The Houston Dynamo travel to the West Coast to face the 2nd place overall Seattle Sounders in a late night ESPN2 matchup. Seattle has been one of the most dominating teams at home while the Houston has been one of the worst on the road. However, Seattle has hit a bit of a rough patch over the last two games while the Dynamo is trying to put together their traditional late playoff push. We asked Dave Clark over at Sounder at Heart three questions about the upcoming match and one little bonus question about organizational differences.
Dynamo Theory: The Sounders are on a two game skid and have fallen to 2nd place
in the overall standings (oh how we envy 2nd place from where we're
sitting). What are some of the problems that have led to those results
and how have the Sounders remedied those issues ahead of Sunday's
Sounder at Heart: The biggest issue is the offense. Yes, the easy answer is a defense that lacks Chad Marshall is average at best, but the attack used to put up two goals a game and now looks anemic. That should change Sunday as Clint isn't in Brazil and Oba is healthy. But if the midfield can't get those two service it won't matter how amazing they can be together. I guess I just pointed out issues with the defense, the attack, the midfield. Just to round things out Frei can be prone to mental errors while still having awesome save numbers.
Yes, I'm saying that everything has been flawed. That may be a sign of expectations. In the last five games Seattle is earning a "mere" 1.2 PPM (that's still good enough if it was a season long number it would be 13th). That's highly dissatisfying for a fanbase that is expecting greatness, not just good.
DT: The Sounders have consistently been one of the best in not just
the West, but the league, though they've only reached the conference
finals once in their short history. What makes this year different:
the combination of players, the chemistry between them, players
maturity, fresh faces, or anything else?
SaH: When the club kept Sigi Schmid they went all-in on the coach. The players brought in fit his vision and mold more than in previous years. That meant nabbing two-time Shield and Defensive Player of the Year Chad Marshall, two-time 18-goal scorer Kenny Cooper for the bench, and former Fire great Marco Pappa. In addition to those big names league vets Barrett, Bowen, and Anibaba are on the squad. It's younger, faster and yet more veterany than the team that has been good, but fallen short.
Hopefully the leadership of several former captains, the US captain and others means that Sounders FC doesn't just perform well in the regular season and Open Cup but they reach heights they've not yet seen.
DT: Seattle has been more than impressive at home managing 7 wins
and only 2 losses with a +11 goal differential. Houston has been fired
up with their new signings and is looking to put some wins together,
but doing it against the Sounders won't be easy. How should Houston
try to get a result in a very tough place to play?
SaH: I'd try to play in the space behind Alonso. It's difficult to get there, Alonso is an All Star always and a several time team MVP, but other teams have exploited that area. It will mean some long distance shooting. Score a couple from there and then bunker, but don't bunker before you're up two.
DT: Bonus question! This has less to do with the players and more
about the organization. Seattle has been incredibly successful (most
successful) at drawing fans to attend matches for just about every
competition while maintaining an incredibly successful online
presence. Houston continues to have announced attendances of around
20k and struggle to garner the kind of support that other cities have
on social media despite having a large, soccer loving population. What
tips would you give the Dynamo FO to get butts in seats (a saying we
often use to get fans to show up)?
SaH: I think it is important to connect to a city in ways that are unique to that city. Just because the March to the Match and scarves work in Seattle doesn't mean they are the answers for every market. Seattle's struggled to connect with minority groups, so it's not all perfect here. It's also unlikely that the stadium sells all 67,500 tickets for the match against the Dynamo.
I don't know the Houston market outside of awful MLB ratings. So it's hard to give advice. I'd assume there would need to be a huge push for a Hispanic audience, a need to connect to the tech industry there and a need to connect to ex-pats working in the oil business.
Predicted Lineup: Frei; Gonzalez, Traore, Marshall, Evans; Neagle, Pineda, Alonso, Pappa; Dempsey, Martins
For Dave Clark's questions and my answers head on over to Sounder at Heart and check them out. As always, please be as respectful as possible on their website and mind the rules there.