It’s a rare occurrence when the Houston Dynamo veer away from their tried and trusted 4-4-2 formation, which has become a staple of the squad under Dominic Kinnear. This year, that rare occurrence has come on both occasions that the Dynamo have faced Sporting Kansas City and its vaunted 4-3-3, which has caused matchup issues for Kinnear’s men.
“They have the best 4-3-3 in the league,” Dynamo left back Corey Ashe said. “Just like us, their players understand each other. They have a good understanding and work rate. They’re a very good team.”
Added midfielder Adam Moffat, “Their system works well, and it suits the personnel they have. I think the biggest thing is the forward line of theirs; it causes lot of problems.”
In the first match on July 16, Kinnear fielded a 4-3-3, with Brian Ching at the center of a forward line that included wide men Colin Clark and Danny Cruz. Houston led 1-0 at halftime but ended up down two players due to red cards and finishing in a 1-1 tie.
Although they started the match with two forwards on Sept. 10 in Kansas City, the Dynamo had to remove Ching at halftime due to injury and kicked off the second half with a lone striker, Carlo Costly, who was promptly ejected 15 minutes after the break. Houston went home smarting from a thorough 3-0 beating.
“Obviously, the last game wasn’t our best one, giving up goals like that,” said Houston right back Andre Hainault, who played center back in that match. “We’ve sort of tried to adapt to them, because they play with the three up top. So It hasn’t been good in past, and we’ve tried to adapt to them. We’ll figure it out this time.”
Does figuring it out mean the Dynamo perhaps sticking with their 4-4-2 formation that has operated to near perfection in their recent 6-0-2 run, including a sweep of the home-and-home series against Philadelphia in the playoffs?
“I don’t think we need to adapt to it,” Moffat said. “There may be minor things, but I don’t think we need to change our complete formation or personnel. It’s a one-off. We’ve been playing well in the system we’ve been using.”
Said Hainault, “That’s going to be Dom’s decision. The team’s doing well now. The back line seems good. We’re getting used to Geoff [Cameron] in the back, and it’s been good since he’s moved back there. So we’re feeling good, and we know their attack is going to be strong. It’s going to be a good match.”
Kinnear, as usual, played down the importance given to lineups and formations, but he left open the possibility of changing formations by the time the game rolls around.
“It’s all about players anyway,” Kinnear said. “[Sporting] can play a 4-3-3 or a 4-4-2. If they’re playing well, that’s the biggest problem. For us, we need to go out and play. We have to start the game well. We’ve had a good little run here, and the guys are feeling confident, and we’ve also gone from the 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3 and 3-5-2 [during the season], so guys can do it on the fly and they feel comfortable with it.”
Said goalkeeper Tally Hall, “Dom’s done a great job of making sure we’re matched up. And whatever the formation, it’s about coming on the field, doing our job, and being men and getting the job done.”