Saturday at 7 PM Seattle renews a former rivalry when they host the Houston Dynamo in a clash of Western Conference foes. Q13 is carrying this resumption of conference rivalry. Seattle Sounders enter the game 1-1-1 +2 and Houston is 1-1-2 +0.
Gribbs from Dynamo Theory answers Three Questions about the Forever Orange.
SaH: How much of 2015 is a waiting game until Cubo Torres comes and boosts the offense?
DT: The Dynamo had two major concerns in the offseason one of which was shoring up our uncharacteristically leaky defense and the other was finding a goal scorer. We were able to sign Cubo Torres, though he won't arrive until sometime this summer, but early in the season it appears as if we've been able to address our defensive concerns by only allowing 2 goals over 4 games. However, in that time we've also only been able to find the net twice which really means Cubo can't get here fast enough. Part of the reason for our offensive woes and defensive success has been our use of a 5 man midfield which has made things difficult for opposing teams, but has also led to a disconnect between our midfield and our attacking player(s).
As it stands, Cubo would be able to improve most teams in MLS so waiting for him is a huge part of this season. Until Cubo does arrive, Dynamo fans can relish in the fact that the team has improved tremendously on defense and has put together a few good performances against quality clubs.
SaH: Is there a defining style to Owen Coyle's Dynamo yet? Will there be?
DT: When Owen Coyle arrived he promised Houston fans an attractive brand of football. We've seen glimpses of his possession and attacking based style, but as it stands this is a defense 1st team that relies heavily on counter attacking to produce offense. Coyle's attempt to utilize Houston's talent and incorporate them into his system requires a lot of positional discipline which should come over time. However, if the results don't start coming, he may need to alter his approach to cater more towards the players that he has available. Currently our surplus of midfield talent and lack of quality attacking options has made it difficult for Coyle to completely establish his approach so we're seeing a bit of a compromise in tactics and style with the players and his system.
Will we get there? We're currently taking baby steps to get there, but we're making progress. Will it be exactly what he promised? Almost certainly not.
SaH: What is Houston doing different now that they are in the Western Conference?
DT: This is a tough question to answer simply because there has been a lot of change to Houston since last season. We had a new coach arrive and we didn't make the playoffs for the 2nd time in club history (we're not used to missing the playoffs and we don't like it) on top of our move to the Western Conference. Dynamo President Chris Canetti told fans that he expects this team to compete immediately and we all pretty much believe it - regardless of the conference we belong to. Since last season we've said goodbye to a number of players and have welcomed new ones even though the starting lineup has closely resembled what it looked like last year.
One difference in coaching styles between former Dynamo boss Dominic Kinnear and current HC Owen Coyle is that Kinnear often played his strongest lineup week in and week out, regardless of the competition while Coyle is keen on experimenting depending on the competition which has led to a different starting lineup each week. In our match against the LA Galaxy for example, he played Ricardo Clark, Luis Garrido, and Nathan Sturgis (you remember him right?), 3 defensive midfielders together to make it difficult for LA to move through the midfield and apart from the opening 5 minutes, it worked.
Significant Absences: Currently no listed injuries or absences, though Ricardo Clark has a costochrondral fracture (or cartilage separated from his rib)...but he played through that last game so I expect him to play.
Beasley, Taylor, Rodríguez, Sarkodie (Defenders)
Davis (LM), Clark (DCM), Garrido (CM), Sturgis (CM), Boniek (RM)
(Actual starting lineup may vary due to Owen Coyle being extremely unpredictable)
DT: The Seattle Sounders have consistently been one of the most competitive teams in the league since they joined and are coming off a Supporters Shield winning year. The Sounders seem to get to the playoffs, but just can't get all the way to the final game of the season. What are the expectations for the Sounders even though the Western Conference just got a little more crowded?
SaH: After six years in MLS with five major trophies the Sounders faithful have high standards. They expect to be in contention for every trophy on the board. That means making the Western Conference Final at a minimum, within the final month of the season being capable of making a run and winning the Shield again and making the Open Cup Final. If Adrian, Garth, Sigi & Co made that kind of run and wound up without trophies it would be hard to consider it a failure. That's a very high standard, one that probably only LA comes close to matching. That creates a lot of pressure on the front office, the coaches and the players.
DT: It looks like the injury bug has bitten Seattle particularly hard with Obafemi Martins, Chad Marshall, Clint Dempsey, and Osvaldo Alonso all missing time against Dynamo rivals FC Dallas. Are any of those guys expected to return soon and what measures have the Sounders taken to remain competitive with some players expected to miss longer periods of time?
SaH: I've got bad news for Dynamo fans. The magic 8-ball is saying that the full strength Sounders XI should take the field against Houston on Saturday. Pappa is back from Guatemala National Team duty. Alonso was always projected to return around now. Marshall, Oba and Clint weren't significantly injured and some indications were that if they were needed in a must-win game they would have played last week. If they all play this will be the first time that Sigi gets to give a run to his first choice selection in 2015.
DT: Despite an early red card to FC Dallas player Kellyn Acosta, the Sounders were unable to put away the 10-man side. How are the Sounders looking to rebound after that performance?
SaH: The key to that is that Seattle was playing without its five (or five of six) of its best players. There aren't many teams in MLS that are good on the road in those circumstances. Just look at Chad Barretts two chances that he pushed wide. If Oba or Clint are in that space they almost certainly score. Even the dearth of chance creation probably gets fixed just by having Pappa and Alonso. Seattle's midfield is broken without them. On set-pieces having one of the league's best heading CB's back is a significant cure for illness.
It sucks to lose those possible points. But no one should look at the circumstances and think it signifies of how the team will behave over a season. Now, this is two games in a row where Seattle couldn't capitalize on being up a man. That's pretty awful.
Projected Lineup: 4-4-2 Frei; Gonzalez, Marshall, Evans, Mears; Neagle, Pineda, Alonso, Pappa; Dempsey, Martins