Houston knows what it needs to do to get into the 2012 MLS Playoffs - win. Over the last several weeks, the Dynamo's chances have gone up and down game by game. With the most recent results, Houston's destiny is now back in their control, but ultimately there is much work to be done.
The Dynamo have had a number of issues in this up and down season. The club started out in the 4-4-2 formation, but then a midseason switch to a 4-3-3 to more comfortably fit in newly acquired designated player Boniek Garcia breathed life into a stagnant offense. More recently, the 4-3-3 hasn't seemed to fit the club with Houston's two most potent offensive weapons - Will Bruin and Brad Davis - struggling to put up tangible results on the stat sheets.
To get back to their winning ways, offense combined with a solid defense is always a winning combination. While Houston's defense has had its rough patches, overall team statistics tell a decent story.
Of the 10 Eastern Conference clubs, Houston has allowed 38 goals against, which is third lowest. Houston has only lost eight games, which is fourth lowest in the entire league. Tally Hall set a Dynamo record for clean sheets this year, and players like Jermaine Taylor have gained "beast" like labels for work in the back. The issue has mainly been a consistent offense. Due to a lack of killer instinct on offense, Houston has the most draws in MLS and this is causing the team to be a mid tier club, not a contender.
Will Bruin started out scoring at will (no pun intended) with nine goals through his first 15 games, but has been kept to only three since the 4-3-3 switch. Brad Davis has his best season in goals this year with seven, adding 12 assists. The problem is since the formation change, his production has been down.
Dynamo Theory was the first to call out the need to switch back to the 4-4-2, which Dominic Kinnear chose to go back to against the New England Revolution. Unfortunately, due to a Davis injury, we reverted back to the 4-3-3 against Montreal and couldn't come out with more than a point against a non playoff club.
By now, it has to be clear that a permanent switch to the 4-4-2 would serve the club well and one lineup shuffle dominates fans conversations.
The lineup change that most fans are talking about is what to do with Cam Weaver.
Earlier today, the Dynamo Reserves faced off against the Real Salt Lake Reserves in Utah in their second to last game of the year. After Houston went down 5-2, the Dynamo mounted a comeback to finish the match 5-5. Weaver dominated the game with a hat trick, bringing his goal total to nine for the season. In addition to his reserve goals, Weaver has two additional goals in the CONCACAF Champions League.
The question that needs to be answered is can Cam Weaver turn his 2012 success in non MLS competition into results in the final two games of the MLS season for Houston and continue through the playoffs.
The issue leading up to now is Weaver doesn't traditionally fit into the 4-3-3 formation aside from the centre forward position. Will Bruin has made clear he is a top striker in MLS and is secure in that position. Macoumba Kandji and Calen Carr fit the winger roles due to their speed and creativity, and Weaver wouldn't fit these spots, so he's been stuck far down in the depth chart.
In fact, Weaver is so far down the depth chart, he's seen only 163 minutes in eight matches. That's only about a 20 minute appearance per game, which hasn't given him much time to make a huge impact. However, in the last two games alone, Weaver has hit the post twice and been a constant nemesis to opposing defenses. It's clear more time on the field would surely see him get on the score sheet.
The question is - has he done enough to alter Kinnear's lineup choices? Could we see a switch back to the 4-4-2 against Philadelphia, with Bruin and Weaver anchoring the front? Brian Ching has put in just as impressive performances off the bench recently and is surely worth mentioning to jump back into the starting lineup also. Could we see Ching for 55-65 minutes, then Weaver alongside Bruin?
With 11 goals in the Reserve league and the CCL, Cam Weaver is not flying under the radar anymore. Statistics make fans take notice, but most importantly coaches take notice. Do you think it's Weaver time come 10/20? Or do you think we could see the struggling 4-3-3 again and roll the dice on our playoff future?