The Houston Dynamo picked up their first road win of the season on Saturday against D.C. United. Without five possible starters and three of their best attackers, they scored three times in the first 17 minutes to put away the struggling DCU early and secure the three points.
For the second straight game, Memo Rodriguez, Mauro Manotas, and Andrew Wenger started up top in a 4-3-3. Rodriguez, in his second career MLS start, scored the Dynamo’s third on a glancing header and continued to play well from the wing.
One of the biggest stories from this game was Alex’s dominant performance in what could be his last game playing as a No. 10. The Brazilian picked up three assists, tying him at the top of the league leaderboard, and was good all night distributing higher up the field. It was a very good performance.
The incoming arrival of Argentine playmaker Tomas Martinez changes his role, though. Martinez, likely, will enter as a No. 10 this week, pushing Alex back to what is probably his best role, as a box-to-box midfielder. This is a positive change, and if Martinez is able to adjust quickly to the league and proves to be a quality acquisition, the Dynamo could end up challenging for a top-two spot in the Western Conference.
Alex seemed to have something to say about someone taking his spot, though. He had arguably his best game of the season at the position, taking advantage of D.C.’s lack of a solid defensive midfielder and consistently finding himself open in the half-spaces. With Rodriguez and Manotas running the outside channels, he had opportunities to play balls through to them or take space offered to him in the middle.
Instances like these were common:
Alex, in his last chance as a 10 before the arrival of Martinez, was really good last night. Was able to get into central half-spaces: pic.twitter.com/b0ZSGg1MX7— Harrison Hamm (@harrisonhamm21) July 23, 2017
Houston are, as you’ve probably figured out, are best on the counter and running in space. We saw that again at RFK, but this time it was based around Alex running through midfield (like above) and Manotas hitting the A and B gaps.
It was effective in creating opportunities, but probably should have been more effective in creating goals. They were unable to add to their lead despite a myriad of chances, which should be something they will improve on once Martinez arrives and the crew of Gold Cup competitors returns.
Alex’s role should shift to a No. 8 when Martinez arrives, and that is his best spot. He is, at his core, a ball-winning midfield workhorse. Even though he’s been told to stay forward and act as a second striker in the Dynamo’s defensive shape, he’s still covered a ton of ground, as shown by his active actions map:
Those yellow triangles are defensive recoveries, and every shape that isn’t a circle or square is some sort of defensive action or foul. Keep in mind that he did this while playing a role that necessitated him staying higher.
His distribution and passing skills have been very much improved this season, but the above is what he is best at. Add in his final third combination abilities and well-placed long-balls and he’ll make a good midfield partner for Martinez.