Soccer Science: Bunkering In

Mar 11, 2012; Carson, CA, USA; Houston Dynamo defenseman Andre Hainault: "Really? A sponge metaphor?" Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-US PRESSWIRE

Soccer-Science seeks to bring a scientific focus to the game we love. I apologize for the nerdiness, but such is my fascination with the field. Stick with me through the stuff you may have slept through in school, and please don't come after me like Ogre from Revenge of the Nerds. There will most certainly be some entertainment in the process.

Two matches, two 1-0 wins on the road, and two embarrassing moments of me screaming at my iHeartradio app in the car with my girlfriend. All in a days work for your Houston Dynamo, and my short soccer-related fuse. Overall, we should all be elated with how well things have gone. Sure, the wins have been aided by opponents' lack of finishing in the final third (Wondo), and made much more difficult with our similar struggles (Bruin), but I'll take 6 points no matter how they come.

With more difficult opponents ahead, these types of victories will be less common. More difficult teams will punish our mistakes, so the Dynamo need to stick to what's been working, and probably do it better than they have been. Specifically, scoring when it matters (not just once, please), and stout defending for long stretches. I'm not one to promote anti-football, or packing it in, for 80+ minutes after a fortuitous goal, but I see the value in knowing when to defend. Even if it means throwing everyone behind the ball to hold off an opponents charge. Ugly victories will most certainly be needed in the coming away matches.

So how does this tie to science? I thought you'd never ask. Lets jump back to the classroom for Soccer Science part deux, to do some learnin'.

A brilliant ball by Moffat, an instinctive run by Ching, and some ridiculously "awkward" (as the announcers put it) goalkeeping by Busch put the Dynamo on course for our second away win in two opportunities. After the goal, we were left with 80+ minutes to defend the lead. Sure, multiple players had the opportunity to extend the lead, but there were also multiple San Jose players who should've equalized. This is a valuable trait on the road - claim a lead and stick to basic defending to win the match. Hainault's inch-perfect tackle in the box exemplified this clinical defending by our D, making me infinitely happy that he had no interest in joining his hometown IMFC this winter.

Our defensive backline, along with the ever-ready Hall, forms our protective shell in tough times, much like the Gemmule formed by sponge embryos. Note: that is most certainly not a joke, and not an attempt to insult Hainault and co. by calling them soft or spongy. In reality, it should be a huge compliment to a back line that has earned us two straight clean sheets. Let me explain:

Sponges reproduce by forming an embryo, asexually, that is able to swim away and find its own living space. No need for the immobile sponge to find a lover, or buy any Marvin Gaye records - all it needs is itself. If times get tough for the pioneer embryo, it will need a way to protect itself from a dangerous environment. In these cases, it can form a tough shell called a gemmule to encase itself. This shell is made of spicules; calcium or silicon deposits that provide structural stability and protection. This protects the embryo from extremely high temperatures, extremely low temperatures, or even environments lacking oxygen completely.

In this way, our defensive line forms a calcium-enriched gemmule (drink your milk, kids) around our goal, even in the worst of conditions. Rain that turns an innocuous shot into a skipping nightmare? No problem. Texas temperatures that dehydrate our speedy attackers? Easy. Northern temperatures that freeze out our warm-blooded team? Please. Seagulls that block the camera angle? Not their problem.

Do I expect our defense to unite under the gemmule flag anytime soon? No. But we'll need them to mimic the effectiveness of the gemmule if we want to continue this win streak.

Fashion Faux Pas of the Week

Now, I will be the first to say that a jersey rarely inspires a team to greatness. The star-spangled disaster of the '94 World Cup is proof of this. In the same way, a horrible jersey can't be held at fault for a team's shortcomings. Watching the Sounders get trounced at the hands of Santos, it was easy to point to a story of two teams at different points in their seasons as the reason for the gulf in talent. Even the clinical finishing of Santos has to be mentioned. But so do those horrendous Super Cyan jerseys sported by the Sounders. Are they to blame? No, of course not. But I can't help but think that a halftime wardrobe change could have spared them some blushes, if only because they would look good while getting their arses kicked.

Announcers Comment I'm Sick of Hearing

"The guys in orange forgot about him (Wondo)".

The next time we ignore a proven scorer in the box, I doubt we'll be so lucky as to escape to the sound of ball-on-woodwork. (See: Seattle's Estrada)

Country Music Quibble of the Week

Nostalgia plays a key role in many country songs. It speaks to both the seeming perfection of the wild west, and the warm feelings held for one's town. There are many ways to express this warmth. Rascal Flatts remembers an old, quaint town in "I miss mayberry". Tim McGaw bemoans modernity with "I miss back when", and Alan Jackson brings up his favorite memories with "Where I come from". The latter of which is memorable for its ability to make me miss Cornbread and Chicken, of which San Antonio offers little. *sigh*

But this weekend, on the radio, I heard a song I first thought to be Alan Jackson's famous song. However, all of the verses were off, except for the classic "Back Where I Come From" refrain. Turns out I was listening to Montgomery Gentry's "Where I Come From".

While this isn't plagiarism, it is still a lack of creativity. Maybe they could've figured out another way to add something to the theme of country nostalgia. Or just think of something else to sing about. Either way, its indicative of a genre lacking in new flavor.

Apropos Hip-Hop Video of the Week


I'm not a fan of Weezy. No, six year olds reading this article, I don't mean Weezy the Penguin from Toy Story. That guy is dope. I mean I'm not a big fan of Lil' Wayne: rapper, NOLA fan, and Key and Peele-lampooned recording tool. But this song speaks to where we're sitting right now. 6 out of 6 points. Things are looking nice, but they could've been infinitely better with a little more scoring panache. With Seattle ahead, things are only going to get tougher. Lets not get too comfortable. Its time to make it 3/3 on the road with a win against a quality Sounders team.

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