HOUSTON – Coming out of last weekend's loss to Sporting Kansas City one question persists: Has the blueprint been created for beating the Houston Dynamo at home?
Sporting found success, in part, by committing 25 fouls – the high-water mark for any team in a single game this season – at BBVA Compass Stadium on their way to breaking up a 36-game unbeaten streak with a 1-0 result. As the Dynamo head into a match with their old foes the New England Revolution (Saturday, 7:30 pm CT, BUY TICKETS), the question is "should the Dynamo expect more of the same?"
“I think teams are going to pick up that we have a decent midfield and they’re going to try and find ways to stop us from playing our game,” Ricardo Clark told MLSsoccer.com. “Last week, Kansas City came out and tried to be really physical in midfield and obviously with a decent amount of fouls they blocked our play. We’ve just got to find a way to overcome that.”
The result vs. Sporting was not without irony. Houston have long been accused of purposely breaking up play with consistent fouling. Despite the perception, they are currently 12th in fouls committed league wide.
“I think it just happened in the run of play,” head coach Dominic Kinnear said. “I think when you can break away from teams, they’ll try and slow the game down. We’ve done it and been accused of doing it purposely and it wasn’t. It’s just how the game’s played.”
Houston struggled to open up their attack in that physical battle with SKC. In the 4-3-3 formation and without forward Giles Barnes to work with Will Bruin, they didn’t find a lot of opportunities until late in the game when they pushed numbers forward.
As New England have given up just nine goals this season, tied for second best in MLS, the Dynamo will happily welcome Barnes back from the hamstring injury that sidelined him. Adding him to the lineup will give them another weapon to try and open up the attack.
“[I] feel good to go,” Barnes told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s never good to have to stop playing for anything. It’s been eight, nine days now and I’ve been in training since Tuesday. It’s time to give it a go.”
After Friday’s training Kinnear didn’t tip his hand as to what he would do with Barnes availablity. He could stay with the 4-3-3 employed against SKC or move back to the 4-4-2 with Barnes and Bruin up top. If he opts for the latter, Kinnear will have to make some tough decisions as to who mans the midfield, where options are deep.
“That’s the job,” Kinnear said. “I’ve got to try and find the best four. There are a lot of combinations I could go with and we have some good players to choose from. It’s a good problem to have.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.