So we caught up with Dynamo Theory's Derek Stowers to preview the match as we talk about Houston's season, the nostalgia of the Revs-Dynamo rivalry and Will Bruin.
TBM - It was a slow start for the Dynamo this season but they're now sitting just on the outside of the West playoffs looking in, but have three wins in their last five, what do they need to do to sustain this momentum and grab a playoff spot in the difficult Western Conference?
DT - There are several reasonable explanations for the team's poor form early in the year. When the season began the team had to figure out a new system with someone other than Dominic Kinnear at the helm. Owen Coyle, our new head coach, tinkered around for awhile before he did establish a system - though even that has continued to evolve game-to-game, and that's something that's difficult for a team that's used to a single coach for such a long time.
The other big reason for some struggles is due to summer call-ups to international teams in conjunction with injuries and a few suspensions. We had for a stretch of last month 8 players, including key starters DaMarcus Beasley, Giles Barnes, Luis Garrido, and Oscar Boniek Garcia, among others, out while we were competing in the US Open Cup. It's difficult to miss so many starters and it's difficult on the guys that replaced them to put in so many minutes over such a short amount of time.
The key to the Dynamo in sustaining their recent success is to stay healthy and not get suspended. The arrival of Erick Torres (Cubo) has provided depth up top and the trade for Sheanon Williams gives us a quality right back which completes a suddenly very stingy back line. It's hard to say how the team will do considering the number of road games ahead of them, but staying focused and getting a result here or there will go a long way towards their playoff ambitions.
TBM - New England really misses playing you guys several times a year, does Houston still see this as a rivalry game going back to the days when these two teams met in MLS Cups (and I apologize to Revs fans for bringing this up)?
DT - Here's the thing with that rivalry - many Dynamo fans have moved on. It's a lot easier to do that when you win those games and having experienced what it's like to lose in back-to-back MLS Cups (2011 and 2012 to the LA Galaxy) we feel your pain. But it isn't just you guys! We've moved on from our traditional and geographic rival FC Dallas when we moved to the Eastern Conference. That's when we developed a fierce, physical rivalry Sporting Kansas City (who rebranded the year we moved to the East). We also really dislike the LA Galaxy for knocking us out in the 2009 MLS Playoffs - a game that featured a mysterious "technical problem" with the lights as soon as the Dynamo gained momentum, and for beating us in the MLS Cup back-to-back.
Houston's traditionally physical style and hardnosed defenders (I'm looking at you, Eddie Robinson) have made it easy for the club to develop rivalries. San Jose can lay claim to a rivalry for the team's relocation to Houston, the Revs can for our tough fought MLS Cup matches, Dallas can for envying Houston in every way (that's probably true), SKC can for the our Eastern Conference playoff matches and physical regular season games, and so can the Galaxy for memorable playoff and MLS Cup matches.
I like to think of the games against the Revs as rivalry matches for nostalgic purposes, but the makeup of the teams has changed and it just isn't the same. Perhaps it's time to move on - though it doesn't take much to rekindle a good rivalry!
TBM - Will Bruin is your leading scorer, but aside from a hot streak in May how do you rate his season and the Dynamo's offense in general? What will they need to do against New England in your opinion to get a result?
DT - Bruin really struggled early in the year to adapt to a new system, but has worked hard to really improve a variety of his skills other than his scoring to make him a more complete player. He hasn't been a good lone, central forward until this year (though some fans may disagree with that assessment) but he's become a smarter passer in the final third and his runs off the ball have gotten particularly good. I'd give him a solid B if I were grading him, but it's important to note that he's fought hard to get back into the starting lineup and has proven he can score in a variety of ways.
The Dynamo offense in general is much harder to rate. Giles Barnes has proven to be dangerous, but hasn't looked quite the same since his return from the Gold Cup. Cubo hasn't really had a chance to get going, but other players have shown up and supported from the wings. Brad Davis, Alex Lima, and Leonel Miranda have all shown their ability to create chances for themselves and others through creativity and an ability to press opposing players to create turnovers in dangerous areas. The Dynamo will need to get their fullbacks, DaMarcus Beasley and Sheanon Williams, to overlap and become involved in the attack in order to be successful, but the entire team will need to limit New England's ability to penetrate into our defensive 3rd of the field which means they need to press and make sure that the easiest pass is the one backwards.
4-1-3-1-1: Tyler Deric; DaMarcus Beasley, Raul Rodriguez, David Horst, Sheanon Williams; Luis Garrido ; Alex Lima, Leonel Miranda, Giles Barnes; Brad Davis ; Will Bruin.
Of course, Nathan Sturgis could always rejoin the lineup as either a replacement for Garrido or for Miranda or Alex Lima.
Prediction: Two teams that can score and have streaks draw as the Dynamo steal a road point late in the game 2-2.