This Saturday will be the second time that Houston visits BC Place this season. Round one ended with a Caps victory, and Carl Robinson will be hoping to lead his team to three points once again. Though battling a last place team that just lost their coach may seem like an easy win, history has shown that you can never underestimate teams that wear orange.
Derek Stowers from Dynamo Theory gave us some insight into what Houston's season has been like, and what to expect this weekend.
ESF: Houston coach Owen Coyle has suddenly departed from the club. Is Houston better or worse off now compared to when Coyle first joined?
DT: Well, there’s plenty to debate about whether or not Coyle should have left or how much better we will be immediately compared to the long run, but it’s really hard to get much worse than the worst in the conference (and 1 point away from league bottom). While Coyle had some novel ideas, the tactics never translated to results. His attack-minded style of play saw some early results at the expense of the defense and he tinkered away to mend those mistakes which often sunk the offense into a rut.
In the long-run I think we’re better off, but are we better now with 3 assistant coaches splitting managing duties against Vancouver? I’m tempted to say yes, but I don’t think that’s completely fair to Coyle. Although the team is winless on the road, they’ve been competitive in all of them except one. But, I do think the club will regain some form following Coyle’s departure.
ESF: Last time Vancouver played Houston, the Dynamo were shut out. Who should the Whitecaps defense be most concerned about in the Dynamo offense this time around?
DT: With Coyle out the door, predicting a starting XI will be difficult. Giles Barnes, who struggles on the road anyways, will be away with the Jamaican National Team so he won’t be available to pester the Vancouver back line. Will Bruin and Cubo Torres (should Cubo be ready to play following his trip with the Mexican U-23 team) are always dangers up top. Bruin is a proven scorer who is dangerous inside the 18 yard box and in the air. Cubo is also a poacher type but is better at hiding between defenders rather than holding them up physically like Bruin. Apart from that, Andrew Wenger should be looking to redeem himself following a few easy misses in our last game and Ricardo Clark, though a defensive midfielder, can crash the box and make teams pay for not clearing balls from danger.
ESF: Twelve matches in, Houston sits at the bottom of the Western Conference standings. Do you think this is more due to offensive or defensive shortcomings?
DT: Short answer: it’s both. Long answer: the two are never (or I should say rarely) on the same page. When the offense has a good game, it’s often at the defense’s expense as the offensive players aren’t coming back to support the defense which leads to high scoring games. This is something we saw early in the year. Defensive mistakes have been a theme, but as Coyle adjusted to provide more cover defensively following our early high scoring games we saw fewer defensive mistakes, though they still were there, but at the cost of support for the offense.
The team needs balance in order to compete regularly which means defense supporting offense carefully and the offense retreating to cover and help eliminate mistakes. A big part of that is not turning the ball over in dangerous areas and simply maintaining possession for extending stretches. The team is talented enough to do it, but will they have the direction moving forward? I hope so.