1 - Last time we faced off, we should have gone home with our tail tucked firmly between our legs after a 5-1 defeat. (Instead, we went to Dallas and lost 6-2.) What did that win mean for Houston? Was it a blip on the radar, or was it something more meaningful?
I think in the scope of things it was a huge win because it came on the heels of two awful away losses and an away draw to our big rival, FC Dallas. Winning needed to happen to make up for those dropped points and we had to prove that we are something special at home. Of course, in context with the rest of the season what does it mean?
Probably not too much. To begin, we’re good at home and winning at home by large margins (this game tied with the largest with our win over Orlando City SC in goal differential) is generally expected. But was it a blip? Of course not, after this win despite a brief setback in their next game in Seattle actually showed a lot of promise. Was it the defining game to push them into winning some games they normally would have drawn or lost? No. But it was a big confidence boost that they’ll look back to.
2 - You're very firmly in a playoff position right now. Last season, you averaged even fewer points per game than RSL has right now (not that it's by much, of course — 1.09 to 1.00). What's the biggest thing that's changed, and now that we're past the halfway point, do you feel like you can maintain it?
Is it cheating to say….everything? Or at least a lot has changed. The team is drastically different from last year’s squad and it starts at the top. The Dynamo FO brought in Wilmer Cabrera and helped him build a team that suited his preferred style of play. We shipped out longtime players like Will Bruin, left others exposed in the re-entry draft, and signed players that fit Cabrera’s tactics. That included offensive players like Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto. Defensively we shored things up by bringing in LA Galaxy players CB Leonardo and RB A. J. DeLaGarza while signing Panamanian CB Adolfo Machado.
Utilizing Cabrera’s up-tempo style of play, which is largely dependent on counter attacks and speed, our offensive acquisitions have worked wonderfully around Cubo Torres. Defensively, things haven’t been quite as tidy, and when the team sits back problems often arise, but when the team is attacking our back line always seems apt to clear the ball or jumpstart a quick counter.
Can we maintain it? I think so. We still have some distance to cover to be more than a one-dimension team, but we’ve proven so far that we can take it to nearly anyone. We’ve also signed a new designated player in Tomas Martinez who could prove to be the missing piece to help grow our possession while keeping our quick attacking mentality. He hasn’t yet shown for the Dynamo, but he could be a big piece moving forward. The Houston Dynamo will be an interesting team to watch as the season nears the finish line.
Should Real Salt Lake fans be worried about facing Houston right now?
*knocks on wood* so the Dynamo just had their very first road win of the season when they traveled to D. C. United. That was a big milestone that was holding them back this season. They also preformed pretty well in their previous road draw to Minnesota United FC, although they were missing a large portion of their offense to Gold Cup duties.
It’s tempting to say that the Dynamo can definitely get points and when they play to their abilities and style I think every team should be worried. I would be more worried about playing the Dynamo at home the way they’ve played overall, but I think over the last few weeks some things on the road have begun to click for us – especially for Head Coach Cabrera. He knows he can’t sit in too much on the road because the team isn’t built for it.
If I were an RSL fan, I would be a little concerned. I would take solace in the fact that the Dynamo have generally been pretty inconsistent on the road, but on the other hand I would be weary of what our offense could bring. We have one of, if not the best, scoring forward groups in MLS which should make a team with the 2nd leakiest defense a little worrisome.
Projected Lineup: Tyler Deric; DaMarcus Beasley, Leonardo, Adolfo Machado, A. J. DeLaGarza; Alex Lima, Juan David Cabezas, Ricardo Clark; Mauro Manotas, Cubo Torres, Alberth Elis