Two teams playing on short rest with players absent due to the United States ignoring the FIFA international window meet Sunday night at 7 PM. One is a top team in the West with a horrible road record. The other is the Seattle Sounders, who many pegged to threaten for the Supporters’ Shield, but instead rest way down in 8th play. The Houston Dynamo have never won in Seattle and only have a single road point in 2017.
Derek from Dynamo Theory answers Three Questions. My lineup guess is based on statements from Friday’s practice and is highly variable in regards to Shipp, Bruin and Adekoya.
SaH: What's going on with the most dramatic difference in home/road splits I've seen in MLS?
DT: I think every Dynamo fan has their own working theory for why this team absolutely sucks on the road while being arguably the best team in MLS at home. I’ve noticed several differences that stand out and those begin with mentality. At home the team seems to never be satisfied with the amount of goals scored. They never sit back and keep the foot on the gas as they continue to press and hope for more opportunities to score. Away, the team seems more reserved and conservative with their style of play. They sit behind the ball rather than attack it as it seems they’re concerned with not giving up possession or being caught out of position. This is counter to who they are as they are built to be a mistake-prone counter attacking all-out offensive force. Goals will happen against us, but we are built to score more. For some reason we take this conservative approach on the road and don’t play like ourselves.
We typically deploy a 4-3-3 with forwards not helping as much on the defensive end because they’re prepared to spring the counter. When our midfielders need to stay back more, which they do on the road, we give away the entire center of the park because our forwards don’t retreat to help. That leads to increased chances for opponents. When the midfielders push up and support the offense we create many more opportunities to score. At home, we spread the field with long switches and long passes to create as many chances as we can for our forwards, but that kind of pass is rare on the road. If we were a better team at building up play through the back this might work, but it doesn’t happen. Cabrera needs to try his home strategy away sometime to see how it fares, but for now expect a conservative slow counter attacking opponent.
SaH: Dynamo are without Beasley, but does their defense get better with Remick?
DT: Short answers: no. DMB is still one of the best left backs in MLS. He has speed, is savvy, gets up the pitch well, which is what this all-in offense demands, and has a veteran presence while defending. To Dylan Remick’s credit, he has been an absolute stand out player. It’s so tough to judge a rookie to a veteran, but I think every Dynamo fan loves what Remick brings. Earlier in the year fans said that he reminded them of Craig Waibel, a Dynamo fan favorite because of the tenacity and grit that he brought. Those are big shoes to fill to the Dynamo faithful so the comparison is a very warm one. I do not think they get better, but do we get worse, or much worse for that matter? No.
SaH: What will it take for Cubo to get the call into Mexico?
DT: Not much. Cubo gained attention from Mexico while he was with Wilmer Cabrera at Chivas USA. Well, Cabrera coaches the Dynamo and the Dynamo have Cubo Torres. The two have blended perfectly together this season as Cubo has lost weight and bought into a system that has made him a center piece. His hold up play is better along with his passing, shot selection, and aerial abilities show a lot of growth for a player that seemed apathetic last season. I think Cubo can break into a Mexican side as long as he can keep up the pace. As a top scorer in MLS it won’t be difficult to overlook.
It’s always tough to judge when we will be playing our 3rd game in 8 days, but I think this is the lineup we see.
4-3-3: Tyler Deric; Dylan Remick, Leonardo, Adolfo Machado, A. J. DeLaGarza; Alex Lima, Juan David Cabezas, Oscar Boniek Garcia; Andrew Wenger, Mauro Manotas, Alberth Elis
DT: At 16 points the Seattle Sounders are by no means out of a strong run to the top of the table, but currently occupy the 8th spot on the Western Conference table. What’s one of the biggest contributing issues for inconsistent results for Seattle?
SaH: Normally I like to use paragraphs. This may be better as a list
Jordan Morris played with a bum hammy and then a borked ankle. He lacked the speed that is his signature tool..
There were games when the Sounders started a 4th string, a 5th string and a 6th string defender.
The fourth starting attacker in their 4-2-3-1 wasn't really claimed, but instead rotated through because none of Alvaro Fernandez, Harry Shipp or Will Bruin made it obvious that it should be them getting the start.
Everyone was tired. Similar to Portland and Columbus last year, the Sounders had no time to recover from the MLS Cup run. This was made especially difficult with four callups to January Camp.
A stupid schedule heavy on road games to start
A roster with only 25 players and one of those is on loan
All of these reasons exist, and many were known before the season started. None on their own would break a team. All of them together has led to a rather mediocre start to 2017.
DT: Coming into this game both sides had midweek matches and some players have been called into their national team camps which could make lineup decisions for the managers more difficult. What kind of adjustments will Brian Schmetzer make and is anyone expected to miss the game call-ups?
SaH: Jordan Morris and Clint Dempsey are both gone. Will Bruin has been wearing a large brace in practices after dislocating his elbow. Bruin might be back, but would be a bit limited. If Bruin cannot start the team is without their top three forwards and would be down to Seyi Adekoya again. Adekoya is kind of a lesser version of Morris - fast, likes to run from wide spaces, a bit goal dangerous. But he's not ready. The team also has some injuries and fitness issues that will limit the rest of the lineup. This is one of those games the team might try to steal, even if at home.
DT: At the beginning of the year we talked about Nicolas Lodeiro being a potential MVP candidate being capable of 20+ assists and 12+ goals. While he’s assisting at a decent rate, it isn’t among the leaders at the moment and his scoring should be somewhat concerning as we enter summer. While certainly a dangerous player every time he gets the ball, what does Seattle need to do to get Lodeiro producing? Maybe he’s just waiting until the second half of the season like last year where he was unstoppable.
SaH: Part of Nico's problem in racking up those big money counting stats is that Jordan Morris played through a borked ankle and the team as a whole just isn't finishing as a expected. If Morris has his speed than those throughballs are actually effective. If not, the team turns into a rather pedestrian possession side that just keeps holding the ball and not threatening. That might be fixed when Morris gets back from USMNT service, but that's another game away - plus the Gold Cup is going to hit Seattle too.
If Lodeiro is going to get himself into the MVP race, something that on talent alone he is capable of doing, he will need to do it himself. He needs to take the reigns of the monster, break it and ride it. He did it for 19 games. It's time to do it again.
Projected Lineup: Stefan Frei; Joevin Jones, Chad Marshall, Roman Torres, Brad Evans; Osvaldo Alonso, Cristian Roldan; Harry Shipp, Nicolas Lodeiro, Alvaro Fernandez; Seyi Adekoya