Alternatives to Our Attack

USA TODAY Sports

A look at some of the options Dominic Kinnear has to the current forward tandem of Will Bruin and Giles Barnes who both haven't scored since May 8th.

One question that has got to be on every Dynamo fan's mind, serious and causal alike is where are the goals? The Houston Dynamo over the last 6 matches has scored just 2 goals. That's not a typo, just 2. The goal scorers weren't Will Bruin or Giles Barnes either, our two men up top. It was Brad Davis, against Sporting Kansas City on the road, and Warren Creavalle against the Columbus Crew on the road. Both results were draws, and back then valuable road points. Furthermore Will Bruin and Giles Barnes were partners up top for 5 of those 6 games - Barnes missed out on the home loss against SKC due to injury.

Dynamo Matches May 12th - June 22nd

Opponent

Home vs Away game for the Dynamo

Outcome of the match

Did Bruin or Barnes score

SKC

Home

0-1 Loss

No

New England Revs

Home

0-2 Loss

No

SKC

Away

1-1 Draw

No

Columbus Crew

Away

1-1 Draw

No

Montreal Impact

Away

0-2 Loss

No

TFC

Home

0-0 Draw

No

Before I explore alternate forward combinations, we should look to see just how fast Bruin and Barnes's production has cooled. If we look at the 6 games prior to this sudden loss of steam, we see Will Bruin with 3 goals and Barnes with 2. Bruin also did not play in the match against Portland so his 3 goals in 5 is very good production for the Dancing Bear.

Dynamo Matches April 6th - May 8th

Opponent

Home vs Away game for the Dynamo

Outcome of the match

Did Bruin or Barnes score

Portland Timbers

Away

0-2 Loss

No

Chicago Fire

Home

2-1 Win

Yes

TFC

Away

1-1 Draw

No

Colorado Rapids

Home

1-1 Draw

Yes

LA Galaxy

Away

1-0 Win

No

DC United

Away

4-0 Win

Yes

Now, of course we can talk about how factors like health, not just one Barnes or Bruin (who each only missed 1 of all 12 of these games), but the health of those around them which affects who is on the field with them - as does international duty. We could also talk about how forwards typically go through streaks and slumps or how the MLS schedule affects it all. All of these factors and more influence whether or not these players are scoring. But that's not as fun to talk about - at least not in my opinion. Thought experiments where we, the fans, imagine lineups that allow for maximum production is more fun. That's what the video game franchise FIFA has been about right? Well one of the things it's about anyways. Besides, even though Barnes and Bruin are both the top scorers on the team with 4 goals apiece, they have Brad Davis, Warren Creavalle, and Andrew Driver behind them with 3 goals each.

So I'll provide a formation and then list the people up top and give a list of the pros and cons of each formation. This is a lineup that assumes everyone that can play can play 90 minutes. I'm sorry Calen Carr, but I'm leaving you off of these because well, you're not fit to even be a late game sub, and most importantly that would be way too many combination with him healthy. Also I'm not counting the current forward tandem because that wouldn't be an alternative, would it?

Formation: 4-4-2

1) Bruin - Cummings

Pros: Cummings's speed would stretch defensive lines creating space for Bruin to move into. Cummings finishing and dribbling abilities would also pose problems and reduce Bruin's role as a hold up player. This forward duo could really terrorize backlines.

Cons: While Bruin has worked with players with pace such as Calen Carr, the formation hasn't been a 4-4-2 which could pose potential problems with quick 1-2 passes. The health of Cummings is also key to this tandem's success. If he can't stay healthy, this formation never gets a chance.

2) Bruin - Ching or Weaver

Pros: Cam Weaver and Brian Ching both provide a hold up game that gets Will Bruin into the attack off a pass or header rather than creating chances himself. This is a pro for the formation because Bruin thrives in it. Having two large targets up front is also good for crosses and set pieces - something Houston has a knack for.

Cons: Ching's age and ability to be a consistent starter and Weaver's finishing and physicality. With Ching, the question is how much is left in the tank - and I should point out Ching's lack of finishing as well. He hasn't produced a goal in some time now. With Weaver the guy hustles a little too hard sometimes and that can get him in trouble. He's also come very close to getting a goal a few too many times for most people's comforts.

Formation: 4-3-3

This formation assumes Davis on the left, Clark in the middle, and Boniek on the right for the midfield.

3) Driver - Bruin -Cummings

Pros: This lineup really pushes defenses with pace. Driver has shown his ability to finish, and Cummings is a proven scorer which makes this lineup dangerous. Cummings could also take some of the pressure off Bruin which may help him succeed as well.

Cons: Bruin has never played his best in a 4-3-3. His skill set is very different from a true center forward. Barnes is also not present in this formation which takes some of the punch out of the Dynamo attack.

4) Bruin -Ching or Weaver - Barnes

Pros: This lineup takes the center forward pressure off of Will Bruin, allowing him to drift inside from the left. The Dynamo would be able to keep the ball in the final attacking third longer which allows more players to become involved in the attack. Having Bruin, Ching/Weaver, and Barnes as targets from set pieces or crosses is very dangerous as well.

Cons: Speed. While Bruin, Ching, and Weaver are all typically deep defenders, the speed in which they transition from offense to defense, and vice versa, leaves a lot to be desired. Bruin would likely drift centrally more which could create problems for regular player movement.

5) Driver - Barnes - Cummings

Pros: SPEED is what this lineup is all about. The ability to send in balls to any direction behind the defense and knowing one of our guys up front will probably get to it is pretty neat to think about. Throw in the fact that all of these guys are pretty solid finishers (except one of them when it comes to pks...cough) and we have a good lineup.

Cons: Lack of a target forward/hold up man and no Will Bruin. The inability to hold the ball up, aside from dribbling around people, would limit most of our offense to just the three up top. Will Bruin's lack of a presence would also hinder his growth, and we would miss his finishing and growing hold up play. We also have fewer targets from a set piece perspective which is not the Dynamo's style at all.

Conclusion:

It's really fun to think about all these alternatives up top. I didn't include Jason Johnson, or Calen Carr, both will in time fight for minutes with each other and the current group of forwards/midfielders turned forward. I also assumed a midfield. We can imagine Boniek moving up to the top as well. I liked the options I provided because they're fun to talk about and imagine playing. These options, or thought experiments, illuminate the vast possibilities Dominic Kinnear has to work with. Each combination of players in any formation will have its advantages and disadvantages. The biggest tradeoff that I see is between speed and size. These were just some of the options I thought would be effective, or at the very least I thought was neat and worth talking about. So I'll leave it to you the reader to point out how bad some combinations I suggested were, or maybe how great they were, or if you have your own neat combination, let's talk about them.

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