1. Will Bruin has been on quite the tear since the last time the Timbers saw him, scoring six goals in his last five games, including two against the Timbers. What changed things for Bruin after his slow start to the season and how has his turnaround changed the Dynamo?
The team as a whole has settled into itself which has helped Bruin find his groove. Giles Barnes has recently played as a withdrawn striker and due to his recent form has been zeroed in on by defenses which has opened up space for Bruin to operate and take aim and let shots fly. He's got a lot of confidence at the moment, as does the rest of the squad. With Bruin scoring, the offense has provided support to the defense by creating a bit of breathing room between teams on the score line, and in doing so he defense has been prone to fewer individualized errors and soft goals. I don't think that the team is necessarily coming together because of Bruin but it certainly appears as things have begun to click for the Dynamo around his scoring streak.
2. Something like half of the Dynamo's goals this season have come off of set pieces -- certainly one of their three against the Timbers did last month. Who are the Dynamo's threats on set pieces and what is it that has made them so dangerous from them this year?
Set pieces have been part of the Dynamo DNA for awhile, but the team has given them more weight than they had the last few years in part because the team struggled early in the year to create offensive chances from the run of play, so the team needed to make good with the dead ball opportunities they're given.
The Dynamo have several players capable of sending in a dangerous ball in Brad Davis, Oscar Boniek Garcia, Giles Barnes, and Alex Lopez (among a few others) which means they'll almost always have someone capable of creating a quality scoring opportunity from a dead ball scenario. Players like Will Bruin, Giles Barnes, and Raul Rodriguez can head aerial opportunities using their size, strength, and positioning to make contact with the ball while players like Ricardo Clark and Oscar Boniek Garcia are adept at cleaning up balls from back post.
Having so many players capable of quality service and many targets specializing in various ways to score definitely has played a factor into this year's efficiency at converting set pieces. There's also a lot of work done to create screens to free players from their markers various runs, and lots of little work that often goes unseen in the fracas that most corners and free kicks become.
3. Owen Coyle has now been at the helm of the Dynamo for half a season; what can you tell us about how he would like the team to play and how has he done in terms of molding the Dynamo into his image? Is this still a Dominic Kinnear team or has Coyle made it his own?
Coyle has most certainly made the team his own through trial and error in the lineup formations, tactics used, and personnel deployed. Coyle promised an attacking minded squad when he was first hired and despite a slow start out of he gate, the Dynamo are currently tied for 4th in the league in goals finished. Sure there are plenty of Dominic Kinnear holdovers because he's left such a positive impression on his players, but Coyle has tinkered and tinkered away at getting the team to do the kinds of things he wants to see.
Bonus: Can you give us a lineup prediction for this one?
Tyler Deric (GK); DaMarcus Beasley (Def.), Raul Rodriguez (Def.) David Horst (Def.), Kofi Sarkodie (Def.); Alex Lopez (Mid.)*, Ricardo Clark (Mid.), Nathan Sturgis (Mid.), Luis Garrido (Mid.), Leonel Miranda (Mid)*; Will Bruin (FW)
*If Davis or Boniek can play, expect them to.
Double Bonus: How is David Horst doing in Houston a year and a half into his time there?
Horst has really come along well this year. When he first arrived, his size and strength were obvious, but so was the recklessness with his challenges. He's become a much cooler head this year and has become a key part of the Dynamo defense this year winning tons of aerial challenges, making numerous big clearances, and he even recently registered an assist in which he headed down a corner kick to Will Bruin's feet while being held.
Look for our responses to their questions as well over at Dynamo Theory later today.