It's a pretty nice Monday morning for Dynamo fans out there. Two road victories in a row, and two shutouts: this is probably way above what most of us were expecting, and a great way to prepare for a tough trip to Seattle (honestly, I'd sign for this 1-1 draw we ended up with last season).
But still, it's the beginning of the season and there's plenty of room for improvements. The backline looked quite solid against both Chivas and the Quakes, but the team only got two goals, and one of them came out of a penalty. We all agree on the fact that the Dynamo could have scored more against the Goats, but at least chances kept flowing. One can't really say the same about Saturday's game, when Jon Busch hardly had any save to make, especially in the second half. Our backline hasn't changed, neither has the midfield (to the -significant- exception of Watson filling in for Camargo). There is very little uncertainty on who should start in these two zones, basically because things work well, but also because of limited depth, especially in midfield.
However, Dom is still to find an optimal combination when it comes to strikers. He decided to go for a Bruin-Ching pairing in the first two games, but ended with a different striker combination every time. I don't know many coaches playing in a 4-4-2 that would sub both strikers during two games in a row and at the same time be satisfied by their performance. This system is very demanding for strikers, who have to cover their fair share of defensive tasks, but it is also very dangerous when the two manage to connect around the box.
Bruin and Ching have played together for more than a year now (despite injuries on both sides that did not see them start together so often) but still do not really seem to connect and understand each other. Moreover, their profiles are quite similar: athletic strikers bringing presence in the box and in the air. An efficient 4-4-2 system needs strikers that balance each other's strengths and weaknesses: the typical pairing brings together one athletic, target striker, and a quicker, more mobile one who can move around the field to stretch defenses. I do not see any big European team playing a 4-4-2 with two similar target strikers. We've a bit how things can work on Saturday with Lenhart and Wondolowski: the former Crew striker was used as a target, while Wondo kept moving around the field, sometimes as low as his midfielders, and managed to break through a couple of times. No doubt Houston has a few players that fit right into the ‘Lenhart' category, with Ching, Bruin and Weaver.
So do we need 5 strikers (6 with Rolfe) on the roster? I understand there are concerns about Ching, considering how injury-prone he is, but it is likely Weaver will not see many minutes in the coming weeks. He's occupying some cap space and is still worth something.
Do the math, there are many possible combinations, but also some choices to make for Kinnear. I'll state my opinion clearly: I do not believe in the Ching-Bruin pairing. I guess most Dynamo fans will agree one of the two should start, but once again it's a brain teaser: should Dom go for the young gun who had a pretty good pre-season but needs to step up his game a bit, or for the experienced and tested, though ageing, Captain? And then who's the ideal second striker?
We all remember last year's MLS Cup run was boosted by the inclusion of Calen Carr. He might not be a scoring machine, but his ability to use his speed in order to stretch defenses added something new to the mix. Kandji has quite a similar profile and could become useful. Also think about Cameron's above-average technical and passing skills for a defender: he could be used as a ‘launching ramp' for a speedy striker, bringing another way to threaten defenses.
I do think the Dynamo needs a little more variety up front, and that implies starting one target striker and one with a different set of skills (likely Carr). Ching and Carr have proved they can work well together, so that would be my choice for now. But I have a secret dream: one kind of profile the Dynamo roster could use is a ‘second striker' with the ability to play a bit deeper and pass the ball around, a la DeRo.
So what pairing would you rather see start the next game?