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Dynamo Face First MLS Test: 3 Things to Watch

The Dynamo take on MLS opposition for the first time in 2020, taking on the New York Red Bulls Saturday night in the Visit Tucson Sun Cup.

MLS: LA Galaxy at Houston Dynamo Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The Dynamo open the MLS portion of their preseason schedule Saturday night as they travel to Tucson, Arizona to participate in the 2020 Visit Tucson Sun Cup. Houston will face the New York Red Bulls tomorrow (Saturday) night, at 7:30 PM central time. The Dynamo will also take on Real Salt Lake on Wednesday, February 19 at 5:00 PM central time and Columbus Crew SC on Saturday, February 22 at 6:00 PM central time. All the matches in Tucson will be streamed live on HoustonDynamo.com/Live.

The game against the Red Bulls will be the first true test for Tab Ramos’ team as they take on MLS opposition for the first time. There are so many questions as the Dynamo enter a new era. So, it’s time to see how the squad looks just two weeks from opening day. Here are three things to watch for as you cozy up to your favorite streaming device and prepare yourself for Houston Dynamo games in your life once again.

What is the formation going to look like?

We’ve all taken a stab at formations on social media, channeling our inner Tab to build how we think the Dynamo will line up. Now, we actually get to see how right (or wrong) we’ve been. Ramos mentioned a 4-3-3 in his introductory press conference but even that formation leaves a lot of wiggle room. Will the midfield consist of 2 holding midfielders? Will the three up front be two out and out strikers with someone else playing in the hole behind them? Where does Darwin Quintero fit in? We should begin to get some answers on Saturday night.

What is the starting back line going to be?

For the first time in what seems like ages, the Dynamo have solid depth in defense and will start the season with several options for who will start. Not only is their depth, but the defense looks to be the best it has been in some time. At center back Ramos could choose between any combination of Maynor Figueroa, Kiki Struna, Alejandro Fuenmayor, Victor Cabrera, Kyle Adams, and Erik McCue. Figueroa and Struna seem to be the likely starters heading into the season, but Cabrera brings MLS experience and could challenge for the starting pair. It may not look like it, but Figueroa isn’t getting any younger. Cabrera will likely still see a lot of minutes this season, even if he isn’t a first choice CB. There’s depth at outside back as well, with Adam Lundkvist penciled in at left back and Jose Bizama and Zarek Valentin battling for the right back job. Valentin can play on both sides, meaning he could be a valuable piece off the bench and to spell the starters when needed. Sam Junqua could also get minutes this season. The defensive starters against the Red Bulls could be a sign of what’s to come in two weeks against the Galaxy.

Can Matias Vera “take the leap”?

As much as Dynamo fans would love to see it, the front office has shown no sign of going out and making a big splash signing in the midfield. That means it is going to be up to the guys on the current roster to play big parts, and no part may be bigger than in the middle of the field, in front of the defense. This is where Matias Vera roams, and after a solid debut season in MLS in 2019, Vera is going to need to make strides in his sophomore season to get the Dynamo to new heights. Vera averaged 3.4 tackles and 1.1 interceptions per game last year, solid numbers. He’s a bit foul prone, so he will need to improve on that, to prevent giving away set pieces to the opposition. Vera is also a strong passer, finishing 2019 with a 91.2% pass success percentage, and his link up play between the defense and the attack will be huge in Ramos’ likely counter-attacking scheme.

What are you most looking forward to seeing as the Dynamo get back on the field against an MLS opponent? Let us know in the comments.