The brief period of rest is over for the Houston Dynamo as players that had been away on international duty have now returned to practice and look to face the New York Red Bulls at home today. While the Dynamo had the benefit of a week’s rest, the Red Bulls had no such fortune. However, Dynamo standout Romell Quioto was unfortunately injured during his time with the Honduran national side and will miss between two and four weeks so the rest period wasn’t all good.
In the Dynamo’s last match at Portland they saw a lead taken just before halftime evaporate into a 4-2 loss in their first road game of the season. Familiar problems arose and Dynamo Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera was unable to matchup tactically against Timbers Head Coach Caleb Porter. The Dynamo will look to use their time in Portland as a learning experience and they’ll want to rebound at home against a good RBNY squad.
In our preview of the match we discussed the recent uptick in the number of Dynamo players on the injury report, but we wanted to know more about our visiting opponents so we spoke with Steve Toto of Once a Metro to gain an insider’s perspective on RBNY.
Dynamo Theory: The New York Red Bulls 1st place in the Eastern Conference and 3rd overall in 2016, but were eliminated in the Conference Semifinals of the playoffs by the Impact. What are the expectations with where this RBNY team can finish in the regular season and in the playoffs?
Once a Metro: If you asked me this question approaching the CONCACAF Champions League matches against Vancouver, I would have said, "MLS CUP, BABY!" Now that RBNY has six competitive matches under their belt, I'm hoping for a playoff spot. I know that we have seven points through four games, but it feels like much is missing.
Toronto improved personnel, people could argue that NYCFC, Chicago & Orlando also improved personnel and Atlanta has shocked everyone. I have a strong feeling D. C. is going to wake up in a few weeks too. Not much more room in the East for the playoffs. The leading goal scorer is "Own Goal" through the first four MLS matches. We are hopefully at the end of the road for the failed 4-2-2-2. RBNY need to get back in the 4-2-3-1 to get Sacha Kljestan back in the #10 spot, who hasn't looked effective as an outside winger.
Other expectations were that Sean Davis would be a poor man's Dax McCarty. He's been ok, but effective in different ways as opposed to Dax. Bradley Wright-Phillips just signed an extension so the team believes he can keep up his scoring ways. Cheers to that. Lastly, all of the returning players would increase their chemistry and perform even better than last season. Still waiting...
DT: What has this team done this offseason to help it reach those expectations?
OaM: I bet when you wrote this question, you were thinking that expectations would be high, but with what I said in my first answer, they "helped" themselves becoming a fringe team by not making more high-quality signings all over the field. Kudos to the Red Bulls for signing and having faith in USL Defender of the Year Aaron Long from NYRB II, but there were not many additional players that bolstered their defensive woes from last season. Context: RBNY dropped a whopping 16 points in games that they had 2-goal leads in. If they would have held on to half of those, they would have won the Supporters' Shield. So far, Long has established himself as the starter, making Aurelien Collin & Damien Perrinelle to fight for the other starting CB position.
It seems the Red Bulls are running their team like a lean business. Lower costs in hopes to increase or maintain output. MLS (and soccer in general) doesn't work that way as a sustainable solution. They have one of the lowest payrolls in MLS. Other teams around them have added better personnel. The Red Bulls seemed to have been comfortable with the players they had from last season, which isn't working out as they planned so far.
DT: What are some players to keep an eye on?
OaM: A player who has turned some heads is Daniel Royer. The Austrian international is a workhorse. He doesn't stop running all game long. As a wing midfielder, that's a tough task as they usually run out of gas around the 75th minute. Royer has one goal so far and has shown he has good defensive skills as well.
A player who had a decent game against RSL last week, but might be looked at as a substitute is 18-year old Tyler Adams. He signed with NYRB II as a 16-year old and has improved each season. With Sacha missing last week on international duty, the team had to move around players, giving Adams the start. He was all over the field and his distribution was pretty good.
Lastly and probably most obvious will be the combination of Kljestan and Bradley Wright-Phillips. Kljestan had 20 assists last season. BWP had 24 goals in 2016 and has scored 70 in the 111 MLS regular season games he's played in. (Add another 7 goals in 12 playoff games). They are usually involved someway in the goals scored by the team.
Expected Injuries/Omissions: Gideon Baah (out for season; broken leg from last season... but training with the team at the moment? Strange situation), Mike Grella (out for 2-4 weeks; knee), Gonzalo Veron (out another 1-2 weeks; hamstring)
Projected Lineup: Really hoping for a 4-2-3-1 to start the game instead of a 35th minute switch from a 4-2-2-2. Luis Robles; Kemar Lawrence, Aaron Long, Aurelien Collin, Sal Zizzo; Felipe, Sean Davis; Daniel Royer, Sacha Kljestan, Alex Muyl; Bradley Wright-Phillips
Predicted Outcome: 3-1 Houston. They are at home. They are fast. They are good. And RBNY hasn't figured itself out yet
For my answers to Steve’s questions, check them out at Once a Metro!