The Dynamo have a history of starting seasons high-scoring and fast but trailing off at some point in April and eventually falling back into the depths of the Western Conference. Last season, they went with the bold strategy of playing zero defense and going solely for goals in the first few games of the season, ending up with scorelines like 3-3 and 4-3. The difference from then to now is that this time, they are winning games.
If you look at the MLS stats page right now, you find a number of Dynamo names near the top. Of the five players with more than one goal, two (Cubo Torres and Romell Quioto) play in Houston, and Alex leads the league with three assists. The Dynamo as a team are second with five goals total scored.
The reason for this newfound attacking success is not ridiculous managerial tactics, nor is it an inordinate amount of luck. Rather, credit should go to the Dynamo front office for their scouting abilities, and to Wilmer Cabrera for 1) being the Cubo whisperer and 2) realizing that the front three is good enough to dominate by themselves, and freeing them tactically.
I criticized the Dynamo for not having a central creator, and for the lack of playmaking nous anywhere on the roster. I thought that without a game-changing, Giovinco or Piatti-level roaming attacker leading the line, they would fall flat without someone to dictate possession and connect the two ‘3s’ of the 4-3-3. As it turns out, the front three can do it on their own.
All Torres, Quioto, and Alberth Elis need is 18 inches of daylight, like Gale Sayers. They have been able to create their own opportunities one of two ways:
1. Press: With this group, it’s less of a press than a swarm. They are very fast and agile, and they are able to work together to cut off passing lanes and force turnovers.
Here’s a good example:
One midfielder will give them an ounce of support, and they are able to take away teams’ ability to play out of the back completely.
2. On the break: Naturally, they are at their best when they move fast into gaps and get into the final third with numbers. Here’s Cubo doing it:
And here’s Elis almost doing it:
When it’s not one of those two ways, it’s from a scrappy ball in the box or a set piece.
It is also worth noting that if they had been even sharper over the past three weeks, they could have a lot more than just five goals. The final touch has actually been mostly missing, which should be a scary thought for their MLS rivals.
The problems with this team, though, are not going away even as the front three shreds backlines. The flat midfield three can get easily spread out and beaten by tactically creative opponents, and, as Eddie Robinson often pointed out on the broadcast, the gap between the forwards and the midfielders was mostly very large. We’ll go into those more deeply later.
For now, just enjoy watching these three do their thing, and don’t look too closely at the problems, because the Dynamo have six points from two games against two legit opponents.