.
Hopefully the leadership of several former captains, the US captain and others means that Sounders FC doesn't just perform well in the regular season and Open Cup but they reach heights they've not yet seen.
DT: Seattle has been more than impressive at home managing 7 wins and only 2 losses with a +11 goal differential. Houston has been fired up with their new signings and is looking to put some wins together,
but doing it against the Sounders won't be easy. How should Houston try to get a result in a very tough place to play?
SaH: I'd try to play in the space behind Alonso. It's difficult to get there, Alonso is an All Star always and a several time team MVP, but other teams have exploited that area. It will mean some long distance shooting. Score a couple from there and then bunker, but don't bunker before you're up two.
DT: Bonus question! This has less to do with the players and more about the organization. Seattle has been incredibly successful (most successful) at drawing fans to attend matches for just about every competition while maintaining an incredibly successful online presence. Houston continues to have announced attendances of around 20k and struggle to garner the kind of support that other cities have on social media despite having a large, soccer loving population. What tips would you give the Dynamo FO to get butts in seats (a saying we often use to get fans to show up)?
SaH :I think it is important to connect to a city in ways that are unique to that city. Just because the March to the Match and scarves work in Seattle doesn't mean they are the answers for every market. Seattle's struggled to connect with minority groups, so it's not all perfect here. It's also unlikely that the stadium sells all 67,500 tickets for the match against the Dynamo.
I don't know the Houston market outside of awful MLB ratings. So it's hard to give advice. I'd assume there would need to be a huge push for a Hispanic audience, a need to connect to the tech industry there and a need to connect to ex-pats working in the oil business.
Projected Lineup: Frei; Gonzalez, Traore, Marshall, Evans; Neagle, Pineda, Alonso, Pappa; Dempsey, Martins