Last week, Owen Coyle's substitutions and formation tinkering proved the difference. In Week 2, we'll see if Houston can figure out a team with just 90 minutes to their name.
Aurelien Collin (Red Card) - Houston's favorite defender opened the season by seeing red on a terrible, open-footed tackle on NYCFC's David Villa in the inaugural home opener. Collin ended preseason in Charleston, South Carolina with a red card against the Dynamo, as well. As this is the sole regular season meeting between the Dynamo and OCSC, Houston seems to have avoided the Frenchman for 2015.
Martin Paterson (Groin Strain) - The Northern Irish International is on loan to Orlando but has struggled with a groin injury through preseason. He missed the opener against NYCFC last weekend and, as of right now, hasn't been cleared for the match in Houston.
Tally Hall (ACL) - The former Dynamo keeper remains out while rehabilitating his ACL injury from last season and will not be traveling with the team.
Let's get the obvious out of the way. Kaká helped orchestrate the attack throughout Sunday, often sending in a through ball to the often-offside Carlos Rivas. A lucky deflection on one of the $7m Brazilian's free kicks was enough for a thrilling finish to a 1-1 draw against NYCFC.
Kaká was threatening on set pieces and measured during the run of play. Performing a man down might have altered the gameplan for Orlando's attack so the Dynamo will need to watch out for Kaká and a full-strength squad on Friday.
Brek Shea, after a failed stint at Stoke City, put in a shift at fullback for the Lions and proved a lot to handle as he strode down the side akin to DaMarcus Beasley and Kofi Sarkodie. If Shea is allowed to enter the midfield and play alongside Kaká and Amobi Okugo, Houston's defense could struggle if they don't plug the gaps that were exposed against Columbus.
Replacing the hard-nosed Collin will be interesting and likely on the shoulders of newly arrived Irish International, Sean St. Ledger. The defender can slot in at center back and it will be interesting to see if the Dynamo's finesse and physicality may be too much to handle for a player unfamiliar with the MLS style.
Carolina Challenge Cup
These two teams did face off just two weeks ago as part of the Carolina Challenge Cup, a tournament which the Dynamo were victorious. In that final match of the CCC, Boniek Garcia drove the team to a robust 3-0 victory on the back of two assists and a penalty draw. Of course, this thumping took place against a 10-man (and eventually 9-man) Orlando City thanks to red cards issued to (you guessed it) Aurelien Collin and Colombian forward Carlos Rivas after a wayward elbow to Luis Garrido's head.
Room to Improve
The Dynamo posted a tight 1-0 victory against a tough Columbus Crew team last weekend and a few glaring issues from 2014 still haunt. The back four remained mostly vigilant throughout the night but lapses between Jermaine Taylor and Raúl Rodríguez left players like Kei Kamara open to test Tyler Deric. Thanks to Deric's heroics, the Dynamo maintained the clean sheet, but Orlando City have more than enough attacking talent that could capitalize on those mistakes.
On the other end of the pitch, the midfield still struggles to connect with forwards. Will Bruin's first match of the year was difficult (Columbus defenders often smothered his possessions, giving little recourse) but Owen Coyle's adaptation to the stubborn Crew defense by bringing in Leonel Miranda and changing the formation proved a hit. If Coyle is able to read the game as well as he did on Saturday and make the appropriate substitutions based on matchups, Dynamo fans may not have to deal with the agony of home defeats as they did in 2014.
The Dynamo host Orlando City SC on Friday, March 13th at 6:00PM. Tickets are still available at HoustonDynamo.com and the broadcast can be seen on Unimas (Spanish & English available).