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Previewing Houston Dynamo at Columbus Crew with Derek Stowers of Dynamo Theory

It is the second meeting of the season between the Crew and the Dynamo and thus the second series of our question exchange. This time I talk with Derek Stowers (aka Gribbs) of SB Nation's Dynamo Theory to see what's been eating Houston since the last time these clubs met.

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The Columbus Crew head into their final game of a three game home stand on the heels a big 4-1 win over the LA Galaxy. Now the Black and Gold turn their attention back to the Eastern Conference with division foe Houston Dynamo coming to town.

The Crew and the Dynamo played to a 1-0 win for Houston in Texas earlier this season with a 50th minute goal from Will Bruin from a free kick. Since that point, both teams have struggled, but Columbus may have turned things around recently. Over their previous five games, the Crew are 3-1-1 and have begun to convert their possession style of soccer into results.

Houston has only two wins since the end of June, but enter this game on the back of a 2-0 win over the Philadelphia Union at home. They are looking to begin their usual second-half-of-the-season push for a playoff spot and a chance at another deep run.

Questions for Dynamo Theory

Massive Report: Since the last time these teams met both teams have gone through their struggles and the Dynamo find themselves five points behind the Crew in the Eastern Conference standings. What have been the biggest issues this season for Houston, who are in eighth place heading into this contest?

Dynamo Theory: Missing players...well we knew where they were, but they were missing on the pitch due to international duty and injury. Three of our best players all missed time for those reasons: Brad Davis (USMNT), Oscar Boniek Garcia (Honduran National Team), Ricardo Clark (concussion symptoms). The fact that all three are a huge part of the team and play in the same section of the field had a huge hand in our summer time blues.

MR; Fans of MLS have become accustomed to the Dynamo making that playoff push this time of year. After the 2-0 win over the Philadelphia Union last Friday, are there signs the tide is turning for this team?

DT: Given how the team has played since our summer signings, I'll say yes (knock on wood). The Seattle game was a bit of an anomaly given how completely screwed up the pitch was, but the team did show promise even in that 2-0 loss. I think the team is playing a lot smarter with the ball and picking its chances to attack rather than forcing their chances. Defensively, we've upgraded our defense with DaMarcus Beasley, but our central defense still looks shaky from time to time. The team has the potential to continue our streak of late playoff pushes, but every game is crucial.

MR: Houston added DaMarcus Beasley and Luis Garrido during the transfer window. First, can you explain to Crew fans what it is like to actually compete a signing during the window? Second, what have these two brought to the Dynamo since arriving?

First off, we feel you guys. Neither the Crew nor the Dynamo are LA, NY, or even Seattle (or TFC...they snuck in there somehow), but we lucked out on landing Beasley. Before the signing, there was tension with our ownership group, our front office, and general frustration over the results, but as soon as we saw DMB in orange we all let some of that tension go. I can imagine the ups and downs of the Mix Diskerud saga, but you do have a solid group of guys as is. It is nice to have a shiny new star, but finding success without one can be just as rewarding - sometimes more so.

Second, as I mentioned before, the players brought relief to the fans because we now had proof that the owners and FO were working hard instead of enjoying our torment this summer. Also the players brought the abilities that they are being paid for. DMB is an upgrade for just about any team in MLS at left back and his speed, leadership, and decision making helped smooth things in our defense. Garrido's nickname is "La Fiera" translated to "The Beast" which is quite accurate. His partnership with Clark has made it incredibly difficult for teams to move through the central midfield and his intense form of defense has afforded Clark the freedom to push into the attack and help create on offense. These players have helped keep our foot in the door for this year's playoffs while keeping an eye on the future.

Questions for Massive Report

Dynamo Theory: The Columbus Crew has an amazing history in this league, but has struggled the last two years and has failed to make the playoffs in that time. Currently the Crew sits in the 4th playoff spot but is elbow to elbow with teams above and below separated only by a few points. What are some of the intangibles about this team that set them
apart from prior Crew teams and the other teams around them that could see them successful in the post-season?

Massive Report: The one thing I will say about the Crew this year is their consistency in sticking with the system. In previous years, and with some other teams, no one has been able to identify a style of play. This year Columbus has that and the players understand their roles.

Fans finally saw what happens when it all comes together last weekend in the 4-1 win over the LA Galaxy. It was by far the best performance for the Crew since maybe their 2-1 win in Settle the third game of the year and possibly the best game of the season. I think the fact that they are able to stay consistent and play the same way regardless of who is in the lineup could give them an advantage in the playoff run over some other teams. With that said, this team is still being molded in head coach Gregg Berhalter's image and although things may be getting better, it will still take time to get all the way there.

DT: The last time these two teams met, the Dynamo was able to walk away with a 1-0 victory at BBVA Compass Stadium. Since then the Crew had a fairly mixed bag of results, but recently the Crew seem to have found
some stride with a commanding victory over the LA Galaxy. What's changed since the last time our clubs met?

MR: As mentioned above, things may have finally fallen into place. Berhalter's possession-based system is complicated and requires a lot of work. The 2-0-1 stretch beginning in mid July showed some signs and even the 3-2 loss to Toronto FC demonstrated some flashes. The LA game was the perfect storm.

The question now is, can they find consistency? Berhalter pointed out on Tuesday the recent success of the team, but even he admitted they looked the best against the Galaxy. If they can find that form in their remaining games, they can really make a run. I would expect something between the Toronto game and the LA game going forward, which should be enough to qualify for the playoffs.

DT: The summer has not been kind to the Dynamo, with many of us believing that we have hit pretty close to rock bottom (in our orange-colored world rock bottom is below 8th place) as our last road win was May 3rd against Chivas USA. With the recent additions of DaMarcus Beasley and Luis Garrido, we're looking to right our ship. How can the Dynamo hope to secure a result in Columbus?

MR: Houston needs to be opportunistic against the Crew on Saturday just as they were in that 1-0 win in May. The Black and Gold will come out and look to possess and move the Dynamo into uncomfortable positions, but if Houston can create some counter attacks or get a goal from a set piece, it makes it that much harder for the Crew to come back into the game. Columbus is undefeated this year when scoring the opening goal, so it would behoove Houston to score early, allowing them to let the Crew possess in front of them.