The Houston Dynamo are back at home and under new leadership as they welcome Sporting Kansas City to PNC Stadium tonight. Paulo Nagamura was relieved of his duties as head coach earlier this week and Dynamo 2 head coach Kenny Bundy will lead the first team on an interim basis for the remainder of the season The Dynamo are coming off a 2-1 loss in Seattle Sunday night. SKC drew 2-2 on the road against the LA Galaxy Sunday night after a penalty kick save in stoppage time. Sporting beat the Dynamo in the first meeting between the two clubs this season, 1-0 back in March, and also eliminated Houston from this year’s Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
Bundy takes over
With Paulo Nagamura out as head coach, Kenny Bundy will take over the Dynamo tonight for the first time. Bundy had a very succesful season with Dynamo 2 this year, leading the team to a playoff berth in MLS NEXT Pro. Bundy will look to become the first Dynamo interim head coach to win their first match in charge, both Wade Barrett and Davy Arnaud picked up draws in their debuts. “It’s really important for the players to understand that the expectations are for us to be competitive in these five games,” Bundy told the media this week. “There is going to be a structure and there is going to be an outline that will benefit the players to see some of these games out. To get the results that maybe we’ve dropped. One thing this team has done is they’ve competed. Have we dropped some results? Yes, but they’ve competed. That is a piece that is really hard to engrain into a team. My job is to build a structure and an outline – maybe tweak a couple things that I’ve seen to get them over that final hump to get them those three points to see out some of these tougher games.”
Shooters gotta shoot
Houston had just four shots in Sunday’s loss to Seattle. This was a season-low for the Dynamo and only the second time in the last five seasons that Houston failed to attempt five shots in a match. The previous time was three shots at LAFC in June 2021. Bundy will be tasked with finding a way to get the offense going. Sebas Ferreira can be lethal in front of goal but he needs the ball in dangerous situations. If Hector Herrera returns from injury he will help, and might we see Darwin Quintero return from whatever “punishment” he was given by Nagamura. Does Nelson Quinones get his first start? Or, does Bundy call on some of the offensive players he counted on with Dynamo 2 like Marcelo Palomino?
“Players earn opportunities to play,’ Bundy said earlier this week when asked about giving opportunities to younger players. “When I was with Dynamo 2, it’s not as easy as having one or two or 10 good games with Dynamo 2. There’s a lot that plays into it. There’s a lot that the club looks into that, looking at the roster, we’ll see who steps up and wants to compete. That’s the most important thing with five games left, the competition of this group needs to continue to be intense. I laid that out to the players today, the way I coach it’s about intensity and it’s about competing and really fighting to be on that field. The door is open. These guys have opportunities, them hearing that and feeling that, it’s exciting, but I also think that there are guys that are senior guys that also want that and see that and feel that. So, the tables open for these guys. Whoever is going to compete and give us the best chance on the weekend will play.”
It will be very interesting to see the lineup when it drops an hour before kick-off.
Up to the players
Whoever Bundy picks to start, the players have to step up and take responsibility for this season and the struggles as well. They need to come out tonight and bring the energy from the opening whistle. Winning the next five games seems highly unlikely but a lot of this guys are playing for jobs next season, whether in Houston or on other teams. Nagamura wasn’t the sole reason for the poor form this season and the team knows that. “Yeah, I mean, I would hope so,” defender Tim Parker said this week when asked if the players feel responsible for where the team is currently. “I definitely feel responsible in probably a little bit more ways than some other guys do because I was captain of the team for most of the year. Whenever someone gets fired and results aren’t going your way, I think it feels a little bit more heavy on my shoulders because I consider myself a leader in that locker room.”
Houston Dynamo – Out: DanielSteres (right arm) Griffin Dorsey (suspension); Questionable: Hector Herrera (right leg), Memo Rodriguez (left leg)
Sporting Kansas City – Out: Tim Melia (hamstring), Kortne Ford (suspension), Gadi Kinda (knee), Alan Pulido (knee); Questionable: Ben Sweat (back), Graham Zusi (quad)