The Portland Timbers take on the Houston Dynamo tomorrow at Providence Park in the first meeting of the season between the two sides. While the Dynamo might currently be in the basement of the West, there are changes afoot in Space City after their recent coaching change, so the Timbers will need to keep up their recent stellar play at home.
To get the low-down on the Dynamo, we talked to Dynamo Theory's Derek Stowers and he was kind enough to answer some of our questions. We answered some of Derek's questions as well; you can find those over at Dynamo Theory tomorrow morning before the match.
With three games under their belt since Owen Coyle departed (insert Brexit joke here) how have things changed for the Dynamo? Will the team be able to turn things around in time to contend for a playoff spot in 2016?
Things have not radically shifted, but we have seen some change under Interim Head Coach Wade Barrett. He moved away from Owen Coyle's preferred 4-2-3-1 in favor of a 4-1-4-1 and has emphasized a tough mentality that he exuded himself as a player. It's this, "make it difficult for teams to beat us" frame of mind that has helped the team be unbeaten under his control. Of course, the team is also winless so there's certainly room to grow, specifically on offense. The team has the talent to turn it around, and likely has the direction to so now. Is it too late? Possibly, but right now the team has to take it one game at a time.
After their explosive start to the season, the Dynamo attack has fallen off a cliff, scoring just nine goals in their last twelve games. Who can the Dynamo look to in order to get their offense going against the Timbers -- and for the rest of the season?
When Owen Coyle first arrived in Houston at the beginning of last season, he promised an attacking brand of soccer that would entertain and dazzle fans with the goals scored. This offseason he was able to structure the team that was more to his liking than the one that he inherited from Dominic Kinnear and the hope was this season was the time to implement this attacking oriented style of play. Well, it turns out that teams also need to defend if they hope to win games. The Dynamo had several high scoring games early in the year, but had also given up plenty of goals as well. The team decided to devote more energy on the defensive side and apart from a few outlier games the Dynamo haven't conceded many goals per game.
To get the offense going the Dynamo will need to do two things: First, and most importantly, the midfielders and occasionally the defenders will need to support the offense by making runs up the field in order to give forwards outlets to pass to. Will Bruin has largely been marginalized in this regard as he can hold the ball up but often gets swarmed by defenders before he has a chance to pass the ball off and make a run of his own. It isn't necessarily looking towards one player, but supporting anyone making runs, although Giles Barnes could step up his performances on the road. Secondly, the Dynamo have been at their best when they implement a higher pressing form of defense which creates turnovers in dangerous areas and quickly leads to breakaways. This way of penning a team in its own half was utilized by Coyle until Pedro Morales for the Vancouver Whitecaps showed in an early road game that accurate long balls can pick apart these tactics. Still, the game was lost because of a dubious penalty call and not because the defense couldn't handle the long passes. I think if players can support the forwards and if the team will occasionally press opponents in their own half, we'll see the offense come alive again - and not at the expense of the defense.
The Dynamo have only taken two points on the road so far this season, leaving them with the worst road record in the league. Is Houston really the worst away team in MLS or are those two points -- taken in their last two road matches -- indicative of something more?
I think that our road record is deceiving in many ways, but accurate in others. The Dynamo have been competitive in most of their games on the road only losing by 1 goal in each game with the exception of our trip to Avaya Stadium to face the San Jose Earthquakes. There have been a few poor penalty decisions and red cards go against us, but in the end our road record speaks for itself: enough wasn't done to escape with points. Since Wade Barrett has taken over we have gotten our first road points in Vancouver and in Dallas, both difficult places to get points in. Hopefully what was lacking was tactical and with Barrett at the helm the adjustments can be made to grind out results.
Lineup prediction: (4-1-4-1) Tyler Deric; DaMarcus Beasley, Raul Rodriguez, David Horst, Jalil Anibaba; Collen Warner; Giles Barnes, Cristian Maidana, Ricardo Clark, Andrew Wenger; Will Bruin