Just below the playoff line, the Houston Dynamo are in a four game winless slump and are hoping to find their form against Eastern Conference giants New York City FC. Last week’s 0-1 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes saw the Dynamo finding chances, but forwards were unable to connect with each other or their own efforts. The Dynamo will have Alex Lima back from suspension against NYCFC as they look to get just their second road win of the year.
In our preview of the match we discussed the Dynamo slump and NYCFC’s previous outing, but we wanted to know about the club from those that follow it so we spoke with Jake Gofman at Hudson River Blue to get an inside perspective on his club.
Dynamo Theory: New York City FC have had an impressive year following up a pretty successful 2016 campaign towards the MLS Cup. What has NYCFC improved on this year from last and what do they still need to do to ensure a MLS Cup appearance?
Hudson River Blue: Depth and depth. New York had come this far because Patrick Vieira and NYC management has invested in the team and NYC FC finally has a complete squad. Compare this team with past iterations and it's easy to see that, while the team attracted and invested in upper eschalon talent, the back end of the team was a mix of MLS cast offs and unfit players. The depth of this team, which includes important players like Ben Sweat, Fredric Brillant, Jonathan Lewis and Tommy McNamara, has allowed New York to still get results despite not being on their A game.
Coincidentally, it will also be depth that enables New York to make a deep run in the postseason. Despite all the team did in the off-season to strengthen itself, NYC FC has caught the injury bug, and the lack of quality in the team is showing.
David Villa has to come back if we're to make a run at the MLS Cup. Full stop. To actually have a shot at winning it, injured players like Maxine Chanot, Ronald Matarrita and Yangel Herrera have to make it back into the team and contribute.
NYC FC is here because of the depth in its team, but the only way the team makes a run is if it regains that depth and effectively reintegrates players back into the team.
DT: NYCFC have been among the most dominant clubs at home this season. What’s helped them succeed so well there and how can the Dynamo come in and hope to get a favorable result?
HRB: It's not secret at this point that NYC FC play in something that mostly resembles a soccer stadium. While the team was unable to exploit this in is first year, it has fully grasped the hilarious confines of Yankee Stadium and has used the strange dimensions to its advantage.
That said, Dynamo gets a freebie because both New York and Houston will be in a new stadium Saturday. As a result of a scheduling conflict, NYC FC's home game will be in Hartford, where the team has never played. How either team will exploit this is unknown, so your guess is as good as mine.
DT: Who are some lesser known players for Dynamo fans to keep an eye on?
HRB: I'll start with Alexander Callens, who doesn't get enough respect in MLS, yet. Callens has been an anchor in our defense all season - an impressive blend of size and speed that can competently defend aerially while tracking down speedy forwards.
Another player to watch is Jonathan Lewis, who will undoubtedly become a household name soon as an electric winger. Lewis is only a rookie, but he wouldn't have been involved in the first team had it not been for a bevy of injuries. However, in his time on the pitch, Lewis has demonstrated that he can be a threat out wide, both delivering and scoring goals. If New York find itself in need of a goal, I expect Lewis to come into the game and instantly provide a spark.
Projected Outcome: New York is working important players into the team, so I'm not sure what to expect. I predicted 1-0 to New York in our article this week so I'm going to stick to that.
For my answers to Jake’s excellent questions check them out at Hudson River Blue!