Before I get into the game, I have to point this out: Unimas does not deserve to be broadcasting MLS games. They have the same teams every week (LA, Orlando, Houston, San Jose, Dallas NYRB, and NYCFC), the quality of the feed is always poor — why they don’t have HD, I don’t know — and, most of all, the announcers are absolute crap.
Ramses Sandoval, the play-by-play commentator, has no idea what he is talking about most of the time. He doesn’t know players’ names, and he often sounds like he’s never watched a soccer game in his life. “Oh, a goalkeeper made an incredible save? Let’s talk about that amazing shot by the attacker.”
He tries and fails to add Spanish accents for players — sometimes he tries to do it for Brazilian players too, and that doesn’t work, BECAUSE THEY’RE BRAZILIAN — and his gooooooooooool calls are obnoxious, annoying, and unnecessary. I either mute the TV or listen to the Spanish broadcast.
Sorry, I just had to rant about that. I have a feeling I’m not alone.
Okay, let’s get back on topic here. The Houston Dynamo made a gutsy comeback on Friday night against sort-of rivals Sporting KC, scoring in the 94th-minute to salvage a 3-3 draw from Kansas City. It was a thrilling match — when was the last time we could say that about a Dynamo game? — and one that unfortunately was marred by Sandoval’s failings. I promise I’m done talking about the announcers.
The Dynamo played a 4-1-4-1 formation in their first game back from the international break. Mauro Manotas started and scored his first MLS goal, a good sign for Houston after Cubo Torres departed for Mexico, and Keyner Brown made his debut, coming on as a substitute for the returning DaMarcus Beasley in the second half.
Cristian Maidana started on the left beside the normal midfield of Alex, Ricardo Clark, Collen Warner and Boniek Garcia. Maidana was inactive down the flank and struggled to create chances centrally:
Early in the game, the Dynamo conceded basically all possession to Sporting KC and looked asleep in midfield. They put zero pressure on SKC and allowed them to move far forward and set up shop high up the field. Houston failed to connect passes in attacking positions, a common struggle for them.
Here was their completed passing chart after a half-hour:
That’s only 19 successful passes in the attacking half, and 95% of those were backwards (15 of 19). Things got better as the game went on, however, as the next half-hour of the game saw the Dynamo complete 37 passes in the attacking half, 14 of which were in the attacking half.
Their early miscomings can be summed up by this tweet:
Dynamo playing with 0 urgency. Inviting SKC to possess and they can't move the ball out wide or up top because those players are defending— Derek Stowers (@dStowers410) September 10, 2016
The Dynamo sat back early on, then started pushing higher up the field as the game went on. They needed to keep their backline 10 or 15 yards higher than they did in the first half, because when they did that in the second half, they were able to win the ball in higher positions and thus find possession in areas closer to the goal.
When that possession comes, good things happen.
Just look at Manotas’s goal. It came on a perfectly-weighted through-ball from Boniek, who himself was left wide open at the top of the box. The Dynamo completed 21 passes without losing possession in the build-up to the goal. Unfortunately, the game is blacked out on MLS Live so I can’t get clip the entire sequence, but I can at least get this:
Good things happen when you touch the ball closer to the place where you want to put that ball. That’s my intense tactical lesson for the day.
They still aren’t particularly good at doing that, it should be noted. Clark doesn’t have the legs that he used to, Alex’s strength is not ball-movement and possession, and Warner should get better at distributing the ball from deep and not getting caught up the field. But they are better when they don’t bunker.
Moving on, the Dynamo are still struggling with injuries. While Beasley couldn’t play 90 minutes on Friday, he did play 76, which is obviously significant progress. Will Bruin was able to sub in, so it looks like his knee problem is going away.
Those were the bits of good news. There is bad news as well. David Horst and Agus were not included in the 18, forcing Jalil Anibaba to play center back again. Tyler Deric remains out, and third-string keeper Calle Brown suffered a concussion in training during the week, so they had to call in RGVFC starter Devin Perales to back up Joe Willis. I guess you could say it is getting better.
And you could say the same about the team in general. The Dynamo looked like a capable team at times in Kansas City, and while they won’t make the playoffs, they still can play spoiler like they did against Sporting. That’s always fun.