The Houston Dynamo featured in a midweek 4-2 US Open Cup win over Sporting Kansas City and now face the top team in the Western Conference, rivals FC Dallas. In the win against SKC, the Dynamo deployed a team of regular starters so it will be interesting to see how the short turnaround might affect lineup decisions or fatigue.
In our preview of the match we discussed the previous fixtures for each side as well as some history about the Texas Derby, but we wanted to hear from our rivals themselves so we spoke with Drew Epperley at Big D Soccer to discuss the upcoming match and the battle for El Capitán.
Dynamo Theory: FC Dallas just missed out on the playoffs last season, something most people didn’t see coming, and currently sit atop the Western Conference. What do you see helped them turn things around?
Big D Soccer: The mentality of this roster and the coaching staff has really helped get this group back into the form that we saw in 2015 and 2016. They take one game at a time and work hard not to get ahead of themselves too much. Last year, they would have looked ahead to a game like this against Houston too early and it would have cost them against a b-side team that Chicago put out last week. Instead, they came in and took complete advantage of the Fire and dominated them from start to finish.
Outside of that, the roster depth is actually quite strong and from that, you get a lot of roster battles that are keeping players motivated. The center midfield group is a perfect example of that, as Kellyn Acosta and Carlos Gruezo should be full-time starters every week when healthy but we’ve seen the likes of Jacori Hayes and Victor Ulloa push them for a lot of minutes this season.
DT: With just 22 goals allowed, FCD have one of the best defenses in the league. What will they need to do to stop a potent offense like Houston’s at home?
BDS: A lot will come down to how the back four communicated with one another. The few times they’ve gotten tripped up this season on the road have been against teams that press high and are good on the counter. Along with that, Reto Ziegler and Matt Hedges will need to be on their top form to make sure the center of the park doesn’t get overrun with guys like Elis, Manotas, and Quiotio.
DT: What does this rivalry mean to Dallas fans and do you have a favorite memory from this rivalry?
BDS: Dallas fans really don’t like Houston fans and their teams. These are games we circle on our calendars and go all out for in hyping up. I know in the early years of this rivalry when Houston was good and Dallas wasn’t a true contender in the league, that a series win over them meant a lot more. These days, with both teams battling for contention it only improves the meaning of this rivalry.
I would say my favorite memory of this rivalry has to be Kenny Cooper’s game-winner on St. Patrick’s Day in 2013. I know it was a questionable goal at the time but the moment and the excitement in the stands is easily one of my favorite Toyota Stadium memories to date.
Projected Lineup: Jesse Gonzalez, Reggie Cannon, Matt Hedges, Reto Ziegler, Ryan Hollingshead, Victor Ulloa, Carlos Gruezo, Michael Barrios, Santiago Mosquera, Roland Lamah, Maxi Urruti
Predicted Outcome: Thanks to this heat, I’m sticking with a 1-1 draw.
For my responses to Drew’s excellent questions including a question about where the rivalry stands please check it out at Big D Soccer!