1) This formation brought a lot of balance back to the team that had previously been lacking. While the defense was caught off guard early, the possession picked up and this team started really feeling confident with its offense. The team struck crucial goals at critical times scoring just before halftime and scoring at the beginning of the 2nd half which helped the Dynamo control the game until Barnes's error inserted some life back into SKC. The formation which could've been a 4-4-2, 4-5-1, or 4-2-3-1was largely successful.
2) Defensive marking, especially early in the 1st half, was just bad. Players lost their man as they got caught ball watching and that can't happen with one less defensive player like in this formation. Repeat offenders were: Sarkodie, Rodríguez, and Taylor.
3) Set piece dominance. Sporting Kansas City is a very good team in the air, but the Dynamo were able to score twice off of set pieces. Whether or not set piece offense should be one's "bread and butter", being dominant in the air provides an advantage for offense and for defense.
Houston Dynamo Player Ratings:
Tyler Deric (4) - It's hard to fault a keeper for poor marking, bad backwards passes, and for bad calls that lead to penalty kicks, but Deric still let in 4 goals and didn't register a single save. Tyler Deric is still a good goalkeeper and is playing like a great one in this league, but this night he didn't look quite his best even if the circumstances for the goals allowed weren't all on him.
Kofi Sarkodie (4.5) - Sarkodie may have been fouled on the play leading up to the game's first goal, but he gave up the ball fairly easily. Sarkodie was caught out of position from time to time and those instances were nearly exploited.
Jermaine Taylor (5.5) - There's lots of controversy surrounding a certain "handball" which led to Taylor's sending off and a penalty kick. Personally, it wasn't close to the correct call and Taylor's arms were back to avoid this kind of misunderstanding...but oh well...MLS...grumble, grumble. Taylor's play before that was actually decent as he was able to intercept several passes, make a lot of clearances, and win some strong aerial battles against a very good team in the air.
Raúl Rodríguez (6.5) - I think Rodríguez is an outstanding 1v1 defender, but in the game's opening goal, Rodríguez gave Krisztian Nemeth all the space he needed to find a hole in the corner of the goal and shoot. Overall, RR's defending was lacking as he, like Sarkodie, often lost track of his man which led to a few close calls. However, Rodríguez's goal to put the Dynamo up 4-3 late despite being a man down was a glimmer of hope before Benny Feilhaber ruined everyone's evening at BBVA Compass Stadium with his stoppage time
DaMarcus Beasley (5.5) - Despite not coming up with some big defensive or offensive stats, Beasley was pretty consistent with his marking and passing. He made a pair of tackles and was able to push the ball up into the offense from time to time, but I can't reward the defensive players for "pretty good play" when the defense as a whole gave up 4 goals including a really early goal and a really late goal.
Nathan Sturgis (7) - Nate Sturgis looks to have beaten out Luis Garrido for the starting DM job in a formation that calls for only 2 central midfielders and I am more than comfortable with that. Sturgis is a "Daryl Morey type" player in that he's inexpensive, he's serviceable, and he's underrated in nearly every way (which the analytics back up). Sturgis finished the game with 3 tackles, a couple of key passes, and an assist.
Ricardo Clark (6.5) -Whatever formation this was for most of the game, the passing triangle between Sturgis, Clark, and Barnes created a lot of opportunities going forward and it usually started with Clark or Sturgis recovering or winning the ball and passing to the other and then moving it up the field to Barnes. Clark didn't press the offense the way that he has in other games this season, but he didn't really need to - Giles Barnes was doing that. Clark could have passed a little better and probably could have forced his defensive will on SKC attackers more, but an average performance by Clark is still a pretty good one overall.
Brad Davis (7) - In preseason, Davis looked like he was in peak health as his speed hardly failed, his footwork dazzled, and his service was as good as ever. Since then many of us have questioned his health and wondered what happened since his preseason form, but his service looks like it has returned as the Dynamo Captain was able to notch two assists over set pieces and both in key moments before the ends of each half. First, his corner to feed a goal-hungry Will Bruin helped the Dynamo go into halftime up a goal. The 2nd assist helped the Dynamo go up a goal again, this time he picked out Raúl Rodríguez on the kick to help the Spaniard earn his first Dynamo goal.
Alexander Lopez (6.5) - Alex Lopez once again filled in for the injured Oscar Boniek Garcia on the right side of midfield, and Alex had another solid game. He's passing the ball well, getting it into dangerous areas, and he's playing a little defense on top of it all. He sometimes drifts out of position too much, but these last two games he has shown he has value to the team - it's just at RM.
Giles Barnes, MotM, (7.5) - I'm a little upset about the level of internet hate I saw directed at Barnes over twitter following his blunder which set up Sporting's 2nd goal of the match. He's responsible for that one and he's owned up to it, but he was also sitting on a brace of his own and he created nearly all of our offense from the run of play. Barnes looked confident and could strike and score from nearly any distance. He had one shot, which I wish he hadn't taken because he had open players around him, that was just a "heat check" because his last goal was taken from so far out. He made a mistake, and yes it was a bad mistake, but he also played very well overall.
Will Bruin (7) - Last week I asked "Is Bruin back?" and Bruin looks like he answered my question with his header to put the Dynamo up 2-1 just before the half. Bruin regained his starting position and while Barnes pulled a lot of the strings, Bruin pulled a lot of defenders to give Barnes space to maneuver. Bruin showed strong hold up play and his ability to win balls in the air, something that has been missing on the offensive end.
Chandler Hoffman (5.5) - Though Hoffman had a perfect passing rating and over 20 minutes of game time to assert himself, the ball rarely fell to the forward and going down a man 10 minutes after his entrance hurt his chances to influence the offense.
David Horst (6) - Came on for Alex Lopez following Jermaine Taylor's red card and passed perfectly and made a few clearances.
Luis Garrido (N/A) - Came on in the 84th minute for Nathan Sturgis and only had 2 touches on the ball.
Coach Owen Coyle (7) - Just when you think Coyle has settled on a lineup he throws you a curve ball. Coyle's decision to insert Bruin back into the lineup had a tremendously positive effect as the team was cruising to a victory until a poor backwards pass and a poor penalty decision brought Sporting Kansas City right back into it. The defense looked like it had been exposed early, as it's used to having another defensive midfielder in front of it, but the Dynamo soon adjusted by simply possessing the ball higher up the pitch which allowed the defense to regain its composure.
Overall, Coyle is right to be upset with the result. Extra stoppage time because of a poor penalty kick gifted Kansas City a pair of goals. Of course, some of this is on the Dynamo as mistakes like not closing down space on an attacker in front of goal and a poor back pass also gifted them goals. Defensively, this formation can't afford to be caught sleeping because of there is one less defensive minded player around to cover up for that mistake. However, having more players in attacking positions creates a lot of offensive potential as we saw quality goals being scored through the run of play and off set pieces.