After a dominant home performance against a Top 3 team, the Dynamo hope to take the show on the road this Sunday in Seattle, where they meet a Sounders squad trying to save their season's momentum.
This is the first and only regular season meeting of the year for the two teams and it comes at a time when everyone is trying to hold on to recent successes. Impressive debuts by DaMarcus Beasley and Luis Garrido propelled the Dynamo to a stoppage-time victory against an overwhelmed DC United last Sunday, snapping an 8-game winless streak. Seattle, after rocketing to top of the West (and second behind Sporting Kansas City for the Supporters' Shield), find themselves in a rut, claiming just three points in the last four matches.
Two consecutive losses (a 3-0 thumping at home courtesy of LA and a 1-0 loss in San Jose) have the team picking up pieces aiming to reclaim their frightening form that sent five players to Wednesday's All-Star Game (Chad Marshall eventually dropped out due to injury). In that 2-1 victory for MLS, the remaining Sounders (Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, DeAndre Yedlin, and Osvaldo Alonso) each put in 45-minute performances.
The All-Star Game reinforced what we've seen all year from the Sounders attack -- Dempsey and Martins are killers on the counter. The two have combined for 17 Goals this year and have exhibited creative, free-flowing, and technically impressive attacks the entire season. Defensive tactics employed by their opponents have been effective in shutting the duo down recently, and the Dynamo would do well to mimic San Jose's clogging of the midfield last Saturday, forcing the ball to the less efficient wingers.
For most of the season, Seattle have also enjoyed expert distribution out of the defense to begin those counters -- particularly from veteran center back Chad Marshall and USMNT newcomer DeAndre Yedlin down the wing. Recent matches have snuffed this quick transition for Seattle, however, as Marshall and attacking midfielder, Lamar Neagle, have been out with injury (the two are questionable for Sunday). If the two remain out, this will be Marshall's third and Neagle's second missed games and could spell trouble for a sputtering Seattle offense.
In addition, breaking news on Friday reveals DeAndre Yedlin has flown to London after the All-Star Game to complete a transfer to Tottenham Hotspur. Sounders GM Adrian Hanauer has said that he expects Yedlin to be back for Sunday's match and to remain in Seattle for the remainder of the 2014 season as a loan. Being back, however, after 20 some-odd hours traveling would seem to make any starting role Yedlin might play unlikely. Perhaps he gets time as a substitute but the Sounders being without one of their fastest and creative wing players can only spell good news for Houston.
If Houston's attack finds its way down the flanks, as it did versus DC, it could do well to find whichever player Seattle defender Jalil Anibaba is marking. Anibaba had a rough game versus San Jose, winning 0% of his aerial battles, possibly setting up Houston for a cross-heavy game. In that game, Anibaba was easily pushed off possessions by Chris Wondolowski time and time again which could prove beneficial for the physicality provided by Will Bruin.
Flowing our attack down the wings should keep the ball away from Martins and Dempsey but also prove risky as turnovers could lead to the springy possessions of Marco Pappa and Brad Evans. Pappa, the former Fire creator, has been resurgent in his first year back to MLS, providing excellent service and threatening attacks, registering 12 shots in his last 4 games. Dynamo possession will also likely be reduced from their dominant game against DC as they play in front of a full-capacity CenturyLink Field, opened up for only the third time this year (the other two games saw shutout victories against RSL and Portland).
Sunday night will also serve as a stiff test for the newest Dynamo players, Beasley and Garrido. After promising defensive performances, the duo will need to repeat (particularly in the middle of the pitch) for the Dynamo to maintain their chances. Linking key defensive stops with the carefully precise play of Brad Davis, Ricardo Clark, and Boniek Garcia around the top of the box should help scramble a Seattle defense that's only given up 10 goals at home. Conversely, the Dynamo have allowed a disappointing 24 goals while on the road, better than only New England (26).
Coming away with a result on Sunday evening should bode well for the Dynamo's playoff chances. Sitting five points out of the playoff picture, every result counts and snatching points from another Top 3 team in the league would do well to feed the momentum of a squad shaking off the summer cobwebs.
Seattle hosts the Dynamo on Sunday, August 10th at 9:30 CDT. It will be nationally televised on ESPN2.