The Houston Dynamo opened up the 2018 season with a 4-0 win over Atlanta United FC and people have begun to take notice. The Dynamo will hope to prove that the game was not a fluke as they continue their strong home form against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
In our preview of the match we discussed Houston’s strength at home over Vancouver, but we wanted to know about our opponents from their perspective so we spoke with Andrew Bahl at Eighty Six Forever to gain some insight coming into the second game of the season.
Dynamo Theory: The Vancouver Whitecaps had an impressive season in 2017 finishing 3rd overall before falling out in the MLS Cup playoffs to the Seattle Sounders in the Conference Semifinals. What offseason moves did Vancouver make to help push them to the next level?
Eighty Six Forever: The Whitecaps experienced a lot of turnover this offseason, meaning the side that takes the field on Saturday will be very different than last year’s. Gone are leading goal scorer Fredy Montero, midfielder Christian Bolanos, both starting center midfielders Tony Tchani and Andrew Jacobson and starting center back Tim Parker.
The Caps have always had woes at striker but they are looking to MLS veteran Kei Kamara and Anthony Blondell, who claimed the golden boot in Venezuela last season, to fill the gap left by Montero. Vancouver’s anemic offensive performance sunk them in the playoffs last season and if they’re going to move further this season, more consistent goal scoring is a prerequisite. Kamara looked good last week, nabbing a goal against Montreal, and he needs to continue to flash his physical frame going forward if Vancouver is to succeed.
DT: Vancouver does not typically travel well in Houston as they’ve amassed a record of 0-4-1 at BBVA Compass Stadium. What will Carl Robinson’s men need to do to get a positive result?
ESF: The Caps often relied on a smash-and-grab strategy last year, nabbing a goal and then bunkering in an effort to grab three points. The Caps appeared to get away from that on Sunday against Montreal and it paid off in spades. But doing this leaves this exposed to the counter-attack, something which Houston exploited last season against Vancouver and which could very well happen again. Fullbacks Marcel de Jong and Jake Nerwinski will have to be careful not to get caught off guard, as both elected to push forward a lot against the Impact. Shutting down the pacey, dynamic Houston attack and slowing down the pace of play will be important in getting a result.
DT: For Houston fans that don’t watch a lot of Whitecaps games, who are some players to keep an eye on?
ESF: It seems that most of the league has caught onto Vancouver’s 17-year-old phenom Alphonso Davies but for Houston fans that don’t get the chance to watch him much, Fonzie Bear is a real treat. After scoring a couple spectacular goals in preseason, Davies earned a start last week and nabbed an assist and his first ever MLS goal. The pacey teenager breezes by defenders and is a threat whenever he touches the ball. Also worth watching is a new acquisition for the Caps, Efrain Juarez, who looked good in the holding midfielder role last week. Juarez boasts a wealth of experience from both Liga MX and El Tri, which will be invaluable in the center of the park this season.
Projected Lineup: 4-2-3-1
Stefan Marinovic, Marcel De Jong, Jose Aja, Kendall Waston, Jake Nerwinski, Russell Teibert, Efrain Juarez, Cristian Techera, Yordy Reyna, Alphonso Davies, Kei Kamara
For my answers to Andrew’s excellent questions, please check them out at Eighty Six Forever!