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Three keys for the Dynamo against the San Jose Earthquakes

How the Dynamo can get a victory against Western Conference rivals San Jose.

Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Dynamo play their first mid-week game of the season this Wednesday, and it's in San Jose. Awesome.

A win here would surely do a lot for confidence. Here's what they have to do to accomplish that:

1. Defending the cross

The San Jose Earthquakes cross the ball a lot. WhoScored may not say it—the Quakes are ranked only 12th on the list of crosses per game—but it's definitely a known fact: San Jose cross the ball almost to a fault.

It's not beautiful soccer—after all, when have they ever played beautiful soccer?—but it can be effective. Although they are often low-percentage balls without a high success rate, crosses consistently force the defense to act on the ball, and when you can do that, goals will come. Whether it's a defensive mistake, a funny bounce in the box or simply Quincy Amarikwa jumping high, things happen when you can put the ball in the box.

Even though it's not pleasing to the eye, it works, and it's what the Earthquakes do.

So that means the Dynamo have to be able to defend it, or Chris Wondolowski will certainly hurt them. How should they approach doing that? Here's a few important points:

—Defending the wings

How to stop crosses? Prevent them from being delivered in the first place.

The full-backs and wingers have to step up on players like Shea Salinas and Simon Dawkins, pushing them onto their weak foot and stopping them from putting a ball in. The defenders should keep their body in front of the ball, and make sure to get a foot in when possible.


This seems like a fairly obvious one.

Every defender should have a player—or, if Owen Coyle so chooses, a zone—to keep an eye on, and stick with him (or it) until the end of the play. Get goal-side of the player, and prevent anyone from finding a hole. Someone should be on the near post and on the far post, and Tyler Deric needs to be authoritative from the goalkeeper position.

—Clear the ball

Once the ball enters the box, it should be dealt with immediately by a Dynamo player. Strong and long clearances, whether by a head or a foot, are crucial. Going hand-in-hand with this, defenders should be able to make sure the player they are marking doesn't out-jump them. They should keep in mind that allowing a corner is better than allowing a goal.

2. Watch Wondo

Wondolowski is one of the best pure goal-scorers this league. He has the fourth-most goals in MLS history, and is by far the highest active player on the prestigious list. With ten goals, 31 appearances and a World Cup on his national team résumé, he has been one of the best strikers in the USMNT pool in the past five or six years.

He does it by constantly finding himself in the right place at the right time. Many of the goals Wondo has scored over the recent years are because he was left wide open by the defense, and, some of the time, had a relatively easy finish. As with all the other top forwards in the world, that's not by accident.

Players like Wondolowski have developed an ability to break away from defenders in the box. They can put themselves in the exact right position to score a goal, and even if they don't have great service, they still find a way to put the ball in the net. That—as well as clinical finishing—is what Wondo brings to the table.

The Dynamo absolutely have to watch him at all times, or he will score goals. That's easier said than done, but it's certainly true, and crucial to a Houston victory.

3. Win the counter battle

I think it's been established that the Dynamo are a counter-attacking team:

Also this:

They had just 33% possession against Sporting KC on Saturday, and only completed 238 passes. Clearly, they had the sole intention of getting on the counter-attack.

San Jose are similar. They are 15th in MLS in average possession. If you're curious, the Dynamo are 20th.

Possession is a misleading stat, but it can give us a hint of a team's playing style. It's pretty obvious that both of these teams don't favor possession, so that means whoever wins the counter-attacking battle will likely score the most goals.