Didn't we just play the Houston Dynamo?
Why, yes we did. Just a little over ten days ago. But here we are again, only this time Sporting Kansas City is headed down to the recently opened BBVA Compass Stadium. That game starts at 7:30 CDT tonight.
The last match between the two clubs ended in a 0-0 draw at Livestrong Sporting Park, as the defenses for both teams were outstanding.
I had a chance to talk to Martek from Dynamo Theory to give us a little more information on Houston. We had a chance to talk about Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear's implementation of a 4-3-3 formation, as well as just what in the hell is going on with the Geoff Cameron to Stoke City talk.
As always, a big thank you to Martek for his time.
1. The internet has been abuzz recently about a possible Geoff Cameron transfer to Stoke City. First, it was a done deal, then it was off, then it was back on again. What have you heard over the past couple of days about Cameron's status, and what are your personal feelings on Cameron possibly moving to the Premier League? Who will Houston look to to try and compensate for the loss of Geoff?
First off, according to the Houston Chronicle's Jose de Jesus Ortiz, the deal is almost done as of today (Tuesday). As I write this, Cameron is now negotiating directly with Stoke on terms of the deal, meaning MLS and Dynamo have already signed off. So this past Sunday was more than likely Cameron's last game in Orange (and natch, it was the first home game I had to miss all year :<).
My personal feeling is that I could not be happier for Geoff. Here was a guy who was the 42nd overall pick in the 2008 SuperDraft out of the University of Rhode Island. Almost completely unheralded, he has done nothing but shine since arriving here. Dominic Kinnear is well known as a good drafter, getting players such as Danny Cruz and Stuart Holden with low picks. Well, this Cameron one is right up there.
To wit, in that same draft your boys grabbed Chance Myers with the No. 1 overall selection. Look at this list here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_MLS_SuperDraft) for the complete draft order. Among others drafted high were: Brek Shea, Sean Franklin and, in addition to Myers, 38 others who I think it's fair to say are quite envious of where Cameron is now.
That being said, Dynamo are well-positioned depth-wise such that the blow of losing him is obviated. The back four of Andre Hainault (Canadian international), Bobby Boswell, Jermaine Taylor (Jamaican international and the best defender on the team so far this season) and Corey Ashe is pretty well set, with backup strength coming from journeyman squad player Nate Sturgis, US U-23 player Kofi Sarkodie ( who is almost recovered from a lingering foot injury) and draft pick Warren Creavalle.
At defensive midfielder, which is where Cameron played in his final games in Orange, Adam Moffat is the established starter. However, it was just announced that Ricardo Clark was been cut free by Eintracht Frankfurt. He is 29 and Dynamo own his MLS rights. The speculation is that he will return to the US. If he is anywhere near his form when he left, where he was the DMid starter for two MLS Cup champions (though he missed both finals with suspensions) and another team that made it to the Western finals, Dynamo will hardly miss a beat. Don't get me wrong, Cameron is a quality, quality player, and anyone would miss him, but he has been playing in what is arguably Dynamo's deepest position.
2. This past Sunday we saw what may have been the Dynamo's best performance all season long (4-0 win over DC United). It was a bit of a departure compared to the past couple of matches for Houston, where they were held scoreless in games against Chicago and Sporting. DC are one of the best teams in MLS this season, yet Houston was able to dismantle them rather easily. What do you think was different about Houston offensively in that DC match, compared to the previous two matches? How has the team dealt with the 4-3-3 formation Kinnear has implemented recently?
The danger for me in breaking down that game is not to get too over the moon about the result and the overall performance. It is true that for the first 16 minutes, the game was quite even, with the run of play actually tilting toward DCU. As a matter of fact, Chris Pontius was peppering the goal and Dynamo were lucky not to be down a goal.
