The Houston Dynamo are in a bit of a slump. Since beginning the year blazing hot with a 4-0 win over Atlanta United FC, the club has drawn twice on the road and lost two matches at home. The Dynamo have had a number of issues including injuries in key positions along the back line, a suspension that further complicated roster concerns for a match, and most importantly our forwards have been missing shots that normally they make.
A major problem for the Dynamo defense has been injuries which has led to some less formidable lineups. Center back Philippe Senderos has been out for an extended amount of time, but the lack of viable options at the full back spots have been particularly troublesome. With mainstay A. J. DeLaGarza out until later this year with an ACL injury, Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera has experimented with Kevin Garcia and center back Adolfo Machado at the spot. While Garcia performed well against Atlanta, his next two starts represented a step backwards. This has pushed Machado over to right back allowing newcomer Alejandro Fuenmayor who needs more time to become acclimated to MLS.
These lineup inconsistencies along the back have made it difficult for our players to develop chemistry. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be a big step backwards for a team that made it to the Western Conference Finals last season, but Cabrera’s system puts a lot of pressure on the defense to make big plays. If they make a mistake and let a goal in, it’s up to the offense to make up the difference, and to me, the offense has not been as hot as they should be - especially at home. Scoring just one goal in the last two home games, the Dynamo will need to find ways to get the ball in the back of the net. They’re getting chances, but struggling to beat the keeper which they’ll need to do to support the defense.
Moving on to Toronto FC this year, the reigning MLS Cup champs have not looked quite the team that they were, but for good reason. They’ve won just once in four games and sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference table. Toronto FC have gone deep in CONCACAF Champions League and this past Tuesday lost in leg 1 of the Finals 1-2 to Chivas Guadalajara with the next leg coming next Wednesday.
Head Coach Greg Vanney has prioritized his lineups for CCL with stars such as Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore not even appearing in the 18 man lineup in TFC’s last league game against the Colorado Rapids. Toronto is trying to be the first MLS team to win a CCL title which has meant less emphasis on league games. Is that a bad thing? I don’t think so, and Toronto FC certainly has the personnel to make a comeback in this league so they likely aren’t too worried about their spot on the table just yet. This leads to some important questions about how this could impact Houston and it’s hard to say, but it could be an opportunity for Houston to get their first win at home since March 3rd.
Toronto has typically been a possession oriented team which plays well to Houston’s style. When teams, like New England for instance, force the Dynamo to possess they become exposed too easily on the counter attack because we commit several numbers higher up. Toronto is a team that has looked very vulnerable on the counter which Houston will need to capitalize on.
Houston knows who they are when they’re at their best and that’s a team that presses the back four (or three depending on the direction Vanney goes with, but I’d guess four) and we pounce on chances off the counter attack. We should be in a strong position for three points if the stars of TFC are rested. That being said, they’re still a well coached team and have players that will try and make decisions difficult for Vanney once CCL has wrapped up.
The Dynamo will need to set the tone early with their aggressiveness and the defense – whatever lineup that we see, will need to be dialed in to minimize mistakes. The Dynamo currently have lost their last two games at home. The last time that happened was in 2016 when they lost their last three home games.
Kickoff will be Saturday April 21st at 2:00 PM CT in Houston, TX at BBVA Compass Stadium