First up -- Derek Stowers answers Nerdy's questions about what to expect from the Houston Dynamo.
1. The Earthquakes and Dynamo have both been getting more wins at home than on the road - looking at the game from Houston's perspective, how can the Dynamo breakdown the Avaya fortress walls for a road win?
Each game the Dynamo have lost on the road has only been by a single goal and each of those games was unique but showcased a different level of effort put forth by the team. Against Vancouver, the Dynamo were unfortunate to have a questionable penalty kick called against them, but the squad failed to equalize. Against Columbus Crew SC the team had another penalty kick go against them and a red card, but still held out for only a 1-0 loss that highlighted their defensive capabilities down a man. At Rio Tinto the Dynamo went up a goal but allowed Real Salt Lake back in the game by making mistakes in the back.
All of these games showed areas where the Dynamo succeeded and ultimately failed. The team will need to eliminate silly mistakes or fouls in the penalty box (as 2 of their 3 games on the road were decided by PKs) and play the game for 90 minutes. If they can do that, they'll have a chance.
2. Now that Brad Davis has moved to RSL, who has stepped into his boots, and how are they doing? Who else should the Earthquakes pay the most attention to defending?
The main player to step into Brad Davis's boots was someone brought in over the offseason and that is Cristian Maidana who the Dynamo acquired from the Philadelphia Union. Maidana has provided 1 goal and 2 assists (tied for a team high) on the year despite coming in and out of the starting lineup. Maidana has fantastic vision and links well with his teammate Andrew Wenger who was also part of the deal with the Union. It's impossible to replace a Brad Davis for a variety of qualities that he brings, but in terms of service and playmaking "Chaco" is as good a replacement as one could hope for. He finished 2nd last year in assists and it is the hope of the Houston coaching staff that he will provide plenty of assists to an attacking oriented team.
Apart from Maidana, there are several players worth paying attention to that have found success this year. Wenger currently looks to be in form and scored a screamer of a goal last week against Sporting Kansas City. Giles Barnes has struggled with his goal scoring on the road, but his creativity, speed, and ability to finish from a variety of areas should make him a marked man. Lastly will be our center forward up top. I would bet on that being Erick Torres, who notched an assist in his start last week, but it may also be Will Bruin who leads our team in goals scored.
3. This week sees both the Earthquakes and Dynamo with a challenging three games in a seven-day period - how do you think Owen Coyle will manage his roster over that span?
That's such a difficult question to answer. Also, who decided it was a good idea to have so many games in one week??? I believe the Dynamo will largely keep the lineup the same as last weekend's game in order to create consistency and ride the wave of momentum before changing his lineup up more against Real Salt Lake this Saturday. That would be a way to instill confidence in the group that got our first win since March 12th and help us earn our first winning streak.
4-2-3-1; Tyler Deric; Abdoulie Mansally*, Agus, David Horst, Jalil Anibaba; Alex Lima, Ricardo Clark; Giles Barnes, Cristian Maidana, Andrew Wenger; Erick Torres
2-1 to the Dynamo and Cubo gets his first Dynamo goal.
Next up, Nerdy answers Derek's questions about the San Jose Earthquakes.
1. The San Jose Earthquakes haven't had much luck with their playoff ambitions the last few seasons and they finished just 1 place shy of the final playoff spot in the 2015 MLS season. What is the benchmark for what would make this year a success and what would be considered a failure?
This is Kinnear's second season at the helm, so he's had the opportunity to improve the squad with the roster additions I outline below. Consequently everyone's expectations are that much higher than 2015. It's the "MLS Cup Playoffs or Bust" as far as the fans are concerned, and that will define the cutoff for success, or failure.
For individual players, it remains to be seen whether there's another Golden Boot in local hero Chris Wondolowski's future. Quincy Amarikwa (doubtful for Wednesday) is pesky enough to deflect attention away from Wondo, which frees him up in the box. Look for Innocent or Chad Barrett to do the same - most likely off the bench.
2. For fans not familiar with the Earthquakes, who are some players that have helped the club in their current 5th place position in the competitive Western Conference.
Kinnear has made some useful additions: Argentine Andres Imperiale, an experienced defender, has helped spell Guatemalan defender Victor Bernardez and Goodson (currently out with back problems). Midfielder Alberto Quintero joined his Panamanian national team compatriot Anibal Godoy, and alongside Matias Perez Garcia the Earthquakes have a solid South American cadre of players.
Shea Salinas has been in and out of the starting lineup for the past few games - and when he's been used off the bench he's been very effective at challenging tired defenders. And no, I STILL don't know what is happening with Steven Lenhart - safe to say he won't be in this weekend's lineup.
Finally, Simon Dawkins, a fan favorite from the 2012 Earthquakes squad that won the Supporters' Shield, has returned as a DP - he's taken some time to get back into the form that we saw back then, but now he's off the mark, scoring on the road in Philadelphia, and only just stymied by the crossbar in last week's loss in Seattle. It's taken a while, but he's settling in nicely for the rest of the 2016 season.
3. Avaya Stadium has truly become a fortress as the Earthquakes have put together a 4 wins and a draw at home over some top-level competition. What has made Avaya different over the ‘Quakes poor (by comparison) performances on the road?
The fans have also settled in nicely for the 2016 season - and with many of them found at the longest outdoor bar in North America; the only place with more shots than Wondo. The Avaya Stadium atmosphere is electric, and with a large season ticket fan base, the knowledgeable fans are raucously supporting their squad.
And the players are responding - the whole squad remains center field after the game and walks down the field to applaud the supporters' groups. Many collect their kids from the sideline, and sign plenty of autographs. The players seem to be responding to the support they're getting, and the fans' proximity to the field enables them to see, even feel, the players' intense level of effort. It's an intangible metric, but I feel that the players (especially the younger players) and fans are feeding off each other's energy.
Earthquakes 1-0 Houston Dynamo.
Probable line up:
David Bingham; Shaun Francis; Victor Bernardez; Marvell Wynne; Kofi Sarkodie; Shea Salinas; Anibal Godoy; Simon Dawkins; Alberto Quintero; Chad Barrett; Chris Wondolowski.