The Houston Dynamo are back in action following a brief international break and are up against the number 5 team in the Western Conference, the Portland Timbers. At this point in the season the Dynamo are playing for the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup which takes place on September 26th. While technically not eliminated from the playoffs, the Dynamo sit 13 points behind the Seattle Sounders who occupy the final playoff position in the West. The Dynamo this season have had many ups, but far more downs coming just a year after a terrific Western Conference Finals run. The current 10 game winless streak that the team is on ties a club record that goes back to the 2010 season which was the first year the team missed out on the postseason.
For Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera, the remaining regular season games should be about developing younger talent and building chemistry with the starters. Instead of trying to predict who Cabrera will select for his starting XI, we should be asking ourselves who should be getting the starting call because development and chemistry are far more important than points. Perhaps trying something different will yield better results in the process.
Of the three forward positions Ronaldo Peña should absolutely occupy one of those slots. He brings pace and pressure which fit well within Cabrera’s system – the one that works, not our current variation. The Dynamo Theory community has talked often about the possibility of Alberth Elis making a move to Europe, but I think Romell Quioto isn’t happy and he has expressed a desire to play overseas. So for that reason I’d place Peña in Quioto’s left wing role with Mauro Manotas as the center forward and Alberth Elis in his usual right winger position.
Like the rest of the lineup, the midfield should be about developing players alongside starters who have a future with the Dynamo and plugging in remaining holes. There is plenty of debate to whether or not Tomás Martínez is a true 10 – I tend to believe he is, but that’s another discussion. There aren’t any other options in the center attacking midfield role and Martínez does have a future with the club so I think that’s where he should start for now. The one midfield player that needs time to develop is Eric Bird so he should be getting increased minutes. He’s more of a natural central defensive player, at least that’s how he’s been used in the past, but he can easily become overwhelmed. I think putting him between the CAM and CDM will allow him to grow his ability moving up the pitch while letting him slowly increase his defensive skills without him being relied upon too much. The central defensive midfield position is such an important role for the Dynamo which is why Juan David Cabezas missing essentially the entire season has hit the club so hard. The position requires a lot of discipline with positioning, passing, and defending. We’ve learned there really isn’t a good substitute for Cabezas, but I would argue Darwin Cerén is the closest option.
The backline has a lot of veterans, some of whom have value to the club, and some we may want to walk away from at the end of the year. Adam Lundqvist is a newcomer and heir apparent to DaMarcus Beasley at left back and Lundqvist should get the start. In central defense Alejandro Fuenmayor should continue to get starts to continue to grow familiar with the league and to learn to improve his decision making. The big question is who starts next to him? I think Philippe Senderos has helped Fuenmayor’s development most and should start for that reason. The other options of Leonardo, Jared Watts, or Adolfo Machado don’t support Fuenmayor as much as Senderos does. At right back we’ve seen A. J. DeLaGarza get minutes with the Rio Grande Valley FC Toros and I think we should get him some minutes from time to time. However, he does still appear on the injury report and I’m fine with Andrew Wenger getting time at right back.
The Dynamo have options in goal, but I think the winner should be clear. Of Joe Willis, Chris Seitz, Michael Nelson, and Tyler Deric, Big Joe Willis should continue to get starts. Nelson can continue to grow with RGVFC, Seitz can get a game or two – same with Deric, but Willis has really earned the spot with some very big saves and quality goalkeeping this year. That hasn’t been easy, especially during the current winless stretch where the team has defended deep and put a lot of pressure on Willis, but he’s done about as well as anyone in that situation.
OUT: D - A.J. DeLaGarza (torn left ACL)
OUT: M - Juan David Cabezas (left quad injury)
OUT: D - Dylan Remick (concussion)*
OUT: F – Mac Steeves (left hip injury)
*Remick does not appear on the Injury Report, but is out for the season.
My Projected Starting Lineup
There are a ton of options, not to mention formations to play with so let us know who you think should be in the starting lineup against the Portland Timbers.