The Portland Timbers are back home this weekend and will be taking on the Houston Dynamo as they look to secure their playoff footing. The Timbers have not seen the Dynamo in the two months since beating them 2-0 at Providence Park back in June and with injuries and new arrivals this Dynamo team could give a very different look from the last go around.
To get some idea of what to expect from Houston tomorrow night, we reached out to Mr. Gribbs over at our SB Nation sister-site Dynamo Theory and got his thoughts on the state of the team.
The Dynamo are currently four points behind the surging Seattle Sounders in the race for the final playoff plot in the Western Conference. How vital is a road result against the Timbers to keeping Houston's playoff hopes alive?
This will be the 2nd of 3 games on the road before we return to BBVA Compass Stadium and it's easily the most important. Our first game was a loss to New England in a game that took nearly 5 hours to finish due to weather delays and the last is a match against Conference bottom Colorado. The Dynamo need points against teams in front of them in order to stay playoff relevant and that means getting a result against the Timbers.
The Western Conference has been absolutely brutal for teams on the road this year, with only Real Salt Lake posting a worse points per game away from home than the Dynamo; the Timbers, meanwhile, are one of a group of teams in the Western Conference with a very strong home record. How will the Dynamo approach this game from a tactical standpoint as they look to move up the ladder?
I think some of our results on the road have been somewhat misleading because much of the time the tactics and effort have been sound even in games where we ultimately lose out. One of our matches against the LA Galaxy for instance featured a last minute foul on David Horst in the box which would have given the Dynamo a potentially game tying penalty. Instead, the ball was placed comically about 10 yards away from where the challenge actually took place. This year we've done well in places we've traditionally struggled as a franchise, like in Toronto, and even played well against the Seattle Sounders in a 1-0 loss earlier in the year while they were around the top of the Western Conference. Despite those good efforts, the results have not been kind on the road and more often than not, the team struggles to end up on the score sheet on the road.
Tactically the Dynamo will want to do many of the same things that they try to do in most of their games: limit teams from getting deep into our defensive 3rd of the field, including fouling around the 18 yard box, try to win control of the midfield, and capitalize on chances when the occur, whether they're frequent or few. Stopping the talented playmaker Diego Valeri from becoming an impact is absolutely vital defensively while offensively the Dynamo will need to put any of the chances on goal they get on frame.
Who should the Timbers be worried about in the Dynamo attack? Giles Barnes and Will Bruin both combined to torch the Timbers in Houston earlier this season in the middle of a torrid run of form; are both players still at the top of their game? And how will Erick "Cubo" Torres fit into all of this?
One player who has become increasingly important to the Dynamo offense has been Alex Lima - a player we acquired from the Chicago Fire in exchange for Jason Johnson. The versatile Brazilian can play anywhere in the midfield and has a penchant for pressuring defenses and winning balls in vital areas to set up chances for himself and others.
Giles Barnes is still very dangerous, but he hasn't looked quite his pre-Gold Cup form following his return from the Jamaican National Team and their historic run to the Gold Cup Final. Will Bruin has worked hard on his runs, which have gotten quite good lately, and his hold up play, but he's been getting subbed out early in the 2nd halves of games to bring on Cubo Torres. I'd expect the same to happen against the Timbers.
What is your predicted lineup?
4-4-1-1: Tyler Deric; DaMarcus Beasley, Raul Rodriguez, David Horst, Sheanon Williams; Brad Davis, Nathan Sturgis, Luis Garrido, Alex Lima; Giles Barnes; Will Bruin
Look for our responses to Dynamo Theory's questions coming up soon. We will look to post a link in the comments below when they are available.