Here are Three Questions But Really Six:
We ask them..
The Blue Testament: Houston has shown a complete turnaround after finishing dead last in the West last season. Now they sit just behind SKC at the top of the table. What the heck happened?
Derek Stowers: The front office took the offseason seriously. Instead of a light shakeup, we saw sweeping changes starting with the head coach. The Dynamo brought in Wilmer Cabrera from our USL affiliate, Rio Grande Valley FC Toros, and they built a roster that would complement Cabrera’s preferred style of play. That meant shipping out players that had been mainstays such as Will Bruin and bringing in speedy wingers such as Romell Quioto and Alberth Elis that have taken on defenders and spread the field for the offense. The players have also bought in, especially Cubo Torres which has helped. The defense is a work in progress, but as long as we’re able to keep the pedal on the gas we can outscore just about anybody which has led to the success we’ve seen so far in the season.
TBT: Now that the Dynamo have the chance to do some damage in MLS, might they put the focus on Colorado this weekend instead of the Open Cup? What kind of a lineup are you expecting?
DS: That’s very difficult to say. In our win in the last round of Open Cup over North Carolina FC, we played mostly reserve players and even called some players up and signed them to temporary contracts so I think our emphasis is definitely on MLS over Open Cup. Seeing as the Dynamo have recently recalled several players from RGVFC, I would expect something similar. I wrote in our preview of the game that this would be the 5th game for the Dynamo in 3 weeks and that doesn’t include games played by international players so it becomes very difficult for managers to risk some guys to injuries in a congested schedule. I applaud clubs that can make it work, but I understand the reason behind resting players in this competition.
TBT: Zero losses at home - Zero wins on the road. Why do you think the Dynamo are so good at home? Do they change their style of play? Is it just the heat, or what?
DS: It’s definitely style of play and confidence. At home the team plays to its strengths which is relentless counter attacking soccer. In our 4-3-3 our forwards seldom get back to play defense because they’re ready to start a counter attack after we regain possession. The defenders and mids are ready to send a long pass that can turn a defensive stand on one end into a chance on goal on the other end of the field within seconds. When counter attacks fail or are delayed, the midfielders push up to help support the forwards. On the road, that support isn’t always there and the counter attacks are too slow because the team fears turning the ball over. When they play their brand, at home or on the road, they can compete with anyone, but when they sit back and over think their tactics it ends up biting them in the rear.
They ask us...
Dynamo Theory: In SKC’s last Open Cup match they fielded a team with plenty of first team players which helped them get the best of Minnesota United FC to the tune of 4-0. What is SKC’s approach to the Open Cup in regards to how it weighs it against league games (since both our squads will be playing again this weekend) and how will that translate to lineup decisions for Peter Vermes?
Cody Bradley: The club definitely values this tournament. With 16 teams remaining, you are only four wins away from a trophy and SKC fans demand silverware. However Vermes couldn't play his preferred XI, even if he wanted to. Besler, Zusi, and now Dom Dwyer are all with the USMNT. To make it worse Feilhaber picked up an ankle sprain last week and he's out for the foreseeable future. So we will definitely see some backups.
The spot I am the most interested in will be at CF for Dwyer. Soony Saad seems to be the likely choice as Diego Rubio is with the Swope Park Rangers. Soony hasn’t necessarily impressed in his short time on the pitch this year, but his last outing he scored a screamer of a goal (although the refs didn’t see it cross the line and Medranda got credit for the follow up). So he should be working with some confidence and I’m eager to see what he can do with the start.
DT: SKC has the best record in the Western Conference largely due to their league best defense. What has made them so difficult to breakdown and how could the Dynamo hope to find a hole in that stubborn back four?
CB: The main thing has been the chemistry between the four starters. They have all been together for years now - Besler & Sinovic go all the way back to youth soccer in KC. However, one half of the back line will be missing Wednesday so they will not be that same brick wall. But the heroics of Tim Melia behind them and the coolness of Ilie in front of them have shown this is a pretty solid defensive team no matter who plays on the back line. One worry, is that Sporting really do count on Tim Melia for at least one big moment every game. SKC like to control the ball the ball and get players up the pitch, that obviously leaves them exposed. And they've shown they aren't afraid to do this on the road either. On Saturday they went into the half with 63% possession in Carson City vs the Galaxy! So a speedy attack with guys like Cubo Torres & Alberth Elis will absolutely get chances on the counter. The big question is whether they can capitalize.
DT: While SKC has had an outstanding defense, their offense is currently tied for 4th worst in the West during regular season play. How will they hope to break down the Dynamo who are unbeaten at home this year during the regular season?
CB: That is a damn good question my friend. They'll be without their maestro in Feilhaber. They won't have Dwyer's threat of creating a goal out of nothing in the blink of an eye. The Captain is gone for crying out loud!
I think this is a big chance for Jimmy Medranda to really come into his own. I believe he is capable of being very good in this role, but we’ve only seen flashes of his potential this year. Gerso is probably going to be asked to create chances for himself and he has the ability to do so. Ilie Sanchez can also slice through a defense with one long ball from the back of the midfield. That is dangerous when combined with the insane speed of Latif Blessing, who is likely to start on the left wing again.
Sporting KC will look a little different, but they're still capable of winning this one.
The Blue Testament Lineup Prediction:
(4-3-3) Melia, Sinovic, Ellis, Opara, Abdul-Salaam, Sanchez, Espinoza, Medranda, Blessing, Saad, Gerso