Real Salt Lake are now just three points ahead of Portland for fourth in the West and eight points behind FC Dallas in the Supporters’ Shield standings after they lost 1-0 at home to the Dynamo. MLS at its finest.
Here are some thoughts on that game:
1. Progressive thinking
The Dynamo beat RSL, but they did it with just seven total shots (eight less than Real) and two shots on target. They struggle to create offensive penetration and to get players in good attacking positions with the ball at their feet. It’s something that has been going on for a while now, and probably won’t be fixed by the end of the season. That’s okay, because Houston aren’t in a “win-now”-type mode.
But it’s something that should be fixed before the start of next season. The question is, how much of the problem has to do with personnel and how much has to do with the system?
To answer that, we have to look at the performance of intended No. 10 Cristian Maidana, brought on eight months ago to be the primary chance-creator.
The Argentine has three goals and three assists this season in 25 games and 19 starts. In 2015, playing on a last-place Union side, he scored one goal but piled up 15 assists, which tied for second in the league. That’s a serious decline, and one that can’t be blamed on less scorers to pass to. C.J. Sapong led Philadelphia with nine goals, but less than three of them were assisted by Maidana.
He simply hasn’t produced as many goals, which in turn has kept the Dynamo from creating consistent attacking production. Sometimes he plays really well and is really active, like he was in Montreal a month ago, but most of the time he is inactive and doesn’t do a whole lot to further the attack. If you want to go that far, you could even call him lazy, like Brian Dunseth did on the RSL broadcast.
This is not the passing map of an elite, difference-making No. 10:
He was given the license to range all over the field — at times playing RM, CAM, and LM, depending on what his feelings were at the moment — like Nicolas Lodeiro does in Seattle. The difference is, Lodeiro actually gets his head up and finds passes through the defense; Maidana does not.
So no, Cristian Maidana is not the long-term answer at the chance-creating position for the Dynamo. They’ll have to address this issue in the offseason.
Mauro Manotas got the start again in a 4-1-4-1, and looked dynamic as ever despite not exactly getting top-class service.
He didn’t get many opportunities to run past the defense because he was always being smothered by defenders. The Dynamo don’t have anybody else who is willing to challenge backlines and actually make runs, so RSL could easily key on him and make sure he couldn’t do anything. Top-of-the-box Ricardo Clark runs are great, but they don’t do enough to take the attention away from Manotas.
It should be noted that Alex’s goal came on a turnover high up the field. RSL made a bad mistake in a bad place, and the Dynamo took advantage.
Houston should push forward more often. Take a chance, come out of the shell, make something happen. They can still be a conservative team — it’s what makes them tough to play against — but it’s not going to kill them to step forward every once in a while and try to win the ball in advanced positions.
That’s what good teams do, after all.