Brotherly Game) How have ex-Philadelphia Union players Andrew Wenger, Sheanon Williams, and Cristian Maidana been doing in Houston?
Derek Stowers, Dynamo Theory) Andrew Wenger has seen the most success and consistent playing time in Houston and a big part of that is due to his ability to contribute on both sides of the ball. Sheanon Williams has had a harder time breaking into the lineup lately. When he arrived in Houston he revitalized our backline as a right back, but he seems to have fallen out of favor to Jalil Anibaba who doesn’t quite have the technical abilities or read of the game that Williams has, but has a speed advantage. Lastly, Chaco Maidana has come in and out of the lineup. The focus of the team initially was to be high scoring, but that often led to other teams scoring on us frequently which led to placing more emphasis on the defensive end. As Chaco isn’t the best at contributing on that side of the ball, he’s come in and out of the lineup. Recently, he’s been utilized under interim coach Wade Barrett as a left midfielder/winger, but that’s likely a temporary solution.
tBG) Houston has not had the best season this year, sitting at the bottom of the Western Conference. How did you get there, and what needs to improve?
DT) Things did not go quite as designed. As I mentioned above, the team was to be an offense heavy team under former boss Owen Coyle. A few games into the season we were the top scoring team in the league, but had also given up among the most goals of any team. The team wasn’t always winning games by scoring a lot so we had to devote some energy and tactics for defense. When we did that the offense just halted and the team struggled to score goals. While the defense looked better (we’ve only lost 2 games by more than a goal), the offense wasn’t there to support it.
The team is at its best when it provides a high press style of play which creates turnovers and goal scoring opportunities while penning teams in their own half for large stretches of the game. However, we often switch off after picking up a lead and sit in which allows other teams to regain momentum and equalize or win out games. We need to improve by not sitting in after taking a lead. Play the whole game and continue to keep the ball away from our goal which increases the likelihood of goals scored and decreases the chances of goals allowed. Sounds simple and there’s plenty of nuance to it, but the team just isn’t invested all 90 minutes and that must change.
tBG) Since moving to the Western Conference, Union fans don't get to see the Dynamo as often as we once did. What is Houston's style of play, and who makes that system work?
DT) Houston’s style of play has undergone a few facelifts this season. Under Owen Coyle, he utilized a 4-2-3-1 with plenty of offense minded players, but that gradually shifted to changes all over the field to support the defense and to find a winning combination (also known as the throwing everything at a wall and seeing what sticks principle). That worked to some extent on the defensive side of the ball, but the offense just had too many players sitting back who rarely supported our few counter attacking runs which led to an impotent offense.
Enter Wade Barrett. Barrett, who is still seeking his first MLS win as a head coach, has put some fight back in this club. He helped the team earn its first road points (draws) in Vancouver and Dallas which are both difficult places to play, and he’s earned convincing victories in the US Open Cup against San Antonio FC and Sporting Kansas City. He changed the system to a more balanced 4-1-4-1 with Collen Warner largely serving as a holding midfielder who affords opportunities for Ricardo Clark and another central midfielder, such as Alex Lima, to apply pressure higher up the field. Barrett has also loved attacking down the left side of the field with players like DaMarcus Beasley, Oscar Boniek Garcia, Alex Lima, and Chaco Maidana combining to create opportunities. The problem is old tricks die hard and the team, as evidenced by our last league match at the Portland Timbers, still sits in on leads and grants chances for opponents to take the momentum and points.
Injuries/Suspensions/etc.) No suspensions. Erick Torres is with the U-23 Mexico National Team prior to the Olympics. Rob Lovejoy is the only official injury, but last week Giles Barnes (who wasn’t on the injury report then) was also out.
Predicted Lineup, 4-1-4-1: Tyler Deric; DaMarcus Beasley, Raul Rodriguez, David Horst, Jalil Anibaba; Collen Warner; Oscar Boniek Garcia, Alex Lima, Ricardo Clark, Andrew Wenger; Will Bruin