What a long hard road it's been. FC Dallas earned just 2 points from 5 consecutive road games, but tonight the boys return to Frisco. And the opponent is not just any old club, no no. This is Houston. This is the Lone Star Rivalry. Ahead of this invigorating match-up, we chatted with Derek Stowers at Dynamo Theory. As always is the case, we are hoping to get some of your questions answered and gain a little insight from our opponent's perspective.
Big D Soccer 1. Houston has earned a 3-2-1 record recently after struggling earlier this season. Even the 2-0 loss to Portland last week is misleading since the Dynamo were Toledo'd, as FCD fans know all too well. What or who has been the key to Houston's turnaround?
Derek Dynamo Theory: First of all, thank you for acknowledging the struggle that is being Toledo'd. It's always an uphill battle with him in the center. I think the Dynamo have been able to find a lineup that is balanced in its defense and its attack. Earlier this season we found success with a 5 man midfield, but as our offense struggled which led to experimenting with new lineups and formations while the defense settled in.
Following our defeat to Dallas and the San Jose Earthquakes we utilized a taller, stronger, and better aerial central defense pairing with Jermaine Taylor and David Horst and utilized Raul Rodriguez at RB over Kofi Sarkodie which provided more experience out wide. This formation helped the defense while putting Giles Barnes underneath Will Bruin helped the offense. Putting Barnes in this transitioning role helped the Dynamo regain possession advantages (or at least close the gaps that existed before) and created more offensive threats than our midfield with 3 defensive central midfielders. The key to this has been the defense stepping up with less protection, which is helped by our ability to clear crosses centrally and our experience with Rodriguez and DaMarcus Beasley out wide along with both Giles Barnes and Will Bruin finding their scoring touch. Lately, it's been tough with so many players missing internationally along with a few key injuries, but we've managed to maintain our competitiveness, even with Toledo in the center.
BDS2. Why is the likelihood that Cubo Torres' visa goes through without a problem and can begin play with Houston next month? Has he arrived in Texas yet for training?
DDT: This is a really tricky question to answer. Cubo is not training with the Dynamo at the moment, and the earliest he could join is when the transfer window opens up in July, but will he join at all is quickly becoming the more popular question over when will he join. The typical answer from the Dynamo Front Office about the Cubo situation is "no comment", because they're likely waiting to see what the holdup is with his visa.
It's no secret that Cubo recently went through some legal trouble in Mexico and whether or not he gets his visa could depend on whether or not he gets convicted for what he's being accused of. There really isn't a lot of precedent for this type of action with MLS and the closest thing is Luke Rodgers getting denied his visa to play with the New York Red Bulls. It's tough to put a percentage on the likelihood of him playing without all the facts, so the "let's wait and see" is the appropriate response. It all depends on the evidence and how the US Government looks at it along with how cooperative Cubo has been through the process.
BDS3. Owen Coyle has plenty of experience juggling the league season with cup tournaments like the LHUSOC, but the post-season playoffs will be a new experience for him. Although it's only June, this is our last meeting, so I'll ask now: the Dynamo have perennially been a very dangerous playoff opponent. Can Coyle continue that trend this year? How much of that mojo might have left the Bayou City with Dom?
DDT: What's been great about Coyle so far is the players and team want to fight for every point on the table and that kind of "grind the result out" mentality will go far in the MLS Playoffs. Throw in the experience of Wade Barrett, the longtime Dynamo player turned assistant under Dominic Kinnear, and the Dynamo have a chance to keep their reputation as a dangerous MLS Cup Playoff opponent alive.
You are welcome to head on over to the Dynamo Theory to check out my answers to their questions, but I have also posted them here:
Derek Dynamo Theory 1 - Following a hot start to the season, FC Dallas looks to have cooled off with their last win of the season coming May 9th managing a record of 0-3-3. Has Dallas just been able to not close out games or what's been the real cause of the recent troubles?
Big D Soccer: Unfortunately, it is not as simple as just closing games out. There have been a few of these matches where we looked doomed from the start. The problems have been depth and the lack of quality in that depth. Oscar Pareja does an incredible job at developing youth players. Homegrowns and draft picks have made their way into the starting lineup. At his point, however, they are our best eleven. That poses a problem when they get fatigued or even miss games for international duty, i.e. Kellyn Acosta, Moises Hernandez. The bench is even less experienced than the homegrown players.
MLS teams have 28 roster slots this season. FC Dallas only has 26 players signed. 2 of those players are at the USL affiliate, Arizona United SC (although Otis Earle was only announced right before this last match against Colorado). Of the remaining 24 players, 4 of the guys have played less than 90 minutes this season. The majority of minutes have been played by 9 guys (3 of which are on Gold Cup rosters); compare that to 12 players on the Dynamo squad playing the majority of minutes so far. This past week, there was an El Salvador international and a Norway international on trial, but yesterday it was reported that neither will be signed because neither is match fit.
All this to say that a stretched thin player pool on a grueling roadtrip tends to make mistakes. We should have won against Montreal and Colorado. Dallas put in a solid first half against Seattle but then collapsed in the second half to lose that match. Minor lapses in judgement or positioning turn into conceded goals quickly. This team is capable, but they must bring their A game to every game with such thin margins for error.
DDT2 - While the injury report still lists defensive stalwart Matt Hedges on the injury report, it seems like he could make his return to the starting lineup against the Dynamo. How crucial is it to have him on the field and healthy for the Dallas defense?
BDS: Matt Hedges is the physical and mental anchor of the Dallas backline. He is the most technically skilled as well as experienced. He is a natural centerback while some of the other defenders in these patchwork rosters have actually been midfielders filling-in. His size and height give him an advantage on both ends of the field, as he is known to score a galloping header from time to time. We need Hedges. The 4-0 loss to Colorado earlier this season was the first game that Matt missed this year, and FCD paid for it. The other players have improved their game to cover better when Matt is out, but Dallas desperately needs the morale boost from a comfortable victory over Houston at home. And I believe it will be significantly more difficult to earn without Hedges on the field in Frisco.
DDT3 - In our last meeting, the Dynamo were thumped 4-1 despite controlling possession and out shooting FCD (although most of those shots were off target). FC Dallas managed a very efficient 4 goals from 6 total shots. How can the Dynamo lock down to prevent such a meltdown defensively?
BDS: FC Dallas is consistently uncomfortable in their own defensive third. If Houston can control the game to that extent, than threats are mitigated as much as possible. However, as you stated, it only takes one or two turnovers to spark a scoring opportunity. Houston's speedy players will need to stay on top of Dallas' speedy players. Fabian Castillo, Michael Barrios, and to a lesser extent Mauro Diaz, are all fast on their feet, with or without the ball. Castillo led the league in dribbles the past few seasons; he is never afraid to go at a defender. In fact, according to Who Scored, FC Dallas as a team is in the top 2 for dribbles with 8.4 per game (Houston is 17th with 4.8 PG).
Blas Perez never quits, and Tesho Akindele is coming back to Dallas from a strong performance with Canada. Both players will look to stand out in MLS before rejoining their national team for the Gold Cup next month.
Thanks for reading. Let us know what you think about the interview in the comments below.
What is your match prediction? Does Dallas bounce back from a rough roadtrip, or do the orange invaders spoil the homecoming?