The Dynamo are coming off an impressive 2-0 win over the Philadelphia Union and now turn their attention to another Eastern Conference opponent: the Columbus Crew. Each game carries added importance as the end of the season draws nearer with the Dynamo looking to claw their way back into the playoff picture.
Saying that the Dynamo have not performed well on the road would be putting it nicely. The team has mustered a lone road victory all season and now must take on the Crew in Columbus where just last week they defeated the LA Galaxy 4-1.
I talked with Pat Murphy over at Massive Report about some of the issues facing the Crew and how Gregg Berhalter's system is starting to take shape ahead of Saturday evening's clash with our men in orange.
Dynamo Theory: The Columbus Crew has an amazing history in this league, but has struggled the last two years and has failed to make the playoffs in that time. Currently the Crew sits in the 4th playoff spot but is elbow to elbow with teams above and below separated only by a few points. What are some of the intangibles about this team that set them
apart from prior Crew teams and the other teams around them that could see them successful in the post-season?
Massive Report: The one thing I will say about the Crew this year is their consistency in sticking with the system. In previous years, and with some other teams, no one has been able to identify a style of play. This year Columbus has that and the players understand their roles.
Fans finally saw what happens when it all comes together last weekend in the 4-1 win over the LA Galaxy. It was by far the best performance for the Crew since maybe their 2-1 win in Seattle the third game of the year and possibly the best game of the season. I think the fact that they are able to stay consistent and play the same way regardless of who is in the lineup could give them an advantage in the playoff run over some other teams. With that said, this team is still being molded in head coach Gregg Berhalter's image and although things may be getting better, it will still take time to get all the way there.
DT: The last time these two teams met, the Dynamo was able to walk away with a 1-0 victory at BBVA Compass Stadium. Since then the Crew had a fairly mixed bag of results, but recently the Crew seem to have found
some stride with a commanding victory over the LA Galaxy. What's changed since the last time our clubs met?
MR: As mentioned above, things may have finally fallen into place. Berhalter's possession-based system is complicated and requires a lot of work. The 2-0-1 stretch beginning in mid July showed some signs and even the 3-2 loss to Toronto FC demonstrated some flashes. The LA game was the perfect storm.
The question now is can they find consistency? Berhalter pointed out on Tuesday the recent success of the team, but even he admitted they looked the best against the Galaxy. If they can find that form in their remaining games, they can really make a run. I would expect something between the Toronto game and the LA game going forward, which should be enough to qualify for the playoffs.
DT: The summer has not been kind to the Dynamo, with many of us believing that we have hit pretty close to rock bottom (in our orange-colored world rock bottom is below 8th place) as our last road win was May 3rd against Chivas USA. With the recent additions of DaMarcus Beasley and Luis Garrido, we're looking to right our ship. How can the Dynamo hope to secure a result in Columbus?
MR: Houston needs to be opportunistic against the Crew on Saturday just as they were in that 1-0 win in May. The Black and Gold will come out and look to possess and move the Dynamo into uncomfortable positions, but if Houston can create some counter attacks or get a goal from a set piece, it makes it that much harder for the Crew to come back into the game. Columbus is undefeated this year when scoring the opening goal, so it would behoove Houston to score early, allowing them to let the Crew possess in front of them.
Possible starting XI: Clark; Gehrig, Parkhurst, Gonzalez, Francis; Finlay, Trapp, Tchani, Meram; Higuain; Bedell
Prediction: 2-1 Crew with the home field advantage. I was going to say 2-0, but they can't seem to get a shutout these days.
For my responses to Pat's questions go on over to Massive Report and check them out. Pat asks some very good questions so it's worth the visit.