The wait is over. After a plethora of offseason moves on the field and in the office (not to mention a last-minute CBA deal), the Houston Dynamo will officially begin their historic 10th season on Saturday night against Columbus Crew SC. With a new head coach, the possibility of a few lineup surprises, and the MLS return of Kei Kamara, it's tough to know what to expect. Here's a quick rundown.
As of right now, the injury report for Houston is clear. Giles Barnes, Brad Davis, and Raul Rodriguez all spent time late in preseason on the bench after picking up small knocks but it seems to have proven a precaution. All three should be clear to play tomorrow.
For the Crew, midfielder Romain Gall (out) has been dealing with a knee injury and leftback Waylon Francis (questionable) joins him with a groin injury.
The Scotsman may be new to the league but he has already endeared himself to the players. Throughout the offseason transition from long-time coach Dominic Kinnear, players seem to have taken to Coyle's infectious enthusiasm for the game. Training sessions have changed a bit, players are encouraged to be creative, and preseason fixtures have shown us that the Dynamo have enough depth to challenge even the most reliable starters.
His formations and tactics have been slightly altered throughout the past month but we're very likely to see a 4-4-2 or modified 4-5-1 with Giles Barnes and Will Bruin being the primary focus of attack. It will be interesting to watch how Chandler Hoffman and Lionel Miranda may fit in going forward.
The Crew remain mostly intact from 2014 and with good reason. Columbus became a midseason powerhouse in the Eastern Conference and played an exciting, tactically-sound brand of attacking soccer. Ethan Finlay and Federico Higuain both recorded 11 goals and 7 assists on the year while Justin Meram was a key driving force with 8 goals and 4 assists of his own. Back in August of 2014, Meram torched the Houston defense to the tune of a goal and an assist.
Add to all of that Kei Kamara, back from a spell in England, and Columbus have a truly difficult attacking corps to contain. Kamara, who hasn't played since March of 2014, aims to reclaim the form he enjoyed in Kansas City where he averaged close to 10 goals per season over 4 full years. With the Dynamo defense mostly intact since 2014 (save Rodriguez's inclusion), it will be interesting to see if Houston has found its footing against Columbus.
This year, Dynamo Theory will begin including infographics (like the one you see below) before every match. Week 1 serves as a bit of a recap of where the Dynamo left off in 2014, but moving forward we'll be able to update these with each week's stats and a new opponent. The aim is to provide you at-a-glance information without needing to weigh down previews with too much text. Like what you see? Want to see more stats? Sound off below and we'll make sure to deliver.
The Houston Dynamo host Columbus Crew SC on Saturday, March 7, 2015 at 7:30PMCST. The match can be seen on ROOT Sports (1560AM/850AM on radio). Tickets are still available but are in limited supply. Visit HoustonDynamo.com to purchase seats.