I got the chance to chat this week with Dustyn Richardson over at our sister site Dynamo Theory (SBNation’s Houston Dynamo site). We exchanged a few questions to get the opinions of the people who know the teams best about Saturday’s Sporting Kansas City vs Houston Dynamo matchup and the clubs more generally... well maybe they got short-changed with me answering questions, but I am sure we got some good answers from them.
We Asked Them
Q: Around the Kansas City crowd, there was some surprise that Paulo Nagamura went straight from coaching a development team with a losing record to an MLS head coach. What’s the feeling around Nagamura as coach in the Houston fanbase?
A: When Nagamura got hired there was some head-scratching from Dynamo fans. People saw his record at SKC II and were confused at why someone with that record in a lower division would get an MLS job. Then, people started realizing that SKC II was a developmental tool for Sporting, and a good one at that, and that Nagamura came from the coaching tree of Peter Vermes. Now that fans have stepped back and realized the project at hand here in Houston, rebuilding a team and strengthening the youth setup, I think a lot more people are on board with Paulo’s hiring.
Q: What Dynamo players do you feel like could be the difference makers against SKC on Saturday?
A: Sebastian Ferreira is the club-record signing from this offseason and the striker was very quiet on Sunday in the draw with Real Salt Lake. Ferreira didn’t get any touches in the RSL box, so Houston is definitely going to need to get him involved and get him service on Saturday against Sporting.
Darwin Quintero may get more minutes, or even a start, to help get the offense and Ferreira going. Defensively, Steve Clark will likely be called on to make a few saves and the Dynamo will need him to do so to stay in this game. Clark came over to Houston this offseason as a free agent to give the Dynamo their first solid goalkeeper in some time.
Q: Teams often take a bit of time to get into mid-season form. Do the Dynamo feel like they are there or still warming up?
A: The Dynamo had some solid showings in preseason and also got demolished by Austin FC. I think they are definitely still getting their feet under them and learning Nagamura’s system, and Paulo has even said as much. The big news in Houston this week has been the announcement of Mexican international Hector Herrera signing and joining the Dynamo this summer. If the Dynamo can stay steady early in the season, picking up a decent amount of points and staying around the middle of the pack, I think that will be huge for them knowing that Herrera and perhaps more signings will be on the way come June and July.
They Asked Us
Q. New Dynamo head coach Paolo Nagamura was the head coach at SKC II last season and also played for the club. What was the feeling amongst fans when he left to take the Houston job and what is it like now that he is coming back to town coaching a rival?
A. I think while the SKC community liked Nagamura, we were all very happy for him to get a head coach job. To be honest, I felt a little relief [because] while he has developed some great players for us he had a really bad record and I was worried that the players being developed would not have that “winning mentality.” This is why it still seems pretty shocking that he went directly from a development team coach with a pretty bad record to a head coach. In any case, I think fans love a good rivalry, and if Paolo joining Houston stokes that again then I am here for it.
Q. With Alan Pulido out injured it seems the big question with SKC is where the goals will come from. After struggling in the opener in Atlanta, where do you think this team is going to find its offense in 2022?
A. Pulido being out definitely hurts, although he was routinely out last year with injuries or national team duty. Last year we made up for that by both our starting wingers, Daniel Salloi & Johnny Russell, having simply superb years. Together those two bagged a stunning 47 goals + assists in 2021. So far it seems like Salloi is on pace to do it again getting a goal in all but one of the pre-season games and in the opener last week. Russell is consistent as well so I expect to see him on the scoreboard a lot this year again. Lastly, new signings Nikola Vujnovic and Marinos Tzionis both seem like they could be real contributors.
Q. This Dynamo team is very different from the teams that battled for SKC over conference supremacy years ago. From an outside perspective, what do you make of the current Dynamo and what they are beginning to attempt to build?
A. I think it’s fair to say there have been some questions about the Dynamo ever since Dominic Kinnear left back in 2014 (not that it ever stopped Alberth Elis from dominating SKC). But I at least thought that Tab Ramos would right the ship. Obviously, that did not happen so I am honestly not sure what to make of the Dynamo at this point. The Hector Herrera [Arriving in June] signing might be one of those signings that you can build a team around so it would not surprise me to see the Dynamo make a late-season run.