I give you this tweet:
Crazy stat time: this is the SECOND TIME this year the Sounders have rescued a 1-1 draw in Houston on a 94th minute equalizer.— Sounders Matchday (@LIVESounders) August 25, 2016
If and when the Sounders make the playoffs, they can thank the Dynamo's lazy defense (I'm kidding, sort of).
Wade Barrett decided to change up the formation (if only slightly) from a 4-1-4-1 to a 4-2-3-1. This meant Alex was pushed deeper into the midfield to form a partnership with Collen Warner, who has mostly played as a lone defensive midfielder. Ricardo Clark stayed higher, trying and failing to connect passes from back-to-front. Cristian Maidana spent most of his time on the left wing, although he did roam free at different points in the game.
The main reason for the switch was to put more defenders on Nicolas Lodeiro. The Argentine, as I'm sure you all know by now, is magnificent at breaking defenses with intricate final third passing, and deserves special attention. The Dynamo did a very good job of making sure he didn't have too much of an impact on the game, and that's why they were able to hold Seattle scoreless for 93 minutes.
That wasn't the only reason for the formation change, though. Barrett decided that the Dynamo would generate more chances if Maidana was given the license to create from the left and cut in on his right foot; that's why Clark played as a center attacking midfielder. With Maidana spending a lot of time as an inverted winger, he would need defensive cover; he's not a great defender to begin with, so it makes sense.
The defensive cover came from Alex, who played like a holding midfielder more often than not. The Brazilian would drift over and defend the space in front of Jalil Anibaba, allowing the former Union man to stay forward. The Dynamo's defensive shape often became something like this:
They played very narrow — one of the reasons Cubo Torres received zero service — and they played compact, surrounding Lodeiro's working area with three or four players at a time.
This was a smart tactical wrinkle thrown in by Barrett, and it did help them create a number of chances. The Dynamo had 22 total shots (18 more than the Sounders) and they had an impressive key passes map:
But they only put four of those shots on target. That's a travesty.
It goes back to the struggles the Dynamo have always had. They don't have any players who are efficient in the final third, who can get their heads up and find a pass or simply put a shot in the net. You can imagine someone who can do that will be a major target for them this winter.
Erick Torres got the start as a lone striker, but wasn't given the opportunity to have much of an impact. His teammates failed to get him the ball, and while he can be faulted to an extent for not being active enough, the blame for his invisibility mostly goes to his teammates.
Cubo got 25 touches on the ball in 59 minutes. By comparison, Andrew Wenger, who was subbed on in the 60th-minute, touched it 19 times. Goalkeeper Joe Willis had only five less touches than Torres. That's another recurring problem for the Dynamo: They struggle to get their forwards chances on the ball. Will Bruin and Mauro Manotas have experienced it before; add Cubo to the list.
There are a number of reasons for this — the need of a top-quality No. 10 among them — but the main one is their complete lack of an attacking identity. They don't know what to do when they get the ball in space, or when they get numbers in the final third. MLS teams generally deviate to one of these:
— Sit back and counter. The Fire do this thanks to the speed of David Accam.
— Press high and win the ball in advanced positions, also known as gegenpressing. The Red Bulls are the obvious example.
— Cross, cross, and cross some more. It helps to have a big target forward in the middle — the Crew did this with Kei Kamara last season — but you don't always have to. The Earthquakes do this a lot, probably to a fault.
— Play through the wings. Real Salt Lake can do this because of Joao Plata and Burrito Martinez.
— Create using a two-forward formation. The Sounders used to do this with Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins, and now Toronto FC do it with Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore.
— Play through a high-level No. 10 and keep possession in the final third. Lee Nguyen and the Revs try to do this, and the Lodeiro and Seattle are succeeding at it right now.
There are others that fit certain teams (Philly play through C.J. Sapong, for example) but these are the most common examples. The Dynamo fall into none of those categories, and it is seriously hindering their attacking ability.
3. Replacing Beasley
Jalil Anibaba and Sheanon Williams have been serviceable at full-back this season. But it's hard not to notice the negative effect DaMarcus Beasley's injury has had on the Dynamo. Neither of the two current full backs are particularly effective going forward, so without Beasley, they lose the constant overlaps and crosses.
It's clearly hurt their attack.