So…it’s been quite a forgettable week, hasn’t it? Well, maybe tonight’s just what the doctor ordered. Monday’s lopsided loss at Dallas, coupled with Orlando City firing Head Coach Adrian Heath on Wednesday night, has made this the most anticipated and necessary weekend in the history of Lions fans everywhere.
What better way to kick it off than with a home win over the Houston Dynamo? It’s a tall order to ask a team to get its collective crap together in such a turbulent week on only three days rest, but that’s what they get paid to do. Bobby Murphy will be Orlando’s manager tonight, after the departures of Heath and top assistant Mark Watson in the midweek. OCB boss Anthony Pulis will assist. The two have exactly one training session in charge, which took place yesterday.
Oh, and team captain Kaká is out for the match with a calf injury.
But enough about the home team. Let’s learn about the visitors from SB Nation’s Houston blog, Dynamo Theory. Our good friend Derek Stowers is an editor over there and he was kind enough to stop by and give us all the info on the Dynamo that we need. I also answered their questions, so you can roll over there to catch that.
How has the mid-season departure of Owen Coyle affected the team and how do Dynamo fans view the Coyle era in Houston?
Derek Stowers: The team has really embraced Wade Barrett who is in every way a "player’s coach." Many players lobbied for Barrett to get the interim job for the remainder of the year following Owen Coyle’s departure, which goes to show the confidence they have in him and the impression he made as an assistant. Tactically, Barrett has tried to instill a hardnosed defensive mentality that he was known for as a player, however, he’s emphasizing pressure higher up the pitch with his 4-1-4-1 formation (more on that later). Coyle had used this pressing style earlier in the season, without a more balanced shape, which led to a lot of goals scored against us. The Dynamo under Barrett have only allowed four goals in five games and are beginning to find some rhythm offensively.
Fan reactions to Coyle have always been mixed, beginning with his hiring. He was seen as someone that lacked MLS experience apart from finding talent in American players such as Stuart Holden, although Barrett helped him by staying on as an assistant. He was also seen as someone that never really saw too much success in Britain and who struggled when the pressure was on. However, it was a higher profile hire and Coyle promised an attractive attacking oriented style of play which many fans bought into. In his first year, he got a bit of a pass for missing the playoffs, given that he had inherited the club’s personnel from Dominic Kinnear and never had the chance to forge his own team’s identity. This year was supposed to be his, and early on we saw it. However, as his fast attacking style fell apart and we focused on the defensive side, we stopped scoring and we stopped getting results. To be fair, the Dynamo have only lost two matches by more than a goal, which has meant they’ve been competitive, but to the fans the points didn’t add up to a place in the standings, which is what matters most. The team and Coyle parted ways mutually, but, given the lack of success, most fans are glad to see the Coyle era come to a conclusion.
Who are the Dynamo’s key off-season additions and subtractions that we should know about and how have they affected the team and approach so far in 2016?
DS: There are a few off-season moves that have shaped the club in positive ways, starting with our Philadelphia Union acquisitions: Andrew Wenger and Cristian Maidana. Wenger is a two-way versatile forward/winger with a variety of skills that complements players around him. He’s capable of scoring, setting up players, but he’s most dangerous taking on players with the ball at his feet.
Cristian Maidana has had a tough time getting consistent minutes due to Alex Lima and Oscar Boniek Garcia playing so well at the moment, but “Chaco” is a fantastic creative playmaker that has excellent vision and terrific service. Maidana was originally brought in to be the primary set piece taker after Brad Davis was traded to Sporting Kansas City. While it hurt a lot of fans to see Davis go, his salary and older age made it a smart move to see him off. His locker room presence, leadership by example, and service will be missed, but Chaco has shown us he is a capable free kick taker as well as evidenced by his stoppage time game winner against the Philadelphia Union.
What kind of formation and tactics can we expect from the Houston Dynamo and what do you view as the game's key match-up?
DS: The Dynamo should line up in a 4-1-4-1, which has become Barrett’s mainstay formation. Tactically, the team will try and win the midfield by clogging passing lanes with bodies and pressuring opponents to make poor passing decisions or safe decisions backwards. Collen Warner has become a true defensive holding midfielder, which has allowed his other two center midfielders — usually Alex Lima and Ricardo Clark — to pressure higher up the field. I would anticipate the team to utilize this strategy defensively. Offensively, it’s about counter attacking and using width. Getting our fullbacks engaged, specifically DaMarcus Beasley on the left side, will be key as he links with Boniek and Alex to find our forwards or create chances for themselves.
The biggest match-ups in this game will be in central midfield. Ricardo Clark, Alex Lima, and Collen Warner must eliminate touches and possession by Kaká*, Brek Shea, and Kevin Molino. If they can do that and keep possession in Orlando’s half of the field, I feel confident, but if we give up too much possession or sit in too much we’ll have a hard time finding answers on offense.
[*As of this interview, Kaká’s status was questionable. He said Thursday that he is out for tonight.]
Can you please give us your key injuries/suspensions, projected starting XI and score prediction?
DS: Injuries are limited to Rob Lovejoy. Giles Barnes is listed on the injury report for an injury that he had recovered from before he was listed on the report. Barnes started last week’s game so I expect him to start against Orlando. If he doesn’t then Andrew Wenger will slot into his place.
Predicted outcome: 2-1 to the Dynamo. The Dynamo haven’t given up many goals, but Orlando is talented to get one on them. I think that the Dynamo offense, which has struggled under Barrett, is finally finding rhythm and they’ll be able to get their first road win of the season.
Big thanks to Derek from Dynamo Theory for giving us some insight on tonight's (second straight) opponents from the Lone Star State.