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Know Thy Enemy: Revolution at Houston Edition

The Revs head down to Houston, where points don’t come easy, can New England out-press the Dynamo for a result?

MLS: Houston Dynamo at New England Revolution Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

I’m trying not to get my hopes up today, but then I took at look at this graphic:

That 2016 draw is legendary because of the heroics of Daigo “Player X” Kobayashi in stoppage time, but we should remember there were a few lean years for the Houston Dynamo under Dom Kinnear at the end and this is not the same Dyanmo team.

It’s easy to forget Houston made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals, though they were shelled by Seattle when they got there. But this team is good, and play a similar style of pressing that Brad Friedel’s New England Revolution side also have deployed in early 2018. So something’s got to give because at some point one of these teams has to actually possess the ball.

Anyway, we chat with our good friend Derek Stowers of Dynamo Theory, who we will never let forget that one time Houston scored on a short corner routine and he’s still mad about it. Derek talks about just how good Alberth Elis can be while I chat about Cristian Penilla among other things over on their site.

Always remember kids, #NoShortCorners.

TBM: So to start the year you beat Atlanta 4-0, because sure why not, and then took just a single point from Vancouver and DC United. What worked well against Atlanta to get that result and how did it regress in the more recent games?

DS: habit the Dynamo need to grow out of is often times they’ll get a lead and then sit back and allow other teams to get their chances some of which lead to goals. This is what we saw against DC and what we didn’t do against Atlanta. This team’s system and personnel are not capable of sitting back in close games without allowing a quality opportunity on goal – especially down our right side of the field.

In the Vancouver game, the team played well, but conceded a goal and then Vancouver parked the bus forcing the Dynamo to create chances through possession which has not been an area they’ve excelled at. Tomás Martínez was brought in last year to help with some of that, but we haven’t seen the results yet.

If the Dynamo can play our high pressing and counter attacking style balanced with quality possession, we’ll take a lot of pressure off our defenders. If they play more conservatively, they will leak the occasional goal which could be the difference between three points and a draw or one point and no points.

TBM: Is Alberth Elis primed for a breakout year and how good can he be?

DS: He is definitely capable of having a breakout year and for a player that played significant minutes last season he’s already close to tying and passing up his assist tally from last year. His speed is unreal which catches so many players off guard. He’s snuck up on a defender that thought he’d play a casual ball back to his goalkeeper only to find that Elis has knocked him off the ball and now is in on goal with runners to pass to. These opportunistic moments set him apart from some other players because he is always ready to attack and put himself in a good position to score. He’s becoming a better finisher and he’s also proven in the air.

I believe he can have an MVP type season if he keeps up his current pace. A lot of his success will depend on some of the issues mentioned in the first question. If the Dynamo can just go at teams and not prioritize defense above the offense, his numbers will continue to rise. If they can throw in some meaningful possession and find Elis, he’ll also see an uptick in his goals and assists. However, if we sit back on 1-0 or even 2-0 leads, he’ll end up stranded.

TBM: Who are some of the new additions for the Dynamo and did Houston do enough in the offseason to stay with the top of the West? Houston finished fourth last year, but just three points behind the Timbers, are the set up for a similar regular season run?

DS: The two biggest signings the Dynamo made were keeping Alberth Elis and Juan David Cabezas who were both on loan last season. While Cabezas picked up an early injury, his replacement has proven himself. The Dynamo acquired Darwin Cerén over the offseason and he’s stepped right into Cabezas’s role relatively seamlessly. Center back Alejandro Fuenmayor was a coveted signing and he should break into the starting lineup as he continues to grow under Wilmer Cabrera.

I think a lot of people have been down on the Dynamo this season even after their run to the Western Conference Finals in 2017. If they can continue to be dominant at home and pick up a few more wins on the road they’ll have improved from last season. Will it be enough? It’s up to them. If they play their brand I think they can compete with anyone like we saw in the home opener against Atlanta. But if they have these relapse moments where they look out of character, it might be a short playoff run, but I do expect to be in the playoffs.

Projected lineup (4-3-3): Chris Seitz; DaMarcus Beasley, Leonardo, Alejandro Fuenmayor, Kevin Garcia; Darwin Cerén, Tomás Martínez, Eric Alexander; Romell Quioto, Mauro Manotas, Alberth Elis

Injuries: Dylan Remick (concussion), Philippe Senderos (hamstring), George Malki (concussion), A.J. DeLaGarza (ACL).

International: Adolfo Machado - I think Machado, if he gets back to Houston from his game in Switzerland last Tuesday, will rest having gone the full 90.

Prediction: 3-1 Houston. I think the way that New England plays will open up chances on the counter and we’ll be able to try and possess and keep the game away from the Revs.