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RSL v. Houston Tactical Preview: Both sides looking to rebound after tough losses

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Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Dynamo kicked off their 2016 campaign with a bang.  On the heels of some great attacking work by their offensive corps, the Dynamo managed to score 11 goals in their first three matches.  Since then, however, Houston’s attack has stalled tallying only twice more since the explosive start – making the Dynamo such an enigma in 2016.

Houston will face Real Salt Lake garnering a 1-4-2 record with five points in hand.  They sit bottom of the West and, more importantly, dead last in the league.  Their defense has also seen better days conceding 14 goals in seven matches – tied with Portland for second worst in the league trailing only the New York Red Bulls (17).  Unable to find the proper equation for the problems they are facing, the Dynamo come to Rio Tinto for RSL’s last home match until June (if you haven’t heard yet) held together by nothing more than what I believe to be duct tape.

Stick to it through the thick and thin

Owen Coyle’s Dynamo approach every match with the mentality of hitting the opposition on the counter using a large, strong No. 9 and creative attacking midfielders – not that different from the  Claret-and-Cobalt.  Houston most often plays in RSL’s 4-3-3 sister formation the 4-2-3-1.  In this formation the target man is isolated to take on the central defenders and create opportunities for players around him to score.

For instance, Andrew Wenger scored twice in the first two matches in his early season tear.  Wenger was able to work himself into the box on countless occasions and cause the opposing defense trouble.  Similarly, Christian Maidana, also formerly of the Philadelphia Union, teamed up with Wenger causing fear in the opposition as the box was a striking ground for Houston.

Houston’s style involves playing with width, which has been taken away from the Texas side since their first two matches.  Take a look at the aforementioned Wenger’s heat maps:

Courtesy of Squawka.

The first is his event map against FC Dallas where he was able to exploit the flanks.  The second is his heat map in Houston’s latest loss at the hands of Columbus Crew SC.  Not only was Wenger less influential but he also had significantly less touches – 27 down from 59.  The winger was also guilty of poor finishing and losing possession often, as was the entire Dynamo squad.

Similar to Jeff Cassar, Coyle has decided what he wants his squad to look like and is sticking with it.  While it might to pay dividends quite yet, it could in the near future - just as it has with RSL.

A few more things to consider:

3.  Since their winless streak started, the Dynamo has been a different squad. Now when the Dynamo goes down a goal, they start to lose their shape and resolve.  In which case, Houston takes errant shots and simply sends long, hopeful balls forward.  As a result their possession and ability to win the ball suffer.  The wings also get more involved in the attack letting their defensive duties slide causing gaps in the back.  In short, the Houston Dynamo looks like a completely different team than at the beginning of the season.  Just check out their stats:

Dynamo Win or Draw Dynamo Loss Season Total
Goals Scored `9 1 13
Goals Conceded 4 6 14
Shot Accuracy 55% 49% 52%
Avg. No. of Chances 9 7 8.4
Possession 48% 45% 47%
Passing Accuracy 77% 74% 74%
Pass Length 19 m 21 m 20 m
Duels Won 51% 46% 46 %
Defensive Actions 40 35 39
Cards (Y/R) 5/0 1/1 6/1

2.  Houston goalkeeper Tyler Deric started one match in 2016 and within 18 minutes he was shown a red card. Joe Willis on the other hand has made six starts in seven appearances and conceded all 14 goals – that is roughly a goal every 40 minutes.

1.  There are better odds of winning the lottery than attempting to predict Coyle’s substitutes, lead alone a pattern.  Without a doubt, the Houston head coach will throw even the kitchen sink to accomplish a goal.  His subs run from mid-first half to late, time-wasting subs – even using all three subs at once during the 57th minute against the LA Galaxy.

Expected Lineups

Houston Dynamo (4-2-3-1)

GK: Willis

DEF: Anibaba, Horst, Rodriguez, Beasley

MID: Clark, Alex, Wenger, Maidana, Barnes

ATT: Bruin

RSL (4-3-3)

GK: Rimando

DEF: Beltran, Glad, Maund, Phillips

MID: Beckerman, Sunny, Morales

ATT: Martinez, Movsisyan, Plata

Keys to the match:

Capitalize early, and watch the Dynamo collapse

Prevent the Dynamo's winger from getting a rhythm

Do not concede set-pieces near the box

Watch RSL on Saturday, April 30th at 7:30 p.m. Mountain Standard Time at Rio Tinto Stadium or on KMYU or MLS LIVE.