6,000 fans, 100% chance of rain, 3 goals, and 3 points for the Houston Dynamo. There are various numbers that fans can look at after a game: possession stats, shots on target, passes into the penalty area, to name a few. Some of the stats are predictive of future results, some are descriptive of a team’s playstyle and some are just for kicks. In this article I go through all the stats and summarize the metrics that I think are the most note-worthy.
36%: The Dynamo applied pressure to San Jose ball carriers 167 times on Saturday. 36% of those pressures were in the attacking 3rd of the pitch, the highest proportion of pressures by the Dynamo since Tab has been manager. This offseason Tab talked constantly about wanting his team to apply pressure higher up the field and this was evident in the stats. Tab’s offseason objective seemed to be to find players who would run really hard and pressure the opponents’ back line. The starting front three of Urruti, Picault and Pasher were all acquired this offseason to execute this tactic. Urruti led the team with 31 pressures and Picault was 3rd with 18 pressures.
One negative of a high press is that it leaves open space between your front lines and your defense, which tends to lead to high quality shots for your opponent. The Dynamo held San Jose to only 8 shots, but the average xG on those shots was .2, the highest in the league. While leading by one goal, the Dynamo were caught in transition when Shea Salinas ran in behind the defense and created a wide open shot, .8 xg, for Chris Wondowloski who fortunately pushed the shot wide. The Dynamo struggled defending the fast break during the whole 2020 season and that didn’t change during the first game of 2021.
7: Memo Rodriguez was the clear star of the night. He scored the first goal of the MLS season and was named to the MLS team of the week. The goal was impressive, but I think his 7 shot-creating actions was the most positive outcome of the game. Shot-creating actions (SCA) is defined as the offensive actions directly leading to a shot, such as passes, dribbles and drawing fouls. Without Darwin Quintero in the lineup, (Darwin led the MLS in 2020 with 118 SCAs) there is a lack of creative playmakers to create shots. Memo filled this hole against San Jose, but during the 2020 season Memo averaged 3.44 SCAs per game. If the Dynamo are going to make the playoffs this year, they will need Memo to greatly increase his shot-creating numbers from the 2020 season like he did during the first game of the year. Memo also took 7 shots against San Jose which is tied for the most in the league.
9.9: The main tactic against San Jose was to press high to force turnovers then move the ball upfield quickly. The Dynamo passed the ball 9.9 yards up the field on average per completed pass. This was second in the league behind DC United. Tab seems to want the Dynamo to play as a more modern team with a high press defense and a direct attack. Last year the Dynamo averaged 6.3 vertical yards per completed pass. This may have been a tactic to get around San Jose’s man-oriented marking, but we will see if the Dynamo continue to play this directly. The most direct Dynamo player was Tim Parker with 16.73 vertical yards per completed pass. Parker is used to playing frequent progressive passes after playing in the Red Bull system for 3 years.
This was only one game so take all these stats and trends with a grain of salt. Portland tend to play in a low block and counter quickly which is a vastly different style compared to San Jose. It will be interesting to see if the Dynamo change up their tactics based on their opponents or stick to their new aggressive press.