The Houston Dynamo are coming off a 1-1 draw with rival Sporting Kansas City on the road and come back to BBVA Compass Stadium to face the San Jose Earthquakes in a match that both sides need to win in order to stay playoff relevant. The Dynamo will be without Ricardo Clark and Nathan Sturgis following a hamstring injury and red card suspension respectively, but could see the return of Oscar Boniek Garcia.
In our preview of the match we discussed lineup struggles for each side and other games that held playoff importance, but we wanted to learn a bit more about the side that Dominic Kinnear took his talents to so we talked with Nerdy Gales from Center Line Soccer gain perspective on a club in a very similar position as our Dynamo.
Dynamo Theory: The Earthquakes are in a very similar position - on the outside of the playoffs looking up, which is one reason why a win for either team would be a big step towards clawing up the standings. Consistency seems to be the issue for both clubs, though the Quakes definitely started the year with a bit more gusto than they have had lately. What's something that Dominic Kinnear can point to as a reason for consistency issues for his team?
Center Line Soccer: Yes, with the initial excitement of the new stadium wearing off, the fans are starting to voice their concerns over the state of affairs out on the field. As they prop up the longest outdoor bar in North America they're wondering whether the organization can really field a competitive team without the same megabucks investment as many teams in MLS.
Another issue has been summertime absences due to national team duty (Wondolowski and Cato) or injury: Goodson has been dinged up of late, and nobody seems to know what has happened to Lenny, and when (even if) he might return (paging Steven Lenhart, Steven Lenhart to the white courtesy telephone phone).
All of those absences speak to the myriad of starters up top in the Quakes lineup this season. Sherrod and Jahn have not been effective, but recent arrival, Quincy Amarikwa (from Chicago Fire), has already stepped up with three goals, and restored some of the personality that is missing with the loss of the Bash Brothers. In the meantime, the defense has hit a rough patch, and with Goodson questionable for this weekend, Kinnear may again move Jordan Stewart to CB, with Shaun Francis covering Stewart's spot on the flank.
DT: Speaking of Dominic Kinnear, coming into a new club and expecting to win, especially in this league, is no easy task. Realistically speaking, what would a successful year look like for the Quakes under Kinnear, and what would an unsuccessful year look like? Would there be a tipping point for the Earthquakes organization to let Kinnear go? Or are they committed to the Dominator throughout the season?
CLS: At this point, with the Quakes' great start to the season fizzling out, just making the playoffs would be accepted as a success by the fans, if not by the organization. The Dominator (I'm totally stealing that nickname by the way) came back to San Jose with a lot of respect for what he'd achieved with the Quakes prior to the move to Houston. That level of esteem should earn him a couple of seasons in charge while he molds the team to his specifications. My esteemed colleague Luke James put Kinnear's challenge into perspective at Center Line earlier this week.
I don't believe there's a tipping point, at least for the time being, unless of course he trades away Chris Wondolowski -- again.
DT: Chris Wondolowski and Quincy Amarikwa have the makings of a quality striking tandem following Amarikwa's acquisition from the Chicago Fire, but now that Wondo is back, he's being played in the midfield - a place where we've seen him in the past, but it's not the place we like to see him play. What are some of the strengths to having Wondo in the midfield for the lineup and do you see that as a long term place for him or will he be moving on up to the forward position any time soon?
CLS: Midfield is not the place we'd like to see Wondo play either, and it's perplexing to most of the Quakes fans. I have yet to see a rational explanation for moving the team's prime striker. Wondo's never really been renowned as a speedy player - more guile than pace - and I don't really see any evidence that's he's lost a step or two as a reason to move him to midfield.
Despite the move to midfield, Wondo remains the Earthquakes leading scorer with nine goals in 2015 - Amarikwa is second with three. I do think that Wondolowski has developed into a more complete player this season - I wonder if that's due to his time with the USMNT. He's always read the game well, and his ability to execute is now at the same level.
I've liked what I've seen of Amarikwa so far: intense, athletic and at first glance quite productive. Now that Wondo is back, he may develop the level of rapport with Amarikwa that will turn them into the dynamic duo (Quindolowski? Wondokwa? I digress.) that turns the Quakes season around. If Amarikwa can deflect some of the attention of the opposing defenders, then we might see Wondo sneaking in a few more forward forays.
For my answers to Nerdy's questions hit up Center Line Soccer to check them out!