Orlando City has a rare Friday night match tonight as the Lions kick off this year’s Leagues Cup campaign at Exploria Stadium against the Houston Dynamo.
A visit from the Dynamo means I spoke with Dustyn Richardson, managing editor over at Bayou City Soccer. Like us, Bayou City Soccer (formerly known as Dynamo Theory) went independent back in the spring, and they’re continuing to do top notch work covering the the Dynamo, the Houston Dash, and all things soccer in the Houston area. I also took the time to answer some of Dustyn’s questions, so make sure you head over to their place and check them out.
Talk me through Houston’s transfer business during the off-season. Who were some notable arrivals and departures?
Dustyn Richardson: The Dynamo basically re-did their entire (roster) off-season. I believe they signed 19 new players as they shipped out most of last year’s roster. The most notable departures were Darwin Quintero, Tim Parker, Fafa Picault, and Homegrown Memo Rodriguez. The biggest arrivals are Artur, who they traded for from Columbus Crew, Franco Escobar, who signed as a free agent, Amine Bassi from Metz in France, Erik Sviatchenko from Midtjylland in Denmark, and Aliyu Ibrahim from NK Lokomotiva in Croatia.
With this being the first time Houston and Orlando have played since Ben Olsen took the reins, what should Orlando fans expect to see from the Dynamo on the field? How does Olsen like this team to play?
DR: Olsen has a very distinct style. Fans who have watched MLS for some time will know of “Bennyball.” The Dynamo play a very sound defensive setup. Olsen has played with four centerbacks for a lot of the season, with Daniel Steres — a natural center back — playing left and right back, and Brazilian center back Micael playing a lot of left back. Escobar has spent most of the season at right back, and he’s played there and as a center back in a back three in his career. Houston will be defensive and look to counter and win set pieces for their scoring chances. The Dynamo have some speed up front in Aliyu, Corey Baird, and Nelson Quinones, and they will look to break with those players when they win the ball.
The Dynamo are only seven points shy of last season’s tally of 36 points. What has been the biggest reason for this season’s improvement?
DR: Hector Herrera turning into one of the best midfielders in MLS has completely changed the Dynamo this season. Herrera has always been a class player, going back to his time in Europe, but he came to Houston in the middle of last season nursing an injury and with the World Cup on the horizon. The Mexican international has completely transformed this team, and the arrival of Artur has helped as well. Artur is able to play as the number six and give Herrera more of a free role in the midfield. The Dynamo are also a very strong team at home, where they’ve collected most of their points this season. They still aren’t scoring goals at a good rate, but being a good defensive team and controlling the midfield has helped them gather points.
Are there any players who will be unavailable due to injury, suspension, call-ups, etc? What is your projected starting XI and score prediction?
DR: Coco Carrasquilla will be back after winning the best player at the Gold Cup and helping lead Panama to the final. Herrera played in Wednesday night’s MLS All-Star Game, so his availability will be a question mark. How much he played against Arsenal will decide how much he can play just two days later in Orlando. I’m sure Olsen and his staff are in communication with Wayne Rooney.
The players who are out are long-term injuries in Tate Schmitt, Ifunanyachi Achara, and DP center back Teenage Hadebe.
If I had to make a predicted lineup, I think we’ll see:
Steve Clark; Daniel Steres, Erik Sviatchenko, Micael, Franco Escobar; Artur, Coco Carrasquilla, Amine Bassi; Nelson Quinones, Ibrahimn Aliyu, Corey Baird. I think it’ll be tough for the Dynamo in Orlando, especially if Herrera isn’t available to play the whole game, so I’ll predict a 2-0 Orlando win.
Thank you to Dustyn for helping us get caught up on the Dynamo. Vamos Orlando!