The Houston Dynamo make their way back home after a 0-0 draw last week to Real Salt Lake. The game featured a staggering number of shots by both teams combined, but only one was on target. The Dynamo were able to take the road point, their fifth in three games away, although they were a tad lucky to get the point. Following Alex Lima’s second yellow card, RSL began attacking relentlessly, but the Dynamo defense was largely up to the task coupled with poor shooting by the RSL offense. This week they’re back at BBVA Compass Stadium to take on the San Jose Earthquakes who are on a two game winning streak.
In our preview of the match we discussed the importance of this game for the Dynamo and what it means for the standings, but we wanted to know about our opponents so we spoke with Nerdy Gales at Center Line Soccer to discuss the San Jose Earthquakes.
Dynamo Theory: While the San Jose Earthquakes have been wonderful at home losing just once in twelve outings, they have been less than stellar on the road with only two wins and one draw in eleven games. What has been a leading factor in the disparity in home form vs. away form (something Dynamo fans are familiar with)?
Center Line Soccer: The away form is infuriating for Earthquakes fans, and the topic of watch parties all over the Bay Area. Obviously, the team hasn’t figured this out either. This Saturday’s game in sweltering Houston is just three days after an extended US Open Cup semi-final, which they lost on penalties to Sporting KC. It will be a difficult (if not insurmountable) challenge to rise to the occasion and correct their poor road form at the end of such a difficult road trip.
DT: After an exhausting US Open Cup match with Sporting Kansas City, Chris Leitch may have some tough decisions regarding personnel ahead of the Dynamo v. SJ clash this Saturday. What kind of changes could we see coming into this game following the Open Cup match that went through extra time and penalties?
Center Line Soccer: There were a couple of Open Cup selections in Wednesday’s semi-final: Andrew “More” Tarbell has been the goalie of choice during the USOC run – he performed very well and kept the Quakes in the game. Wondolowski and Bernardez started that game on the bench with Yueill and new arrival Francois Affolter (Defender) in the lineup. Curiously (for many; he was playing well) Thompson was subbed off after 70 minutes, so that saved some mileage on their legs. I would expect Wondo, Bernardez, and Thompson to be in the starting lineup against Houston. Godoy is out and Hyka is carrying a hamstring injury – if he’s mended in time, I’d looking forward to seeing him and Vako on the field together.
DT: Dominic Kinnear is still a beloved figure among Dynamo fans, even if we’ve moved on from him. Since Kinnear was let go what were the reactions like among ‘Quakes fans and how has Leitch stepped into the coaching role as Kinnear’s replacement?
Center Line Soccer: The decision was a huge surprise when it came down – to players and fans alike. Most lines of thinking were that Kinnear would be let go at the end of the season, if they did not make the post-season. The new GM, Jesse Fioranelli took full responsibility for the decision, and explained that it would not be fair on Kinnear if they strung him along until the end of the season. From that I infer that Kinnear was on his way out whatever happened.
The appointment of Chris Leitch was also a great surprise, given his lack of MLS coaching experience. He is very popular around the club, and has worked his way up from player, through the academy, to the club’s technical director.
At the beginning of the season, Kinnear had implemented more control of the game through side and backwards passes in midfield and defense when they have possession – this more patient approach has continued under Leitch. The bigger difference is that with three at the back (from Kinnear’s four) their play looks more positive, with increased opportunity for wingbacks to pile forward and overload opponent’s defense. On the flip side, poor defensive marking is punished – the new three-man defense is often dropping to the goal line rather than breaking up plays in the penalty box. Let’s see if higher scoring games lead to more victories – especially on the road.
Projected Lineup: David Bingham, Florian Jungwirth, Andres Imperiale, Victor Bernardez, Shea Salinas, Tommy Thompson, Darwin Cerén, Nick Lima, Vako, Danny Hoesen; Chris Wondolowski.
Predicted Outcome: Houston Dynamo 3-2 San Jose Earthquakes
For my answers to Nerdy’s excellent questions check them out at Center Line Soccer!