No other team in MLS has performed better than the Houston Dynamo this season.
At home, that is.
The Dynamo have five wins and one draw at BBVA Compass Stadium, scoring no fewer than two goals in a game and allowing less than a goal per game. Their goal differential is +12, by far the best of any home team, and they’ve scored 17 goals already at home. 4-1, 4-0, and 3-1 are among the scorelines.
Sporting KC have a similar home record, at four wins and a draw, and Orlando are undefeated at 5-0, but they’ve done it in considerably less entertaining fashion. Neither Sporting nor Orlando have nearly as many goals as Houston, and both have only allowed two goals at home this season. They’re content with grinding out clean sheets and doing the bare minimum to grab three points.
That’s all completely fine, and it’s worked for them, but as a neutral, I’d much rather watch the Dynamo play at home than any other team.
Houston showed exactly why they’re so good at home with a smooth 4-0 drubbing of Orlando, who were thoroughly outmatched and unprepared tactically for the Dynamo’s high-flying attack.
Wilmer Cabrera returned to the 4-3-3 for the first time since a road loss in New England three weeks ago, an obvious tactical decision that worked to perfection. It was clear that Orlando manager Jason Kreis had not rewinded the film to the Dynamo’s 4-1 flyby of the Red Bulls last month, or their 3-1 demolition of Columbus in week two because his team was making all the wrong tactical moves in Houston.
Kreis had his full backs pushing high and played three 30+ midfielders in his diamond, giving the Dynamo’s front three all the room they needed to put four goals on the board. Orlando’s diamond had relied on outside backs Scott Sutter and Donny Toia to get forward and provide service high up the field, but against wide-set wingers like Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto, they got exploited like no other full backs have so far in MLS.
Will Johnson, Matias Perez Garcia, and, especially, Antonio Nocerino were unable to keep up with the Dynamo’s route 1 attack and Alex’s crazy positional role. Orlando’s center backs, Jose Aja and Tommy Redding (DOTY candidate Jonathan Spector was resting), were beaten to a pulp, and Aja was reportedly very frustrated in the locker room after the game.
The Dynamo went back to what worked on Saturday, and it got them a 4-0 shellacking of the first-place team in the Eastern Conference. They sat deep, pushed the wingers really wide, let Alex roam, and then feasted on space in transition with diagonal switches.
This goal sums it up perfectly:
Long ball from Alex to Quioto, perfect ball into the forward, and cool finish in the box. That’s the formula for the Dynamo.
It helps having players ready and willing to execute it. Alex has vastly improved his distribution this year, the wingers are shredding guys 1v1, and both forwards (Mauro Manotas and Cubo Torres) are putting the ball in the net. Kreis said his team “ran up against a buzzsaw” and he wouldn’t be wrong.
Houston are now on 16 points from nine games, good for fourth in the Western Conference and just two behind leaders FC Dallas. If you notice, all 16 of their points have come at home.
They’re 0-3 on the road.
They’ll have to play a lot on the road later in the season, and losing every time is not a good formula for making the playoffs. The 4-3-3 may be super entertaining and effective at home, but if they can’t replicate it on the road, maybe it’s time for some adjustments.