They have taken different routes, but Columbus Crew SC and the Houston Dynamo are at the same place through six games played. Both teams sit on five points with identical 1-3-2 records. While Columbus has struggled to find it's offense -- averaging one goal per game -- Houston is one of the top scoring teams in the league with 13 goals scored for.
So far this season, the scoring has been spread out for the Dynamo. Forward Will Bruin leads the way with three goals, but three other Houston players have scored twice this year already. The Dynamo also has three players with two assists a piece in Boniek Garcia, Andrew Wenger, and Bruin.
While Crew SC enters this match on the back of the club's first win of the year, Houston is looking for its first victory since a 5-0 defeat of FC Dallas four games ago. Can the Black & Gold continue winning ways or will the Dynamo get back on the winning track? We spoke with Derek Stowers of Dynamo Theory to get a good idea of what fans should expect out of Saturday's contest.
Questions for Dynamo Theory
Massive Report: This is a contest between two 1-3-2 teams. I know Crew SC fans aren't too happy about the start of the season, although last week's victory helped, but what's the feeling in Houston? Where were expectations heading into the season and what's the thought six games in?
Dynamo Theory: Coming into the season Head Coach Owen Coyle has had a season of MLS under his belt and time to re-tool the roster to fit his style of play. He accomplished some offseason goals by making trades or signing players like playmaker Cristian Maidana, forward/winger Andrew Wenger, CDM David Rocha, and central defender Agus. How that translates to fan feelings is that we expect those decisions to pay off. Has it? Obviously there is still some tweaking to be done, and a few early injuries and national team call-ups haven't helped, but clearly the team hasn't delivered on early expectations. While the offense is currently 2nd best in the league, our defense is the 3rd worst in terms of goals allowed.
The Dynamo has a history of success in the playoffs and missing out a 3rd year in a row is not acceptable so the early struggles do trouble fans. For many, it's simply a matter of adjusting tactics as Coyle's 4-2-3-1 preferred formation has yielded offensive results, but has generated space for opponents to exploit on our defensive end. It will be up to players to adjust their positioning defensively to accommodate that or for Coyle to do away with a formation that lends itself to goal scoring opportunities given our personnel. Personally, I believe we're a deeper team than we have been in a long time and it may take minimal adjustments to right the track. Our 4-1 loss to the LA Galaxy may have served as a wakeup call to adjust tactics given a recent slump which could provide a boost moving forward to help achieve our goal of making the playoffs.
MR: The Dynamo have the second-best offense in the league, but the third-worst defense. What needs to be fixed defensively in order to get improved results?
DT: If we continue with a 4-2-3-1 players in the central defensive midfield position will need to be disciplined with their positioning and not advance too far and our wing players will have to get back better defensively. Getting starting goalkeeper Tyler Deric could also help lead an unorganized backline and right back Sheanon Williams should help given his expertise with our defense. In our last game, turnovers and defensive errors were an enormous problem and led to each goal scored against us. In a 4-2-3-1 turnovers are more costly, so accurate passing goes a long way towards preventing more goals allowed.
MR: We know Owen Coyle likes to play an attacking style of soccer, but will he implement that at MAPFRE Stadium? Black & Gold fans have seen plenty of teams come in here during the Berhalter era and look to counter, but Coyle has never traveled to Columbus. What do you expect from the flow of the game?
DT: Short answer: It's hard to say what to expect given our latest result against the Galaxy.
Long answer: Coyle prefers an attacking style and I would anticipate that. Last year, he was far more conservative as he adjusted to personnel and played 3 CDMs for stretches of the season. This year it's a lineup with 3-4 strikers in varying positions which has had positive and negative effects (as stated in question 2). The team could see minimal adjustments on the defensive end and that could yield positive results on both sides of the field. I would expect defensive adjustment over formation overhauls this early in the season which could mean plenty of high pressing and chances created from our talented forward line led by Will Bruin, Giles Barnes, Andrew Wenger, and Cristian Maidana. Of course, Coyle may decide to overhaul into a (more) defensive formation which could end up penning the Dynamo in their half. I think the Dynamo will be looking to rebound against a terrible loss and take points on the road so disciple defensively and aggressiveness will be key for our success.
To read Massive Report's answers to Dynamo Theory's questions, jump on over to their site.