The Houston Dynamo finally got a bit of rest following their previous week in Major League Soccer which featured 3 games in 8 days. The club managed to earn 6 points from those 3 games with wins over Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake, but lost their midweek matchup against the San Jose Earthquakes. This week the Dynamo will take on the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park. The Dynamo have amassed an embarrassing 0-5-0 record on the road, but only lost by a single goal in each of those games with the exception of their meltdown at Avaya Stadium.
Consistent performances have been a problem all year for the squad, but there is no better chance to strike for 3 points than against a team struggling even more than the Dynamo. Both sides will obviously be hungry for points, so the Dynamo cannot sleep on the Fire.
In our preview of the match we discussed some of the problems of each squad and some of the assets the Dynamo have coming into the match, but we wanted to know more about the Chicago Fire so we spoke with Trevor J. Moore of Hot Time in Old Town to gain some perspective on his team's approach to the match and his take on the season so far.
Dynamo Theory: Like the Dynamo, things in Chicago aren't quite going as intended as far as results, standings, and points are concerned. The Fire have only lost 1 game by more than a goal this year so why have they had trouble grinding out wins or finding ways to equalize?
Hot Time in Old Town: I don't think this point should be lost on Fire fans. The team is not winning and not scoring enough goals, but they have been competitive in that they haven't been blown out on the scoresheet (there are plenty of stats for which they cannot be proud, but their goals against is impressive). I feel that the coaching staff was embarrassed by the 4-3 loss on opening day because it flew in the face of everything they wanted to build. They have locked things down at the back since then at the detriment of the offense. The DP attackers have not been threatening and have not gotten any kind of service from the midfield. The team is in the process of integrating some new midfielders that could help things, but the hole feels too deep already for the season to be much of a success. I'd like to think things could be different had David Accam not missed so much time with an injury, but we will never know
Dynamo Theory: With the Fire coming off a disappointing midweek loss against Eastern Conference foes the New York Red Bulls, what kind of adjustments will Head Coach Veljko Paunovic make coming into this game?
Hot Time in Old Town: It is such a difficult position Pauno finds himself in right now. They will be playing their fourth game in 11 days on Saturday with trips to both the West and East coasts mixed in. When the team is struggling on the field and the travel forces so much rotation, his decisions cannot be easy. I'd think he wants to put out his best 11 players on Saturday in a very winnable game, but he cannot over use the most important players. I suspect he will play a 4-3-3 formation like he did in New York to try to spark the offense and take advantage of a defensively vulnerable team in Houston. It seems unlikely that David Accam will go 90 minutes and it will be interesting to see if he gets a second straight start. I think that this is his opportunity to give the team some offensive confidence and if they don't score a few goals in this game, there might not be any hope that they can do much the rest of the season.
Dynamo Theory: This is going to be a game where both teams are hungry and eager to escape the basements of their respective conferences. The Dynamo offense has struggled mightily on the road and despite poor results, the Fire has one of the better defenses in the league. How can the Dynamo find ways to break down a tough defense at Toyota Park?
Hot Time in Old Town: I'm not sure they can have much of a game plan against the Chicago defense beside pressuring them and forcing a mistake. Pauno has encouraged the team to play out of the back all season and not many of the defenders look completely comfortable with the ball when pressured. New York got the win on Wednesday with a 1 goal, 1 shot on target performance. This goal came from a mistake in the backline and there wasn't much chance for Sean Johnson to keep the ball out of the net. If I were Owen Coyle, I'd press high up the field, hope for a mistake, and require the Chicago offense to win the game. It is important to note that Sean Johnson got his first playing time of the season on Wednesday and neither he nor Matt Lampson have done anything to lose a starting spot. I think it would be smart to stick with Johnson because he is a fan favorite and the team needs every ounce of goodwill they can muster from the supporters or Pauno's message will start to fall on deaf ears.
Projected Lineup: Again, very hard to project a lineup with the required player rotation, but here is what I think Pauno will do:
Predicted Outcome: 3-1 to Chicago
For my answers to Trevor's questions please check them out at Hot Time in Old Town!