Know Your Enemy: Houston Dynamo #3
OTF’s Stephen Mangat takes another look at the boys from the Bayou City…
The legend of St. George states that he killed a dragon which was nesting at some city’s water source and causing problems. The city’s leaders had been trying to placate the dragon with a daily sheep, hoping that it’d eventually leave. This didn’t work and eventually the city ran out of sheep, so the fine citizens started offering young women to the dragon (wtf??). Thankfully, Saint George had been roaming around aimlessly in the area for a while and he decided to stop by just before the city’s princess was about to be fed to the dragon. Long story short, George stepped up and killed the dragon.
This hasn’t been a great year for Dom Kinnear and the Houston Dynamo, but to ignore them would be folly as Houston always seems lurk around the playoff line and then they start doing damage when they inevitably get into the postseason. The Chicago Fire have been playing a bit aimlessly this season and are in the need of another big win to truly put their season on course. So it’s time for Chicago to follow in the footsteps of St. George by getting their act together, putting on their armor, and slaying the Houston Dynamo, a team which has plagued the entire MLS for years.
PLAY OUR MUSIC!!!
It’ll be flat four in the back with a diamond midfield and two up top. The central midfielders will battle to win balls and get them to the outside midfielders who will attack. Big, athletic guys will be up top and big and/or athletic guys will be in the back. It’s a pretty simple outfit, but Dom Kinnear has the team well-drilled and the team has talent.
Tally Hall is one of the best in the league and is probably goalkeeper #5 or 6 for the USMNT. Fun fact! Tally Hall is also the name of a pop rock band from Ann Arbor. Another fun fact – the band Tally Hall are shite.
Until last weekend’s deluge against Montreal, Houston’s defense had the league’s best goals allowed and they probably still are the second-best back four (KC being best) and best defensive team in the MLS. From left-to-right, it’s Corey Ashe, Jermaine Taylor, Bobby Boswell and Kofi Sarkodie. They have speed, size and an understanding that only comes after having played for about two full seasons together. With Adam Moffat in front and Tally Hall behind, they get plenty of help too.
Ricardo Clark, Andrew Driver, Oscar Boniek Garcia, Moffat and Brad Davis give Houston depth, strength and skill in midfield. Any of the four in Kinnear’s diamond are good enough to provide a solid platform on which the team can build, but particularly keep an eye out for Clark’s positioning as he’s the team’s engine. Moffat keeps the ball moving and protects the back four. Garcia and Driver get forward and provide directness while Brad Davis is the brains of the operation. They’re all good players but Clark seems to be the key as evidenced by the 0-5 beating Houston got from Montreal without Clark.
This was supposed to be Will Bruin’s breakout season, but it hasn’t really happened. In fact, the lack of goals has been Houston’s main weakness this season. Giles Barnes, an attacking midfielder, has been the main offensive threat and Cam Weaver has popped up here and there to provide a bit of offense..
How can Chicago win?
Win the central midfield fight
It’s probably going to be Adam Moffat and Ricardo Clark going toe-to-toe with Jeff Larentowicz and Arevalo Rios. Whoever wins the battle for balls in central midfield will be able to set the tone for the entire game. Quien es mas macho?!?!
Get the ball wide quickly
Houston’s midfield is naturally narrower than most so if Larentowicz and Rios can get possession and quickly get the ball wide, Chicago should find joy.
Slow down Barnes
Giles Barnes is runaway train-esque when he gets moving. Add to that a strong shot and he can cause any team problems. Chicago’s defenders shouldn’t be afraid to get tough with Barnes (especially near midfield) and a foul or three to slow him down wouldn’t be a terrible idea. Keep Barnes in check and Houston will be stuck with plenty of ammo, but no one to fire the gun.
Best of luck, Fire fans. This is a big one since the Fire have a great chance to win and three points against a fellow playoff contender would be massive. I’ll be watching the Philly Union play the Impact and if the Union played like they did last week v. New England, there’s little hope.
OTF’s Stephen Mangat invented both skydiving and BASE jumping. Follow him @smangat12