The Houston Dynamo go into today's match without Head Coach Owen Coyle, whom the Dynamo recently parted ways with earlier this week. The team is hoping to undue road reputation with a win against the Vancouver Whitecaps at BC Place. Houston has collected 0 points on the road, but has remained competitive in most of their matches away from BBVA Compass Stadium. How the team reacts to being without a head coach could make this match either very exciting or very disheartening.
In our preview of the match we discussed Vancouver's current form and how our club's reaction to Coyle leaving, but we wanted to what's led to Vancouver's success since we last played them so we spoke with Bartosz Wysocki at Eighty Six Forever to gain insight on his club's direction.
Dynamo Theory: When we last spoke the Whitecaps were struggling to find momentum early in the year, but now the ‘Caps are in 4th place in the Western Conference and have won 3 of 4 games in May so far. What's been the difference that helped turn things around for the club?
86 Forever: At the beginning of the season, we had quite a few new players that joined the roster. In the back, Steven Beitashour left and was replaced by Fraser Aird; in the midfield we had Jacobson and Bolanos coming in; and up top Kudo and Perez were the main acquisitions. It took a while for them to learn how to play with Carl Robinson's system, as well as adapting to MLS play in general took a while for those new to the league (as we've seen, even the world's best superstars can have a tough time shining when they move to this league).
It was not just the new players who didn't play up to their potential though; the old guard weren't playing as well as last year too. Morales was not living up to his billing at the start of the year (and then he got injured), and Kekuta Manneh, one of our most promising players from last season, struggled to find his groove. But now both players are back, and combined with the new talent brought in, the Whitecaps have turned into the dangerous team that many people predicted they would be at the start of the year.
Dynamo Theory: The Whitecaps have a number of players that will miss the match due to international fixtures including Kendall Watson, Blas Perez, and Christian Bolanos. What measures will the team make to make up for these absences?
86 Forever: In the back, we will most likely be looking at Andrew Jacobson to replace Kendall Waston. He has been a solid player throughout the year, and though certainly not a better centre back than Waston, he definitely has shown that he can be a vital member of the Whitecaps.
In the midfield and up top, our losses will be more visible. We already were missing Kudo due to his horrific broken jaw, so to take Perez out of the equation hurts our depth. Rivero will most likely start up front, though he'll be expected to put in a lot of minutes for this game. Bolanos can be replaced by a few players, with my guess being Mezquida. A skilled midfielder in his own right, he's been with the Caps long enough that it shouldn't' have a problem slotting him in. That being said, he's no Bolanos, so other players will have to pick up their play around him, such as Morales and Manneh, if the midfield will want to be effective at all against Houston.
Dynamo Theory: Vancouver is incredibly good this season at BC Place losing only 1 match at home this year. How can the Dynamo, who have never fared well in Canada, hope to walk out of BC Place with some positive result?
86 Forever: Going back to the previous question, all of those absences will definitely have a negative impact on how the Whitecaps play tonight. Waston has been the most important part of our defense for a very long time now, so his loss will surely be felt. Even though this hasn't been his best season here, we still are better with him in the back than Pa Modou Kah.
Perez hasn't been playing full games too often this season, so normally his loss wouldn't be the worst thing on the world. But with Kudo out, we will be stretched in our attack, which could make Houston's life easier. But the biggest lost will probably be Bolanos, who has really shined in the past couple of games. His individual skill and vision in the midfield has been excellent, which has led to both him getting on the score sheet, and the team as a whole playing a lot better. The Caps are at his best when he is at his best, so his loss will be felt. During an earlier international break this season, Vancouver got pumped 4-0 by DC United, so we definitely suffer without our best players on the pitch.
For my answers to Bartosz's questions check them out at Eighty Six Forever!