The Portland Timbers are on the road and set to take on the Houston Dynamo Saturday evening in a match that could see the side all but seal a playoff spot or leave the door open for a late push from their Cascadian rivals below them on the table. To get the low-down on the Dynamo, we talked to our sister-site, Dynamo Theory, and they filled us in on all the goings-on in Houston.
You can expect our answers to their questions to be posted tomorrow morning over at Dynamo Theory.
What is the state of the Dynamo? With the team proving to be a difficult mark in recent matches, what has changed from the start of the season?
When a team is trying very hard to not be “worst team in the league”, things could absolutely better. The organization and fans alike have had to look closely for positives. For fans, it’s more of a challenge to look beyond points.
The real change began when Wade Barrett took over the managerial position after the departure of Owen Coyle. Barrett placed an emphasis on the defensive side of the ball with a goal which, as he says, is to make us “hard to play against”. The Dynamo, since Barrett took the reins, have conceded just 16 goals in 15 games or about 1.07 goals per game which is tied for the 2nd least goals conceded in the league during Barrett’s time as interim manager. In that respect, we are very difficult to play against. However, it is our offense that has been much harder to come by as the team has only scored 14 goals in that time which is good enough for the 3rd least goals scored in the league.
The mark of Barrett’s team has been its conservative nature and its reliance on players to commit efforts on the defensive side of the ball often at the expense of offense. What has made the Dynamo draw so many games is that they’re very good at scoring early and letting teams back into games or going down goals early and forcing Barrett to take more risks higher up the field. Obviously it’s an imperfect strategy, but given our personnel it has at least allowed us to frustrate teams such as Sporting Kansas City who went up 2 goals only to draw 3-3 with us.
Is there anyone in this Dynamo side who has noticing stepped up their game since the departure of Owen Coyle? What about player who have fallen off the pace?
Alex Lima and to an extent Mauro Manotas have excelled. Alex has been more or less a constant all season, but as the Dynamo became more defensive with their tactics, Alex’s ability to win balls in the midfield and quickly transition to offense has helped a lot. He’s currently our top goal scorer and has been crucial on both sides of the ball. Mauro Manotas is finding his feet now. He was a mainstay during our brief run in the Open Cup, but is now our primary option at center forward. He often gets stranded, which all our forwards have in the lone CF role, but he’s made the most of his touches by creating fantastic runs into dangerous areas.
Will Bruin (and Giles Barnes and Cubo Torres both of whom are not currently with the Dynamo). I don’t think Bruin has played poorly, but his style of play requires more support from the midfield which he has not gotten. That’s led to him seeing time as a super sub role when we need goals and it has worked somewhat effectively. Another player that’s fallen off a bit has been Chaco Maidana who seems to have his good days and his bad days. Barrett has moved him around the midfield hoping to find a place where he can provide consistent performances, but so far that hasn’t happened yet. Chaco can play at a high level on his good days, but on his bad he looks lost, doesn’t provide defensive cover as often, and his usually superb passing is nowhere to be seen.
What should the Timbers expect to see tactically from the Dynamo on Saturday evening and is there any one player who will be vital to the Dynamo's approach?
The Dynamo should come out with a lot of energy and they’ll try to win the midfield battle in the same way they did last week at Real Salt Lake. They will eventually settle into a more defensive tone – which will be sooner than later if they’re able to find the net – and allow the Timbers to gain a bit more possession and opportunities in our half of the field. It won’t be easy to break through given how many players will be in the way of the goal, but the chances will come, even if they aren’t quality chances.
Always look out for Alex. He will be a disrupter in midfield and will look to quickly set Manotas free or have a run at goal himself. He can finish, dribble, and is one of the best tacklers in the league.