The Houston Dynamo are coming off a frustrating road match against the Portland Timbers and are looking to capitalize against a struggling FC Dallas squad in Frisco, TX this evening. The Dynamo will have regained Giles Barnes and Jermaine Taylor from the Jamaican National Team, but Oscar Boniek Garcia has travelled ahead to be with the Honduran National Team. Brad Davis could feature, though is still listed on the injury report. Regardless, the support both up top and in the back will help against a technically gifted FC Dallas side.
In our preview of the match we discussed some of the offensive threats that FCD possesses along with their strengths defensively, but we wanted to know more about what's been going on with our instate rival since the last time these clubs faced off so we spoke with Brian Wachholz of Big D Soccer to understand the other MLS club in Texas a little better.
Dynamo Theory: Following a hot start to the season, FC Dallas looks to have cooled off with their last win of the season coming May 9th managing a record of 0-3-3. Has Dallas just been able to not close out games or what's been the real cause of the recent troubles?
Big D Soccer: Unfortunately, it is not as simple as just closing games out. There have been a few of these matches where we looked doomed from the start. The problems have been depth and the lack of quality in that depth. Oscar Pareja does an incredible job at developing youth players. Homegrowns and draft picks have made their way into the starting lineup. At his point, however, they are our best eleven. That poses a problem when they get fatigued or even miss games for international duty, i.e. Kellyn Acosta, Moises Hernandez. The bench is even less experienced than the homegrown players.
MLS teams have 28 roster slots this season. FC Dallas only has 26 players signed. 2 of those players are at the USL affiliate, Arizona United SC (although Otis Earle was only announced right before this last match against Colorado). Of the remaining 24 players, 4 of the guys have played less than 90 minutes this season. The majority of minutes have been played by 9 guys (3 of which are on Gold Cup rosters); compare that to 12 players on the Dynamo squad playing the majority of minutes so far. This past week, there was an El Salvador international and a Norway international on trial, but yesterday it was reported that neither will be signed because neither is match fit.
All this to say that a stretched thin player pool on a grueling road trip tends to make mistakes. We should have won against Montreal and Colorado. Dallas put in a solid first half against Seattle but then collapsed in the second half to lose that match. Minor lapses in judgment or positioning turn into conceded goals quickly. This team is capable, but they must bring their A game to every game with such thin margins for error.
DT: While the injury report still lists defensive stalwart Matt Hedges on the injury report, it seems like he could make his return to the starting lineup against the Dynamo. How crucial is it to have him on the field and healthy for the Dallas defense?
BDS: Matt Hedges is the physical and mental anchor of the Dallas backline. He is the most technically skilled as well as experienced. He is a natural center back while some of the other defenders in these patchwork rosters have actually been midfielders filling-in. His size and height give him an advantage on both ends of the field, as he is known to score a galloping header from time to time. We need Hedges. The 4-0 loss to Colorado earlier this season was the first game that Matt missed this year, and FCD paid for it. The other players have improved their game to cover better when Matt is out, but Dallas desperately needs the morale boost from a comfortable victory over Houston at home. And I believe it will be significantly more difficult to earn without Hedges on the field in Frisco.
DT: In our last meeting, the Dynamo were thumped 4-1 despite controlling possession and out shooting FCD (although most of those shots were off target). FC Dallas managed a very efficient 4 goals from 6 total shots. How can the Dynamo lock down to prevent such a meltdown defensively?
BDS: FC Dallas is consistently uncomfortable in their own defensive third. If Houston can control the game to that extent, then threats are mitigated as much as possible. However, as you stated, it only takes one or two turnovers to spark a scoring opportunity. Houston's speedy players will need to stay on top of Dallas' speedy players. Fabian Castillo, Michael Barrios, and to a lesser extent Mauro Diaz, are all fast on their feet, with or without the ball. Castillo led the league in dribbles the past few seasons; he is never afraid to go at a defender. In fact, according to Who Scored, FC Dallas as a team is in the top 2 for dribbles with 8.4 per game (Houston is 17th with 4.8 PG).
Blas Perez never quits, and Tesho Akindele is coming back to Dallas from a strong performance with Canada. Both players will look to stand out in MLS before rejoining their national team for the Gold Cup next month.
To find my answers to Brian's questions head on over to Big D Soccer and go check them out. He asked some excellent questions, so please check it out (while being as respectful as possible).