And then came the 17th minute. Bill Hamid is a fine keeper, but they come smarter, and his ridiculous take-down of Macoumba Kandji in the box bought him an early shower and handed the Dynamo a quick 1-0 lead. After that, DCU played tight for awhile, but Dynamo did something they have rarely done this season. They put their foot down on the accelerator and never let up. It was impressive. The team as a whole smelled blood and attacked in waves, something we had not yet seen. By the middle of the second half, when the third goal went in, DCU stopped running and it was all over but the shouting, and the Brian Ching penalty, earned after another brain-dead Danny Cruz tackle of Calen Carr in the box.
As for the 4-3-3, it's there, but hardly is it a doctrinaire 4-3-3. I see less of the 4-3-3 in the formation than I do a very fluid 4-4-2, or rather a 4-1-3-2. Our new Designated Player Boniek Garcia has been a revelation. He is very much a box-to-box midfielder on the right side with the most technical skill of any Dynaman since De Rosario was here. He was eating Pontius' lunch all night Sunday. He rarely gets the ball without beating one or two guys, and he tracks back impressively. What a work rate! Also, his movement off the ball is something to see. He is tactically aware, blessed with skill and speed and knows what he wants to do with the ball before he receives it. Paired with Hainault on the right, he more than makes up for the Canadian's relative lack of wheels. And he also balances the attack right and left, taking pressure off Brad Davis and Ashe over on the left. In the meantime, Luiz Camargo/Je-Vaughn Watson and Moffat are both strong in the middle, leaving Kandji/Ching and Bruin to move about up top. That being said, Dynano bog down at times in the middle, and using some of that Cameron transfer scratch on a central attacking midfielder or forward is, I think, be No. 1 on team president Chris Canetti's to-do list. That's the area of greatest need, even after losing Cameron.
The DCU game was only one game, but if that is what we can expect from this team down the stretch, especially after re-signing a motivated Ricardo Clark, Dynamo suddenly have gotten a lot more dangerous.
3. What have your thoughts been thus far on Boniek Garcia? He nearly won the last match up with Sporting if not for a very good save from Kansas City goalkeeper, Jimmy Nielsen. Halfway through the season, who do you feel has been the team's most valuable player?
Well, I seem to have responded to the Boniek Garcia question in my previous answer, so I'll leave that there. Except, I would say that it was pointed out that his headed goal against DCU was the first headed goal he has ever scored in his pro career. It was reminiscent of the snap header to win MLS Cup 2007 from De Ro, another guy who rarely scores with his head. Boniek is not an out and out goal scorer, but boy does he create.
I honestly believe the team's MVP at this point of the season should be split between Will Bruin and Jermaine Taylor. Bruin, in his sophomore season, has been a starter from Day 1. He scored five goals last year and already has 10 this season. The team record is Brian Ching's 13 in 2008. For a team that has a lack of quality at the forward position, the Dancing Bear has been Mr. Reliable. Personally, I think too much has been made of Bruin's difficulty adjusting to the 4-3-3 (or whatever they're playing), as he has had his chances since Boniek Garcia arrived. He was just blistering in the two weeks before and cooled some, hence what I consider to be a mistaken conclusion. They come faster, but Bruin's work rate is top notch. He is sneaky quick in there and defenders lose track of him at their peril.
As for Jermaine Taylor, he has been an absolute beast from the back. If I had to choose between Bruin and Taylor for the team MVP so far, I'd give it to Bruin because he has started from the get-go, while Taylor didn't come on strong until May. Taylor is the captain of the Jamaican national team, a natural center back and absolute nails. One area in which he has improved from last year, and what has charged up his play, is his ability to stay with speedy attackers, and then recover if they get by him, winning the ball back. Landon Donovan's speed ate him up at MLS Cup, but I think it's illustrative to note that the lone goal in that match came when Donovan switched to the other side (and Cameron was playing injured). Taylor was easily Dynamo's Man of the Match at Livestrong July 7th and without him we do not walk out of there with that point. Simple. As. That.