The Houston Dynamo proved to everyone they have goal-scoring ability with a 3-3 draw against the New England Revolution last week, but also showed considerable defensive weakness. The backline of Jalil Anibaba, David Horst, Raul Rodriguez and DaMarcus Beasley was a bit leaky throughout, but will have to tighten up in time for this match against FC Dallas, who will throw plenty of attacking talent at the Dynamo.
The visitors will likely have to do it without Fabian Castillo, though, as he was ruled out for at least two weeks after a groin injury late in their game against the Philadelphia Union last week; although he is listed as questionable. The Colombian was all over Houston when the two teams last met, using his incredible dribbling skills to run Boniek Garcia out of right-back in just thirty minutes in a 4-1 Dallas win back on October 4th.
While FCD lost some offensive power, the Dynamo should have an opportunity to fortify their defense with the return of right-back Sheanon Williams, who could be coming back from the hamstring strain that kept him out of the Revolution game. Nothing against Anibaba, but Williams has to be considered an upgrade at the position.
Without further ado, here are three keys to win for the Dynamo:
1. Block Barrios
With Castillo out, Michael Barrios will be given more opportunities to take defenders on one-on one and to send in crosses from his right wing. Castillo's countryman will be key to FC Dallas's ability to stretch the field and take some pressure off of Mauro Diaz, the midfield maestro.
To stop this, the Dynamo have to be able to mark Barrios out of the game. Beasley and Giles Barnes should be able to prevent full-field switches and and through-balls from the midfield from getting to the attacker, as those would spread the field and give Diaz more room to work, not an attractive idea for the Dynamo.
Houston will have a lot better chance at winning this match if they can limit Diaz's space in the midfield, and therefore take away his capability of making passes like these:
If they can't, the Argentine will surely take advantage and add some more assists (or goals) to his growing tally.
2. Offensive pressure
FC Dallas's defensive midfield and backline have a quality that not many MLS clubs have: the ability to quickly break out of defense and distribute to speedy attackers.
Carlos Gruezo, who made his debut last week, showed some of this against Philadelphia, as did Kellyn Acosta, the versatile USMNT prospect. Center-back Walker Zimmerman is perhaps the best at this, if the gif shown in this article is any indication.
That was a really nice ball.
The Dynamo should press a bit higher than usual to stop these kind of things from happening. While they may have to use a bit more stamina than usual, they could end up forcing crucial turnovers and starting the attack from areas closer to the goal.
3. Continue to counter-attack
One of the Dynamo's positives from that draw last week was their ability to get on the counter-attack and use speed to get in on goal. Building from the back can be tough and, at times, risky, so sitting deep and allowing FCD to push forward could be a good idea at times.
Houston's offense is faster than Dallas's defense, and right-back Atiba Harris has a tendency to push far up the field, so they could get numbers on the counter should they decide to pursue this strategy.
If they can do all three of these things, three points might just be on the horizon.