Here are some things that didn't surprise me last week: Houston is bad in Canada, turf is dumb, and Houston came out on the wrong side of two PK decisions.
Here are some things that did surprise me this week: Houston didn't give up after going down 2-0 in Vancouver.
As I've said before, The Differential is about pointing out what's keeping the Dynamo from winning trophies this year, not rehashing well-worn problems in MLS. Despite obvious shortcomings in Canada, this team can make waves late in the season.
Without delay, here are the five problems facing our team after four weeks of the 2014 season. Please feel free to criticize, agree, and discuss in the comments:
I want to be fair to our Scottish winger - when he did good things in Vancouver they were invariably great. He could have had a couple of assists if things had gone differently.
But, overall, he is proving himself to be a one-dimensional player on offense, and a liability on defense. Neither of those things are surprising, but it stresses how dependent we are on having a healthy Cascio. Luckily, he should be back soon, and Andy will be back in the impact-sub role he thrives in.
2. Other options in midfield
If Tony's return is delayed further, more pressure needs to be placed on Alexander Lopez to make an impact. I wasn't able to catch his start against SASFC last week, so my opinion of him is still likely inflated, but he is an ideal player to change things up in the Dynamo midfield. OBG can play out wide (though not his preferred position), and a creative player like Lopez could come into the attacking mid role in his place. Is he ready for it? Probably not, and I see Dom continuing with Driver out wide if Cascio cannot return next week. It's just something to think about as we move forward.
Two weeks ago, I made the mistake of flippantly comparing a successful two weeks by Barnes without a goal to the dry spell Bruin went through in 2013. MIBS rightly called me out for it in the comments:
The exact opposite is true here, Barnes looks brimming with confidence and has contributed heavily.
Allow me to explain myself: in no way did I intend to say Barnes has been poor. These posts are meant to sensationalize, proselytize, and prognosticate. After all, it's all in the context of how to win a trophy, as I said was a distinct possibility at season's start.
What I meant was this - Barnes is doing everything right, except for scoring. After all the talk in the offseason about how this was "his year", and many Houston writers predicting him to lead the team in scoring, the idea of not living up to expectations is of concern.
If Barnes is vital to the team's success (he is), then his hypothetical frustration at not living up to expectations is a "threat". That's all I meant.
He was certainly frustrated in Vancouver at times, but it looks like hunger (and not a lack of confidence) to me - that's encouraging.
4. Bruin is not a good defender
No surprise here; just wanted to say it again.
He was soooo bad on that corner.
5. Impact Sub?
We've needed offensive production off the bench once this season, in Vancouver, and it didn't come. That's not a pattern and it's not something to worry about, but the question remains - who do you want coming off the bench to find an equalizer or winner late in the match?
My answer, every time, would be Andy and Omar.
In Vancouver, it was Omar, Ownby, and Sherrod. Ownby is likely heading to Pittsburgh. Sherrod, however, is interesting. He is very tall, and is excellent in the air. He did very well against New England in terms of winning balls and complicating proceedings late for the Revs. He was less successful in search of a goal in Canada. Dom, nevertheless, is subbing in a rookie forward consistently for our team. That excites me, and the more he comes in the more we should get excited about Sherrod.
Okay - that's is from me. Time to start (or continue) getting pumped for the match this weekend against FC Frisco. For what it's worth, I think Barnes is going to tear this one up, and we'll win.
But I think you knew that already.