The Houston Dynamo have been up in down three games in and are looking to get back on track with another team that’s had similar issues. Both the Houston Dynamo and the New England Revolution have been 1-1-1 in 2018 and are looking for more points to stay competitive in their respective conferences.
In our preview of the match we discussed how the Dynamo will need to adjust their game to the Revolution’s style of play, but we wanted to know more about our opponents from their perspective so we spoke with Jake Catanese at the Bent Musket to gain insight about their club coming into this game.
Dynamo Theory: It’s been two seasons since the Revolution have been in the playoffs. What have the Revs done in the offseason to turn things around this season to maybe see them in the playoff picture?
The Bent Musket: The biggest offseason move was clearly the decision to replace Jay Heaps with Brad Friedel and the response from the locker room early on seems very positive. Friedel is using two a day training sessions to get his players up to speed on the high press system he wants to use and the players have been general positive to the more professional atmosphere in the locker room and training.
As far as offseason player acquisitions, it’s still up in the air on how much the Revs have improved on the field. The Revs were incredibly active on the international market (by their standards, adding two holding mid types in Wilfried Zahibo and Luis Caicedo, left back Gabriel Somi and winger Cristian Penilla. Caicedo has yet to make his debut with his paperwork just clearing recently, but Zahibo and Penilla have been regulars in the starting lineup with Somi platooning at left back with Chris Tierney thanks to an early concussion that he’s recovered from.
It’s been mixed results from the Revs on both ends of the field with Friedel’s new press system, which is par for the course in New England. The Revs have four points from three games which sounds fine until we forget they needed a last gasp free kick to beat the Rapids at home and honestly could’ve scored more and allowed more against NYCFC. I have been saying for a while now that I don’t think the Revs are bad at soccer...but they’re not at the level of Atlanta or Toronto either.
DT: It’s only been three games in, but how would you describe the performance from the Revolution early on?
TBM: Underwhelming? Mediocre? More of the same? It’s hard to pin an exact phrase to describe the Revs after just one month. An early red card doomed them in Philly but they came back to Foxboro and got four points from two games. I’m not sold on Diego Fagundez as a playmaker in the middle. I know he’s got two goals already this year and he and Penilla work really well together on the field, but as far as I’m concerned, if Lee Nguyen isn’t starting at CAM then it should be Kelyn Rowe. In the same mold, Wilfried Zahibo is fine at CDM but the Revs are still looking for a impact player at that spot like Jermaine Jones was in 2014.
There have been good and bad moments for the high press, with the good being the first half against NYCFC and the bad being maybe that second half against NYC and definitely in Philly.
Like a full court press in basketball, if the other team breaks out, you’re going to give up a layip on the other end and that’s what happened on the second NYC equalizer.
I expect a learning curve as far as the tactics go, but in particular the road red cards were something I was hoping Friedel would be able to eliminate from the Revs playbook so here’s to hoping the Revs finish with eleven players in Houston.
DT: For Dynamo fans that don’t see a lot of Revolution games, who are some players they should keep an eye on in this one?
TBM: Cristian Penilla, hands down. Of all the new Revs additions, Penilla is arguably the Revs’ MVP so far and he hasn’t even found the back of the net yet because, like most Revs players, he offended the woodwork in a past life or something. But while the Revs weren’t exactly looking for another striker/winger type in the offseason, Penilla has hit it off with Deigo Fagundez who is now in the middle of the field for the Revs and if you need proof of this then just look at the Revs opening goal against the Rapids. It’s a classic counter attack, which the Revs should do more of, where Penilla drives down the left flank, cuts in and centers it for Diego to slot home through traffic.
If Penilla is causing problems for the Dynamo backline early, that’s a good thing for the Revs. Also Matt Turner, last year’s third-stringer who spent most of his time in the USL with the Richmond Kickers, is a pretty good keeper and is phenomenal in distribution
Projected Lineup: Turner; Somi, Dielna, Anibaba, Farrell; Zahibo, Caldwell; Penilla, Fagundez, Rowe; Agudelo
Backline pretty much stays the same so I can have a homecoming start for Jalil Anibaba though I expect Antonio Delamea to reclaim that starting spot fairly soon. Teal Bunbury goes to the bench after starting at striker last week but it wouldn’t shock me to see him start on the right wing either.
I think there will be some offense in this one, let’s go 2-2 for a road point
For my answers to Jake’s excellent questions, please check them out at the Bent Musket!