Zach Woosley of Dynamo Theory, SB Nation's Houston Dynamo blog, and Jordan Wise, of SB Nation Houston, and I exchanged three questions a piece ahead of Sunday's Union-Dynamo game at PPL Park.
tBG: Will Carlos Costly, Will Bruin and Brian Ching be able to penetrate a Philadelphia Union back four that let up only 36 goals in the 2011 season? Will Ching be able to impact the series at all after an injury plagued year?
Zach: That's the key to the series really. Houston's offense has been a bit schizophrenic all season and while there is certainly enough talent to find the back of the net, they just have not been able to consistently do it week in, week out. Carlo Costly getting his first goal in MLS against LA could be huge. The Dynamo are going to need his ability and physical precense against a strong Union defense, so if he can get going things could go very well for the Dynamo. More important that the forwards though will be the rest of the midfield taking defensive pressure off Brad Davis.
Jordan: That really is the most important question going into this series for the Dynamo. Up until the last few games, Houston has, at best, been inconsistent at best in their attack. But, it looks like the Dynamo have found a bit of a scoring touch the last few weeks and momentum could be on their side. Ching may not be the player he was three years ago, but he still is a leader on this team and creates chances through his work rate. The key, though, will be who steps up next to him and produces goals. Carlos Costly found the back of the net for the first time against Los Angeles, and, as we've seen in the Gold Cup, can be lethal when he finds his scoring touch. Calen Carr provides Houston with some much-needed speed and is another player that Philadelphia haven't faced yet. Houston's offense will live and die at Brad Davis' feet. If he can continue to produce, the Dynamo will find a way to score the important goals.
tBG: Brad Davis is obviously the main threat out of the Houston Dynamo's midfield, but who is the secondary threat from it? Is the aggressive Danny Cruz the biggest worry other than Davis?
Zach: There isn't a singular secondary threat in the Dynamo midfield. Luiz Camargo isn't going to score goals but he's been a fantastic addition finally giving Houston a controlling force in the middle that's allowed everyone else to focus on playing their position. Danny Cruz will need to have a good series and threaten the Union defense with speed in order to draw some attention away from Davis. Adam Moffat will do his job fine and given a chance, he'll sneak in to space and let loose some of his patented rocket shots. Basically, it's a team effort. The better the entire midfield plays, the more effective Davis can be.
Jordan: Davis has played an MVP-worthy season; he's been consistent from set-pieces, in open play, and has even managed a few goals to go along with his league-leading 16 assists. The most telling fact of all is that Davis has managed to do all of that in spite of team's focusing on him and trying to shut him down.
Outside of Davis, Houston's most important midfielder is Luiz Camargo, who has quietly incorporated himself into the Dynamo offense, creating space and chances for the rest of the team to work. Camargo may not score many goals, but he has created the space for Brad Davis, Danny Cruz, and Adam Moffat to work. Cruz needs to have an impactful post-season but has had a Jekyll and Hyde season. Some games he produces brilliant efforts (Portland) and other games he frustrates with errant crosses and sloppy footwork. All in all, though, it is the Dynamo midfielders' responsibility to give Brad Davis the ball and help him create chances.
tBG: Tally Hall has had a fantastic year, but can he lead a defense, in the playoffs, that only recently got a major boost from Geoff Cameron moving into a central defensive role, to a win over the Union?
Zach: Tally Hall is comfortable leading the defense and his back line trust him and knows what he's capable of doing. Moving Cameron back in to the defense was the best move Kinnear has made all season. Bobby Boswell is better with Cameron next to him and while Hainault is better inside, he's done wonderful on the outside giving the Dynamo better defensive organization down the stretch. Sure Hall's game experience doesn't match up with Mondragon, but it's not like he just started playing with this team last week. Hall's true value is his ability to make tremendous saves and key moments and keep the Dynamo in games when things break down at times.
Jordan: Tally Hall has had a magnificent year in what is effectively his rookie season, despite some of the defensive mishaps from the four guys in front of him. The Dynamo defense was porous at best and inept at worst early on, but the return of veritable utility man, Geoff Cameron, has provided the defense with a sense of stability.
The team has looked better the last few games of the season with a defensive line-up for Corey Ashe, Bobby Boswell, Cameron, and Andre Hainault. While Cameron may be the key player that Houston needed in the right position, there should be no doubt that Hall is the clear leader of this defense. Hall's ability to consistently come up with massive saves in key moments is the sole reason the Dynamo made it into the play-offs and did not drop more points. While he may be a "rookie", Hall has the skills and the chemistry with his defense to lead this team against a tough Union offense.