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Dynamo Film Session: Dynamo learn lessons of defensive organization against Seattle

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How a subtle Clint Dempsey movement almost killed the Dynamo on Saturday.

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at Houston Dynamo Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Are the Dynamo good? Not yet, no. But did they beat the defending champs? Yes.

I’m not convinced that they are anywhere approaching a playoff team yet, but I will say that went out on Saturday and impressed a lot of people. The most impressive was the front three, which got its first chance to prove itself and it did not disappoint:

Romell Quioto — the goal-scorer here — Erick Torres, and Alberth Elis were absolutely buzzing at BBVA. I mean, buzzing.

This is their first half shot map:

Because of substitutions and the game state, none of them attempted a shot in the second half. But if the first half is any indication, these three will form one of the best 4-3-3 frontlines in MLS. We’ll see if they can keep it going against Columbus in week two.

For now, let’s remember the roster is more than the goal-scoring exploits of three players. There are still flaws was shown elsewhere, and one was shown, albeit quietly, clearly against the Sounders: Joevin Jones was an absolute menace at left back. His work created Clint Dempsey’s goal, and it just as easily could have created more.

This week, we look at a first half Jordan Morris chance to see why he was so effective, and how Wilmer Cabrera can find a remedy.

We begin this year’s first session of Dynamo Film Session with Nicolas Lodeiro getting his head up in central space with a midfielder chasing him:

As a general rule, a picture of Nicolas Lodeiro doing this against your team is one of the scariest possible pictures. Be afraid, Dynamo fans.

Lodeiro had just received the ball from Ozzie Alonso, who had received it from Gustav Svensson, who had taken it away from Quioto, who should have been better. There was, as you would expect, a chain of events that had led to this point. Also a factor, of course, was Alex forgetting that Lodeiro was standing right next to him.

So now the best creator in the league has a lane straight down the center. Eric Alexander, the designated No. 6 for the Dynamo, had rotated to his left and is just now jogging back to position.

Going back, it is evident that Clint Dempsey had dragged him out of position in a quiet run from the center to the left side of the field. That is the nature of the Sounders.

Lodeiro is pressured by Alex, and he is slightly slowed down, but that ball is on a string and it’s not going away.

He has several options — Dempsey and Morris in the channels and Jones overlapping air at the top of the screen, which we’ll get to in just a bit — but for now, he’ll keep running, shrug off Alex, and then decide his next step.

Now, Jones is more clearly wide open and intent on receiving the ball at the edge of the 18-yard box, rather than closer to the sideline. This is a preference of his and a couple of other attacking full backs in MLS.

Dynamo right back AJ DeLaGarza realizes the trouble Jones could potentially cause right at this exact moment, as he turns his body towards the flank and looks worryingly back at Lodeiro, hoping the deadly ball isn’t coming at that exact moment and he will have time to recover.

He doesn’t.

One second later, the ball is in front of Jones and he has an opportunity to put a low cross in.

There are a few reasons for why he was able to get so open:

  1. Alexander was dragged out of position and Alex left Lodeiro by himself in the middle of the field, allowing him to turn and find himself face to face with the Dynamo’s four-man backline.
  2. Because there was no midfielder to shield the defense, the four defenders had to stay tight so as to not leave gaps and channels open for Lodeiro, especially if a center back were to have to step up and defend a potential shot. DeLaGarza could not separate and go off to defend the onrushing Jones without leaving open gaps.
  3. There was no extra cover if Alexander was not in position. Neither winger was tracking back, the other midfielder — Ricardo Clark — was trailing behind the play, and Alex was eliminated thanks to the skill of Lodeiro. THIS IS WHY YOU PLAY WITH MORE THAN ONE D-MID.

With Jones free to hit a ball into the middle, the other defenders had to scramble to get goal-side of the two players rushing into the box. That’s not easy to do in a situation like that, and Morris almost took advantage.

The ball would clip his foot and roll to the back-post, where Beasley would somehow manage to let it hit his foot and roll out of bounds. Dempsey could have easily been able to poach a back-post goal, and completely change the course of the game.

Houston can take a couple of lessons from this. First, have cover in midfield. Second, make sure the wingers do something defensively, or you’re going to get mismatches on the flank. And third, don’t give players like Lodeiro time on the ball in Zone 14 like that.

Bad things will happen.