The Houston Dynamo are back in action following a bit of a break with the CONCACAF Gold Cup going on and while they will still be short some players who remain with their national teams that made it through Group Stage, it will be up to those filling in to help guide the Dynamo to their first win on the road when they travel to Minneapolis to take on Minnesota United FC. The Dynamo’s last outing was a 3-1 win at home against the Montreal Impact, but the club remains winless on the road this season with two draws being their best performances away from BBVA Compass Stadium.
In our preview of the match we discussed MNUFC’s form and players missing for both sides, but we wanted to know more from our opponents so we spoke with Alex Gormley at E Pluribus Loonum to discuss the 2nd meeting between the Dynamo and Minnesota United FC.
Dynamo Theory: With Gold Cup action going on the Loons will be short Johan Venegas, Francisco Calvo, and Jermaine Taylor as they’ll be representing their national teams. Minnesota United also have a match coming up this weekend. What kind of lineup adjustments are we likely to see from Adrian Heath?
E Pluribus Loonum: Adrian Heath has his work cut out for him this week as he's missing plenty of his regular starters, as you mentioned. In the Loons last game before their Gold Cup break, they came out in a 5-3-2/3-5-2 against the Columbus Crew and I wouldn't be surprised if they opt for this strategy again due to the team being so shorthanded. It will be tough to get a positive result with such a defensive formation but Heath's tactics held Columbus in check for about an hour before conceding, so it could potentially work. Heath will be relying on fringe players at the back like Justin Davis and Joe Greenspan, and I wouldn't be surprised if Brandon Allen (who just came over on loan from the Red Bulls) starts up top alongside Christian Ramirez. Going forward on offense, Minnesota United will continue to count on their attacking trio of Kevin Molino, Christian Ramirez, and Miguel Ibarra, and if the home team is going to come away with points tonight all of those three need to be heavily involved in the team's build-up and attack.
DT: In our last question exchange I asked about the defense and how Sam Cronin and Marc Burch could help shore things up for MNUFC. Of course, Marc Burch is injured for this fixture, but what has been the biggest hole that’s lead to the leakiest defense in MLS?
EPL: Minnesota United rank last in the league in terms of goals allowed mostly due to their first four games in the league, when they conceded 18 goals against the likes of Atlanta, Portland, and New England. Since then they've only allowed more than two goals three times, which all came against high-caliber attacking sides such as Toronto, NYCFC, and Sporting Kansas City. Since they've solidified their preferred back four, the team has been much better defensively but given the fact that Brent Kallman is questionable and Francisco Calvo is away on International Duty, the team really has its work cut out for them tonight. The only man standing from the team's preferred back line is Jerome Thiesson. With that being said, the team has really struggled with conceding penalties and marking on set pieces and dead ball situations. Their marking, in general, has been less-than-stellar recently which is disappointing because they've shown the ability to frustrate teams at times by trapping players and cutting passing lanes.
DT: Despite being in last place in the Western Conference, the Loons only sit 6 points back from a playoff position. Apart from identifying the problem on defense from the question above, what will they need to do to move up the table? Tactical changes? Add personnel through the transfer window?
EPL: They've already tried to address some of their weaknesses in the transfer window, bringing in winger Sam Nicholson, right back Michael Boxall, and forward Brandon Allen. None of those players really move the needle and the team realistically is a few pieces away from contending for a playoff spot. The pieces that they've acquired now are solid depth signings but they could still use a starting winger or an attacking midfielder. Their attacking play has been inconsistent despite having some talented players, and if they want to contend for a playoff spot the attacking corps needs to find a way to consistently impact matches. Players like Kevin Molino and Christian Ramirez need to be making a positive impact every time they take the field and that hasn't been the case.
Projected Lineup: I think the team will likely come out in a 5-3-2 formation like this: Shuttleworth - Ibarra, Davis, Greenspan, Thiesson, Kevin Venegas - Cronin, Molino, Ibson - Allen, Ramirez
Predicted Outcome: I think that Houston ends up winning this game. I just can't see Minnesota United getting a positive result with such a short-handed squad. I'll go with a 2-0 win for the visitors tonight.
For my answers to Alex’s excellent questions check them out at E Pluribus Loonum!