The Houston Dynamo are looking to bounce back against the San Jose Earthquakes following a physical match against their rival Sporting Kansas City which resulted in a 1-1 draw that left plenty of talking points. The game featured a red card to defensive midfielder Nathan Sturgis and a few other questionable officiating decisions including an obvious handball inside the penalty box by Luis Garrido. However, the team still managed a difficult road point against a team that hasn't lost at home all season while largely dictating the pace of the game which is reason to see the positives in a draw.
The Dynamo have found combinations of players that have worked well since the Gold Cup concluded such as Sheanon Williams at right back, left back DaMarcus Beasley returning from his stint with the US National Team, and Alex Lima in the midfield. The return of star forward/attacking midfielder Giles Barnes, the in-form Brad Davis, and Erick "Cubo" Torres could propel the Dynamo into playoff contention.
Coyle's Starting XI against Sporting Kansas City
The Dynamo have split results in the last two meetings with the San Jose Earthquakes with a 1-0 loss at BBVA Compass Stadium in early May and then a 2-0 win at the new Avaya Stadium on July 10th. The Dynamo will be at home and look to string together another quality performance following their dominating 3-0 win over the LA Galaxy and a strong showing in their road draw against SKC.
The Dynamo will have gained some options and lost a few others for selection for their matchup against the Quakes. Oscar Boniek Garcia could make his return following an injury he picked up while with the Honduran National Team. Nathan Sturgis will be unavailable after his red card that he picked up against Kansas City, and Ricardo Clark injured his hamstring and could be out as many as 4 weeks following an awkward landing on his equalizing goal against Sporting KC.
The defense remains sound going into this match, but the void left by Ricardo Clark and Nathan Sturgis creates an interesting dilemma for Owen Coyle who is now left with several possibilities to fill the gap left by the two. Luis Garrido should be the defensive/holding midfielder in the lineup, but Coyle could throw in "super-sub" Rasheed Olabiyi into a central midfield role, Brad Davis (with Leonel Miranda or Alex Lopez out wide), Alex Lopez, or even Giles Barnes. This opens up the possibility for Will Bruin, Giles Barnes, and Cubo to all start - though it's far from a certainty.
My Guess at a Starting XI
There's nothing concrete about which direction Coyle could take the midfield or forward positions. He could make a more traditional 4-4-2 with Bruin/Barnes, or Bruin/Cubo (and Barnes in the midfield), but I wouldn't expect a 4-3-3 formation - though with options limited in defensive midfielders, he could choose a more attacking approach.
So how does Coyle figure out his midfield problem left by Rico's injury and Sturgis's suspension? Does he go for the gusto on offense, or will he try to play more conservatively? Let us know how you'd solve this problem and be sure to spark the discussion in the