2016 is over, the Houston Dynamo’s last place finish in the Western Conference is in the rearview mirror, and 2017 is looking bright with fresh faces and silverware in the form of the club’s victory in the Desert Diamond Cup. This is a very different team than last year. So different that it’s hard to predict where this club will finish. The team has gone undefeated in preseason and new Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera has mostly figured out how his team will lineup and play. It’s a style that utilizes deep pressing in its defense and one that plays fast, counters, and is capable of scoring a lot of goals in its offense. The best part is that the players seem to have bought in to the philosophy. Erick “Cubo” Torres had plenty of games last year where he looked apathetic and didn’t do enough to see playing time lost to the younger Mauro Manotas. This year he’s pressing center backs and forcing them to commit turnovers! Oh how an offseason can change one’s spirit (it also helps that Cabrera had worked previously with Cubo at Chivas USA).
Back to Reality
But despite all of the early optimism, this isn’t preseason and the first team coming to BBVA Compass Stadium is the reigning MLS Cup Champs, the Seattle Sounders. Seattle finished 4th in the West and battled through Western Conference juggernauts Sporting Kansas City, FC Dallas, and the Colorado Rapids to beat Toronto FC in Toronto in order to lift the MLS Cup. That’s no easy feat considering they did it without their star Clint Dempsey. There’s a big reason for that: Nicolas Lodeiro is a legitimate contender for MVP this season because he lifted the Sounders club, put them on his back, and carried them towards the MLS Cup final. Before he joined the Sounder’s record was 6-12-2, but when he arrived he helped them finish out the year (not counting playoffs) 8-2-4. He’s good. The Dynamo will need to pressure the Sounders and make it so that Lodeiro does not get the ball to influence the game.
There is some good news, as bad as Houston was last year we were able to draw Seattle in all three meetings, two of which were in Houston. In those two games in Houston, the Dynamo let results slip away with stoppage time equalizers by the Sounders. This is where the Dynamo need to be better this season. They need to not win games they should have tied and tie games they should have lost.
Home Opener Record
The Dynamo have a strong home record that will be tested against the reigning Cup champs. To date the Dynamo have a 6-1-4 record at home and hope to not add to their lone loss, which came back in 2011 to the Philadelphia Union. That being said, the level of confidence in the squad is high after winning the Desert Diamond Cup and a win over Seattle would prove those that doubted the potential of the Dynamo wrong.
New Look Team Ready to Roll
The starting lineup this season will be radically different than the one that started last season’s home opener. In fact only 3 players are likely to start from that game in DaMarcus Beasley, Ricardo Clark, and Alex Lima (Joe Willis started last year’s home opener for Tyler Deric). 5 of those starters aren’t even on the team anymore. The Dynamo Front Office, along with Wilmer Cabrera, have transformed this team this offseason. Adding experienced players such as Leonardo, Adolfo Machado, and A.J. DeLaGarza to lead the defense (next to the experienced DMB) should help shore up what was an average defense last year. But the attacking additions of Romell Quioto and Alberth Elis should propel one of the worst offenses in the league to one of the best in the league as goals will (finally) come again. The duo, alongside Cubo Torres, seems to have formed some chemistry already which will be immensely helpful against the Sounders.
Welcome Back Soccer
However this match finishes, it’s great to have soccer back in our lives. Last season the team struggled, which is never fun as a fan to witness. But the team looks new and with a new season in a league with as much parity as MLS, anything is possible.
The match starts at 7:30 PM CT so get out and enjoy having soccer back. I highly encourage checking out The Peel’s #March4TheMatch event. They are trying to bring a lot of energy into the stadium by marching from 8th Wonder Brewery to BBVA Compass Stadium (about 2 blocks away). It should be a lot of fun so please get out and support marching to matches!