Know Your Enemy: Houston Dynamo
OTF’s Stephen Mangat brings you the dossier on the Men in Orange…
It’s where the heart is, there’s no place like it, and it’s where the Houston Dynamo never lose: home. That’s right folks, across all competitions, and two stadiums, the Dynamo haven’t lost a match in Houston in its last 34.
PLAY OUR MUSIC!!!
It could be easily argued that Dominic Kinnear is the league’s best manager. Houston’s results speak for themselves and they have achieved great success without many of their rivals’ largesse.
Flat four in the back is how they roll and this season Kinnear has four midfielders playing narrowly. One will sit in front of the back four, while another will be a bit closer to the attackers. The other two will be on the left and right, but tucked in a bit. This is all just nominal though, as all four midfielders have license to be fluid in attack so long as they defend properly.
Up top will either be a typical two or a target forward with a supporting player operating between the midfielders and the point man.
Tally Hall is not only a giant, but he’s also a fantastic goalie, one of the league’s best. His full name is actually Talmon Henry Hall V.
The Houston back four has been the foundation of their success the past few seasons and they’ve even managed a bit of transition with the loss of Geoff Cameron in the middle and emergence of Kofi Sarkodie on the right. Bobby Boswell lacks a bit of speed and Jermaine Taylor isn’t the most elegant central defender. Nonetheless, they’re a solid pairing. Sarkodie and Corey Ashe provide speed on the outsides, with Sarkodie being the more attacking full back.
This is where Houston gets it done. Oscar Boniek Garcia, Adam Moffat, Brad Davis, and Ricardo Clark would slot in to any team’s starting lineup. Moffat and Clark clean up in the midfield and make it very, very difficult for opponents to create. Boniek Garcia (who’s nursing an injured ankle) brings pace, goal-scoring, and real attacking thrust. Brad Davis provides great passing and service on free kicks, as he has for the better part of the past decade.
They set up a bit narrowly, as all players like to operate from inside positions. That said, Davis and Boniek can (and will) float a bit wide to combine with the speedy outside backs. In addition, all four will shoot from outside, so sitting back and defending from 25 yards out isn’t an option. Simply put, when these four are in sync and playing at their best, there’s not many who can stop them.
Health permitting, Will Bruin will lead the front line with Giles Barnes providing support and drive from the space between the midfield and defense. Barnes’s positioning and style will be worth watching because not only is he a strong physical presence that can mix it up, but he also looks to find space and the ball to operate. Bruin looked great in the latter part of last season and the playoffs, and his play earned him a look for the USMNT. However, he was out last week at Portland with a bad hammy.
How can Chicago win?
Defend well, break quickly, take chance(s)
Last week, Chicago scored two second half goals when New York was pressing. If Chicago can keep the game tight, Houston will inevitably press at the end for a winner. This isn’t a super-sophisticated or genius tactic, but it’s one that works so long as Chicago makes the most of the (very) few scoring chances they will get.
Keep up the hustle
While few individuals were particularly impressive vs. New York, all the Fire players put in a big effort. Even DP whipping boy Sherjill MacDonald had an impact with his hard running and physical play. If Chicago can repeat their physical effort and complement it with a rise in skill, they’ll have at least a puncher’s chance.
This was on last week’s list and it worked. This week’s game is an even taller order, as no one wins in Houston. So fingers-crossed.
Maybe Will Bruin won’t play, nor Boniek. Maybe the Fire’s win vs. NY was the beginning of something positive. And since no team can stay undefeated at home forever, maybe this game is the one Houston finally loses.
So good luck, Fire fans, I’ll be a bit unplugged from the television this weekend, so it’ll be interesting to see all the scores and tweets on the phone and such.
OTF’s Stephen Mangat is in Nashville this weekend drinkin’ whiskey, chasin’ skirts, and honky-tonkin’! Follow him @smangat12