We're back again! This time I exchanged questions with the Dynamo Theory's Stephen Eastepp.
1) How do you expect Tuesday night's elimination from the CONCACAF Champion's League will impact the team's mentality heading into the match against Dallas on Sunday?
Honestly, I think the Dynamo just want to erase Wednesday’s loss from their mind as quickly as possible. A win against a rival team would be the perfect way to move past it and focus on the next goal. Santos played well and forced Houston into making a few mistakes, but from the Dynamo’s point of view, all three goals were preventable which is frustrating.
With a quick turnaround for the Rivalry Week game against Dallas, they have the opportunity to come on the road and get a huge result. Not only to erase the feeling left behind from the Santos loss, but it’s important for the Dynamo to get results on the road early in the season and rebound from a rough road season last year.
I’d look for Houston to come out hungry for an early goal and focused on limiting mistakes. No game this early is a "must win," but after a tough loss, there’s nothing better to cure the hangover than a win (and against Dallas is a plus).
2) How is the partnership between Will Bruin and Giles Barnes improving the Houston Dynamo offense?
At this point, I don’t think it is. That doesn’t mean that thing’s won’t improve and the offense will start clicking, but right now it’s stagant. We saw Will Bruin last year struggle in the 4-3-3 as a lone striker, and this season we’ve seen Houston line up in a 4-4-1-1 with Barnes playing a more free roaming forward. Barnes wants his freedom and that’s his strong point, but Bruin feeds off of his partner up top. You’ll notice when Bruin has a partner to work off of, he’s able to be more productive on the stat sheet.
Don’t get me wrong, Bruin is still contributing to the offense with off the ball work and a number of other factors. But a guy like this is someone you build around, not limit. I think we’ll see Dominic Kinnear change some things up if the outcome remains similar, but it’s also possible the two start producing with more games under their belt. After all, we’re one league game in.
We’ll give it some time, but it’s possible Houston could shift Barnes into an attacking midfield role once Omar Cummings is completely healthy. In all honesty, this could happen Sunday with Cummings available for selection.
3) Brian Ching has made statements this week that it is difficult to maintain the intensity of the rivalry when the two clubs only meet once per season. Do you think the club veterans are able to educate the team's incoming players about the rivalry between the soccer clubs and also the overall sporting bitterness between Dallas and Houston?
I doubt many would disagree with Ching’s comments. It’s hard to keep a rivalry at the top of its game when it’s only played once a year.
Sure, I think the veterans can come in and educate the younger players on the importance of the Dallas rivalry, but I think teams have to have those emotional players that stand out in two rival teams. When Houston had Eddie Robinson, Craig Waibel, and Brian Mullan – those guys play with their hearts on their sleeve. Dallas had Pescadito Ruiz and Dario Sala that made this rivalry fun. I think the only player that Houston probably doesn’t enjoy playing against is Jair Benitez, but I don’t think there is anyone on the Dynamo that Dallas would see in a similar light.
In all honesty, I think the fans are what make the rivalry. I think the players recognize that and both teams want to make the fans happy – give the fans some bragging rights over the other.
Thankfully for my side, we’ve been on the bragging side more often.
BONUS: Tell me which player may make the most impact that FC Dallas fans may not know about.
Even though I mentioned Giles Barnes and Will Bruin struggling, I have to say Barnes here. He has a full preseason with the Dynamo and has been in great form so far. Kinnear brought him over to Houston for a reason and this is his year to prove his worth. What better way to start than in the Texas Derby against FC Dallas.
I tend to agree that a lack of regular clashes between our two Texas teams can dim the intensity of the rivalry. However, one meeting puts that much more pressure on one day's performance. What are you looking forward to most about the match with Houston? What is your scoreline prediction? At the start of each game at BBVA Compass, the Dynamo have a special guest light the cannon. How should Houston replace that new tradition if they lose the cannon to Dallas on Sunday?
Be sure to look for my answers to Stephen's 3 Questions over at the Dynamo Theory. Thanks go to Stephen for taking time for this exchange, and thanks to you for reading and commenting.