The New England Revolution have a match on Saturday night that could very well make or break their season. In a part of the season where every result counts, there may be none with more impact than this match up against the Houston Dyamo.
Houston sits three points ahead of the Revs in fourth place, level on games played, but behind in goals scored. A win from the Revs would see New England move unopposed into fourth place. With a draw or a loss, the Dynamo's hold on fourth is strengthened, and positive results for Chicago (home to Montreal), Philadelphia (away to SKC), or even Columbus (away to Dallas) could see any one or all of those clubs leap over the Revs in the standings.
Today's Q&A is with Sean Ringrose of Dynamo Theory, SB Nation's Houston Dynamo blog. You can read our previous Q&A's with Dynamo Theory here and here, and you can get my answers to Sean's questions over there.
TBM: There was a stretch of time in the dead middle of this season when it seemed like Houston's inconsistency might doom them to miss the playoffs for the first time in a long time. Now the Dynamo are sitting in fourth place and sort of in the driver's seat in a tight Eastern Conference playoff race. How is it that Dom just seems to will his teams into the playoffs every year, and what would you say has been the squad's strongest area in the last month or two?
SR: I've been following this team since they arrived in Houston, and I honestly couldn't even begin to speculate what Dom does to get his team to flip the switch. He just does it, and out of nowhere the team suddenly finds their form. Some of it could be contributed to players returning from injury and a lessened international schedule, but when it comes down to it the team just plays better as the playoffs grow closer.
The strongest area of the team over the last stretch would have to be the midfield. Even when players were injured, the depth at midfield filled in more than amicably. The dropoff in talent is negligible at best. The midfield really is the driving force of the team, and the return of players like Brad Davis and Boniek Garcia goes a long way in helping the forwards find their form.
TBM: Adam Moffat is gone. No longer will he drop bombs from deep on the Revs and elbow people in the face without getting carded for it (at least not in Orange, anyway). Seriously, it has seemed for a couple of years now that Moffat has been crucial to the Dynamo's success against New England. Has he been that essential for Houston against other squads, and how will the Dynamo replace him on Saturday night?
SR: There isn't a Houston Dynamo fan I know of who doesn't feel a tinge of sorrow over the trade. We have a saying within the orange fandom that goes, "Forever Orange". Once a player dons the orange of the Dynamo, they become a part of a fiercely supportive fanbase. Adam Moffat put it all out on the field, and we loved him for it (still do, truth be told). With that all said, however, there is a bit of a caveat to come.
The one thing Moffat struggled with the most was ball possession and passing. He had a propensity for making mistakes in the Dynamo third of the pitch, which left the defense high and dry (especially the flank defenders as they tend to press higher up the field).
If I am being honest, I'm not entirely sure how the team intends to replace Moffat positionally. We have Ricardo Clark, who is a true Central Defensive Midfielder, but now we also have Servando Carrasco who came to us in the trade. Carrasco has looked on par with the defensive ability Moffat brought to the team, but offensively he does not have the Adam Bomb.
Head Coach, Dominic Kinnear, loves his players to be flexible in their positions, and I would not be surprised to see Giles Barnes move back to CAM with Ricardo Clark moving "back" to CDM. This is how the team will most likely mitigate the statistical loss of Adam Moffat.
TBM: I speculated recently that the Dynamo's CCL schedule would be a major detriment down the stretch. It hasn't seemed to work out that way, with a handy 2-0 win over W. Connection at midweek propelling the Dynamo ever closer to their first continental title while Houston also pushed further ahead in the playoff race recently to go 3 points clear in 4th in the conference. Do you expect tired legs to be a factor this weekend, and how will the Dynamo move to cope with that?
SR: On Wednesday the club fielded a primarily reserves squad. Of the starting eleven, only three are expected to start on Saturday against the Revolution, Kofi Sarkodie, Bobby Boswell, and Jermaine Taylor. Thankfully, the front office prepared for the CCL run well in advance by securing a ton of quality depth, as has been evidenced thus far through the group stage. This depth allows the starters to rest in preparation for league matches, and leaves them 100% ready to roll on match day.
If the Revs were hoping for tired legs, they will be sorely disappointed.
TBM: Brian Ching is hanging it up after this season. Personal opinions regarding his mouth or his style of play aside, he was an immensely successful striker in MLS and an icon both for the league and the Dynamo. What's the club doing to honor him in his retirement and how do you see the remaining games of his career playing out? Is there one more playoff run in his future?
SR: The Houston Dynamo on Tuesday, in conjunction with Brian Ching, officially announced the retirement of the player, but also they would be holding a Testimonial to celebrate his career in December. At this point, a whole slew of American soccer stars past and present have been confirmed to play or appear at the Testimonial. If you haven't seen the list, google it. That is respect.
As for the remaining games for the Dynamo, I'm not really sure how much Brian Ching will factor in. The team has kept him fresh, having him appear in relatively few league matches and only a small sample of reserve matches. We might get to see him as a substitute in a playoffs match, especially if the Dynamo are up big, as he plays the holding forward role well. It is just tough to say, and he has already gone on record making it clear he is retiring because his physical body just can't handle it anymore.
TBM: Finally, let's have your projected staring XI and a score line prediction.
SR: Hall; Ashe - Taylor - Boswell - Sarkodie; Davis - Carrasco - Clark - Garcia; Barnes - Bruin
2-1 Dynamo over New England, though it will remain a draw through 70 minutes.
More from The Bent Musket:
- Revolution vs. Dynamo 2013: Don't Let Dimitry Imbongo See Orange (or Red) on Saturday
- Breakers Off-Season Report: Projecting the 2014 Roster
- The 3rd Yellow - Revolution vs. DC United: Revs Actually Scored a Penalty Kick
- Revolution 2-1 United: Player Ratings and Man of the Match, Game Three
- New England 2, D.C. United 1: Revs Rally in Second Half to Keep Playoff Hopes Alive