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Pick the Houston Dynamo season opener lineup against Real Salt Lake

Who should start for Houston Dynamo FC against RSL in the season and home opener for the 2022 campaign?

MLS: Houston Dynamo at Real Salt Lake Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

New season, new Dynamo right? Well in many ways yes, and in others no. Houston Dynamo FC are largely the same team as the 2021 side that finished last in the Western Conference, but they have added some very important pieces from leadership positions down to the players and by all accounts Houston doesn’t appear done making moves. For a detailed look at some of those changes, come check out Dynamo Theory’s season preview here.

In Houston’s first challenge to the 2022 regular season is Real Salt Lake who will make the trek down to PNC Stadium. RSL finished last season just barely edging out the LA Galaxy for the 7th and final playoff spot due to goal differential. Despite the close call getting into the playoffs they had a very successful run first beating Seattle Sounders FC on penalties in the first round, then besting Sporting Kansas City, to eventually falling to the MLS Cup runners-up the Portland Timbers.

How new Head Coach Paulo Nagamura decides to take on this challenge greatly depends on the personnel available and how he decides to utilize tactics which begins with a formation and a starting XI.

Throughout the preseason Nagamura deployed what has now been a staple formation in the 4-3-3 which could be a little more attacking heavy or well balanced depending who he slots into the midfield. With the formation being out of the way, the most obvious choice for Nagamura is who starts in goal and it has to go to the veteran and Dynamo newcomer Steve Clark between the sticks. His experience, leadership, and skill will make him an immediate improvement over last year’s number 1 in goal Marko Marić.

The backline will be a work in progress for the new coach as he evaluates who the starters should be – especially in the fullback positions, but the central defense pairing of Tim Parker and Teenage Hadebe is expected to start. The pairing has high expectations as one of the most expensive center back pairings in the league. Should Hadebe not be ready following a turnaround with international duty, Daniel Steres will step up for the designated player.

At left back at the moment there’s a two way battle between Adam Lundkvist and Sam Junqua. Nagamura has tended to play Lundkvist more this preseason so he gets my nod to start on Sunday. At right back it’s also interesting with Griffin Dorsey and the veteran Zarek Valentin both up for the job, but again Dorsey has gotten the lion’s share of minutes in preseason so I have to go with him. It’s worth noting that the newcomer Zeca, who is currently working on his visa per Soccer Matters will not play against RSL. In the future he will challenge for both the left and right back positions which should provide healthy competition and tough choices for Nagamura to make.

There are two players I’m very confident that will start with Matías Vera being a lock to start at a defensive midfield position. I’ve been somewhat critical of Vera playing too deep at times and making poor fouls from behind, but his defensive quality provides the other attacking players a buffer to push higher up the field. The other player who should start is Adalberto Carrasquilla, nicknamed Coco. He’ll likely play as the number 10 attacking midfield role, or be paired in a more aggressive attacking minded midfield with someone. The other midfielder could be Memo Rodríguez, who could also play on the left wing up top, Darwin Cerén who would partner deeper next to Vera, Derrick Jones, but I think it will go to Darwin Quintero who has started a lot this preseason next to Coco.

With the forward positions, there’s one certainty and one almost certainty to start and then a few players competing for the last spot. Dynamo record signing Sebastián Ferreira will be start at center forward and it’s likely that Fafà Picault will start on the left wing or the right if Memo gets the nod. I think Picault will be on the left which leaves the right wing spot open for Tyler Pasher, Corey Baird, and potentially Dorsey if Valentin starts at LB. However, Nagamura seems to favor Baird in preseason and without much else to compare to make predictions with, Baird seems like the safe bet.

My Projected Starting XI

This is just the lineup that I think we’ll see based on what I’ve seen and who is available. But who do you think we’ll see or better yet what should the starting XI be in the home opener against Real Salt Lake? Vote below and feel free to share your selections in the comments section.