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Three Questions Ahead of the Houston Dynamo game

The San Jose Earthquakes finish up their three-game road trip in hellishly hot and humid Houston - at least it’s an evening game. Nerdy Gales swaps three questions with Derek Stowers of Dynamo Theory to discuss what’s been going on since their April matchup - a lot has changed since then.

Chris Wondolowski in action against the Houston Dynamo
Lyndsay Radnedge | Center Line Soccer

Dynamo Theory: 1 – While the San Jose Earthquakes have been wonderful at home losing just once in twelve outings, they have been less than stellar on the road with only two wins and one draw in eleven games. What has been a leading factor in the disparity in home form vs. away form (something Dynamo fans are familiar with)?

Center Line Soccer: The away form is infuriating for Earthquakes fans, and the topic of watch parties all over the Bay Area. Obviously, the team hasn’t figured this out either. This Saturday’s game in sweltering Houston is just three days after an extended US Open Cup semi-final, which they lost on penalties to Sporting KC. It will be a difficult (if not insurmountable) challenge to rise to the occasion and correct their poor road form at the end of such a difficult road trip.

DT: 2 – After an exhausting US Open Cup match with Sporting Kansas City, Chris Leitch may have some tough decisions regarding personnel ahead of the Dynamo v. SJ clash this Saturday. What kind of changes could we see coming into this game following the Open Cup match that went through extra time and penalties?

CLS: There were a couple of Open Cup selections in Wednesday’s semi-final: Andrew “More” Tarbell has been the goalie of choice during the USOC run – he performed very well and kept the Quakes in the game. Wondolowski and Bernardez started that game on the bench with Yueill and new arrival Francois Affolter (Defender) in th e line up. Curiously (for many; he was playing well) Thompson was subbed off after 70 minutes, so that saved some mileage on their legs. I would expect Wondo, Bernardez and Thompson to be in the starting lineup against Houston. Godoy is out and Hyka is carrying a hamstring injury – if he’s mended in time, I’d looking forward to seeing him and Vako on the field together.

DT: 3 –Dominic Kinnear is still a beloved figure among Dynamo fans, even if we’ve moved on from him. Since Kinnear was let go what were the reactions like among ‘Quakes fans and how has Leitch stepped into the coaching role as Kinnear’s replacement?

CLS: The decision was a huge surprise when it came down – to players and fans alike. Most lines of thinking were that Kinnear would be let go at the end of the season, if they did not make the post-season. The new GM, Jesse Fioranelli took full responsibility for the decision, and explained that it would not be fair on Kinnear if they strung him along until the end of the season. From that I infer that Kinnear was on his way out whatever happened.

The appointment of Chris Leitch was also a great surprise, given his lack of MLS coaching experience. He is very popular around the club, and has worked his way up from player, though the academy to the club’s technical director.

At the beginning of the season, Kinnear had implemented more control of the game through side and backwards passes in midfield and defense when they have possession – this more patient approach has continued under Leitch. The bigger difference is that with three at the back (from Kinnear’s four) their play looks more positive, with increased opportunity for wingbacks to pile forward and overload opponent’s defense. On the flip side, poor defensive marking is punished – the new three-man defense is often dropping to the goal line rather than breaking up plays in the penalty box. Let’s see if higher scoring games lead to more victories – especially on the road.

CLS Projected Earthquakes Lineup:

David Bingham, Florian Jungwirth, Andres Imperiale, Victor Bernardez, Shea Salinas, Tommy Thompson, Darwin Cerén, Nick Lima, Vako, Danny Hoesen; Chris Wondolowski.

CLS Predicted Outcome:

Houston Dynamo 3-2 San Jose Earthquakes

Center Line Soccer: 1 - The Earthquakes seem to hit hellishly-hot Houston during three game, ten-day road trips, the last time in April with a 0-2 loss. The odds are in favor of Houston, but where are the potential weakness that the Quakes could exploit?

Dynamo Theory: I feel that Houston’s biggest weakness is themselves at times. Especially on the road, but sometimes at home, the Dynamo play conservatively with their passing and counter attacking which plays against how they’ve been put together. The Dynamo are dangerous when they counter attack quickly and press opponents high up the field to capitalize on defensive mistakes. When they sit in, they invite pressure. Teams that possess well can take advantage of the Dynamo two ways: first, if the Dynamo are sitting in more, teams that can possess in our half of the field will see the number of chances increase so keep hammering away if the Dynamo play too far back. If the Dynamo are their usual confident, attacking selves, pass accurately and counter quickly to have numbers up the field because our forwards won’t be coming back to defend.

CLS: 2 - Are there any additions or losses to the Dynamo squad since the last meeting between the two clubs?

DT: The Dynamo have made two signings since our clubs last met. The Dynamo added a new designated player and #10 in Tomas Martinez from Argentina. Martinez has been with the club for a few weeks now, but has not yet made his debut. Coach Wilmer Cabrera has been pretty adamant about taking his time with him, but he could make an appearance in this game off the bench. The other player the Dynamo signed is center back Philippe Senderos from Switzerland, but his signing was a depth move and I don’t think he’s likely to see too much playing time.

CLS: 3 - How will head coach Wilmer Cabrera adjust the Dynamo line up in the absence of Alex after last week's red card?

DT: That’s a huge question given how important Alex has been to this team this season. I think that Alex will eventually see less playing time as Martinez gets minutes, but for this game I think we’ll see either Memo Rodriguez or Oscar Boniek Garcia get the start. Memo has featured often the last few games and has shown up in each of his appearances. He’s naturally a central midfielder and a playmaker but has seen time in left midfield, left wing, and right midfield. Alex lines up as a left midfielder, but really plays as a number 10 as he floats around all over midfield which means Memo could do the job. The other player who could start could be Oscar Boniek Garcia who has filled in for Alex in the past. Of the two I think we see Memo given how well he’s played lately, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Boniek.

DT Predicted Dynamo Lineup:

Tyler Deric; DaMarcus Beasley, Leonardo, Adolfo Machado, A. J. DeLaGarza; Memo Rodriguez, Juan David Cabezas, Ricardo Clark; Mauro Manotas, Cubo Torres, Alberto Elis

DT Predicted Score:

Houston Dynamo 2-1 San Jose Earthquakes