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Previewing Houston Dynamo vs. the San Jose Earthquakes with Center Line Soccer

We spoke with Nerdy Gales at Center Line Soccer to discuss the final meeting between the Dynamo and the San Jose Earthquakes

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Houston Dynamo Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Dynamo are hoping to bounce back after they were defeated 0-1 at home last week to the visiting Colorado Rapids. They’ll have to make up for last week’s loss on the road as they travel to Avaya Stadium to face the San Jose Earthquakes. The Dynamo have not been stellar on the road this year, quite the opposite really, but they’ve been generally better the last few away games with a few exemptions. This time though, they’ll be without Alex Lima who was suspended for yellow card accumulation which will make their trip to California even more of an uphill battle.

In our preview of the match we discussed the previous meetings between the two sides, but we wanted to get the perspective of a Earthquakes supporter so we spoke with Nerdy Gales at Center Line Soccer to get the scoop on the ‘Quakes.

Dynamo Theory: The Earthquakes have struggled against the Dynamo this year as the ‘Quakes have been shutout 5-0. Both of those games were in Houston though and, like many MLS teams, San Jose has been far from perfect on the road. How will they adjust at home where they’ve been so good to the traveling Dynamo in the third matchup between these sides?

CLS: Indeed! The Earthquakes will be looking to redress that balance in Saturday’s match up. The Quakes won’t need to adjust their home form, and will hopefully have left those road trip gremlins behind in Toronto. With a few injuries and absences to deal with, the squad will lineup with the three man back line (inconsistent) and the lone target forward up front – Ureña, with Wondolowski and Thompson right behind.

Hopefully the recent success Ureña had with Costa Rica (three goals in two games) will translate to Avaya Stadium. Many fans have been wondering why Wondolowski is not the lone target forward, but if the Dynamo defenders are focused on Ureña, maybe that frees up Wondo to do what he does best – poaching. Wondo’s still the Quakes leading scorer with eleven goals so far this season. On Saturday, the Quakes stalwart will surpass Ramiro Corrales when he starts his 251st game for San José.

In the meantime, Tarbell has been the recent starting goalie – David Bingham has been on the bench since August, and there’s uncertainty on any future for him in the last year of his contact. With Tarbell comes the inconsistency of a second year back up, but he has made some key saves (including a second goal of the week from the Toronto game) and his distribution is much better than that of Bingham. Tarbell is still a work in progress, evidence by key mistakes in the Toronto game, but with lots of potential. So yes, expect “More Tarbell!”

DT: With Anibal Godoy suspended due to yellow card accumulation, what kind of adjustments will we see from Chris Leitch?

CLS: It’s not a typical Quakes game unless Godoy gets a yellow – right? It’s probably the most frustrating aspects of his game and he still struggles with the oversensitive habits of MLS referees. Options in midfield include Cerén and Alashe, with Cerén appearing more regularly in defensive midfield this season.

Hopefully, with some tinkering Leitch can make room for Vako in the starting line up – and as the DP who’s been anointed as the player around which the future Earthquakes will be built, it’s surprising we haven’t seen more of him since he was signed in June. Fans are eagerly anticipating more playing time for Vako – from what little we’ve seen he’s fast, tenacious and with a great touch. Leitch appears to have been loath to start Vako (starting rookie Jackson Yueill instead), so it’s possible he’s not completely match fit, but watch this space.

In terms of strategy, I agree with Chris Dangerfield that the Quakes will need to score early, as Houston appears to struggle when scored on first. While that seems a bit obvious, the one positive trait that the Earthquakes still have is the ability to rescue a game with their Goonies Never Say Die attitude – hackneyed but true – and that’s been one of the brighter spots of this season.

DT: It’s been a bit start and stop for the Earthquakes with wins, losses, and draws happening for any given match. What does San Jose need to do to start getting consistent results to put them in a playoff position (a position they’re not too far away from either)?

CLS: *Scratches head* Play every game at home? Have Italian GM Jesse Fioranelli bring his Gaggia on road trips for pre-game espressos?

I really have no insightful answer for that problem – and the Earthquakes have still to solve it. The recent 3-0 road win over the Galaxy was not overly impressive – though Quakes fans all loved Wondo rattling the Riot Squad’s cage with his goal celebration. It appears to me that pass completion is not a forte of the Quakes this year, and their accuracy seems to be even worse on the road – though I have no stats to back up my gut feeling. And don’t get me started on dead ball situations – I think Wondo’s the only player that realizes you cannot be offside on a throw in.

Four of the remaining six Earthquakes games are at home, so that’s in the Earthquakes favor with such a tight race for the final spots in the Western Conference. A good run in what remains in the regular season is crucial to their playoff chances, and they cannot afford to drop points at home. Even with that -17 goal difference, don’t be too surprised to see them reach the MLS Cup playoffs, but they won’t go deep if they don’t improve their road form.

Given my observations above (re: Vako, Yueill and Tarbell) it may well be that Leitch and Fioranelli have already started implementing their plans for the 2018 season. Any success in 2017 will be a bonus.

Projected Lineup: Andrew Tarbell, Florian Jungwirth, Victor Bernardez, Andres Imperiale, Jahmir Hyka, Fatai Alashe, Jackson Yueill, Shea Salinas, Chris Wondolowski, Tommy Thompson, Marco Ureña

Projected Outcome: San Jose Earthquakes 2-0 Houston Dynamo

For my answers to Nerdy’s excellent questions check them out at Center Line Soccer!