I don't think we were prepared for this most recent loss. Three weeks ago, Houston was looking solid after wins in their first two matches. With games against Vancouver, FC Frisco, and New England looming, Houston fans stressed patience while at the same time soaking in the #1 rankings in power rankings across the internet. Nine points from those upcoming games were unlikely, but six would have been realistic.
Yet, here we are, after three losses in a row and little in the form of "hope" or "things to grow from". It's all too familiar as a Dynamo fan, to be honest, to see a #1 ranking in power rankings quickly followed by a rapid drop in form. Call us Sisyphus, damned to climb close to greatness only to tumble under the weight of expectations and poor final third defending. Or, maybe we're Icarus, buoyed initially by our early success and ingenuity, suddenly finding ourselves plunging into the depths of despair.
This is not a fun time.
Nevertheless, there is plenty of time to improve. Here at The Differential, as I say weekly, it is time to nitpick and overanalyze the performance by the men in orange. Luckily, in this scenario, our recent form has made things easier.
Feel free to disagree with me in the comments, or provide your own concerns. Here are my six biggest concerns:
1. Barnes' scoreless streak
If you ranked all the players in MLS who had yet to score this year, Giles Barnes would surely be at the top in terms of performances. While he has played extremely well, he has failed to find the back of the net. A few weeks ago, I flippantly mentioned that Barnes' scoreless streak could put us in a Will Bruin 2013 type of scenario. I still don't think that's the case, yet, as he is continuing to be influential despite the lack of goals. He isn't disappearing like Bruin is wont to do. Have hope, Houston.
2. Our Attack
Here's what I don't know: do we need a similarly creative player as a forward?
This gets back to #1 a little bit, but I think it's important enough to stand on it's own. Fuzion's post earlier this week discussed, among other things, the idea of Bruin and Jermaine Taylor stepping back for some younger blood to have a shot. I am all aboard this idea.
I want to take it one step further, however.
With the midfield that we have, and the midfield options we tend to leave on the bench, I would much rather stack it with talent in a 4-5-1 (or 4-1-4-1) and leave a player (like Mark Sherrod) up front to hold-up the ball. He doesn't need to create, but rather to support our excellent midfield. Could OBG and Barnes work as an attacking mid tandem in front of a deeper-set Clark?
It's nice to have rookies contributing, isn't it? I think the MLS Draft is sometimes a little underwhelming in terms of major talent, but it never seems to fail in terms of providing a couple players instantly prepared to contribute. AJ Cochran and Sherrod have been extremely promising so far. And, after getting his first starting minutes, AJ is looking like a major steal.
With David Horst returning, is it time to try out a Cochran/Horst duo? If I know Dom (I don't) this won't happen automatically. Yet, with Taylor showing his age a bit, and no duo yet to be mistake-free for 90 minutes, it's an option that should eventually be given some thought.
4, 5, 6. Get back to winning in April
Philly. NYRB. Portland.
That's what the rest of April looks like for Houston. After our recent struggles, it's vital to get some successes under our belt to avoid sinking further into a hole against our Eastern rivals.
Philly is coming off a midweek loss to NYRB. Despite playing excellent early this season, this could be winnable by virtue of being rested alone.
NYRB away and Portland home are tricky, too. Realistically, I'd like 4-6 points from the next three. Points from the Philly and Portland matches are doable, and will go a long way to boosting team morale and fan confidence.
What do you think Houston? What's keeping you up at night, or forcing your to craft voodoo dolls against opponents? Let me hear it in the comments.