Wednesday night will be one of opportunity for all involved in the BBVA Compass Dynamo Charities Cup. For the host Houston Dynamo it’s a barometer for their club’s players. For visiting Stoke City and their faithful, it’s the first time the club will play a public match under new boss Mark Hughes.
With his tenure at the club still in its infancy, Hughes has a specific wish list for what his club will look like against the MLS club. The skill at the top of that list is as much as about what they won’t be as much as it is about what he hopes his team will to become.
“I think we’ll be a bit more expansive than last year or at Stoke in previous seasons,” Hughes said in a press conference Tuesday. “I think we’re at a point in time where we can push on and maybe play more attacking football than has been able to be done in the past. We’ve been working on a few things, like retention of the football. We’re going to look at how we can improve the retention of the ball and I’ll be looking for signs that that’s about to happen [Wednesday night].”
Hughes is taking over for Tony Pulis, a manager that had success with keeping Stoke in the middle of the English Premier League table. His style, however, left the creative amongst the Stoke faithful with an empty feeling.
Enter Hughes. The Welsh manager has seen success in the EPL before with Fulham and had a stint with Manchester City.
Job one for Hughes will be to freshen up Stoke’s brutish reputation.
“That’s possibly one of the reasons the change was made and my philosophy on football was brought in,” Hughes said. “If you look at the clubs I’ve been at as a player and manager they’ve been clubs that have played football based on good attacking play. That’s what I’ve built my own personal philosophy on and that’s what I’ve always tried to build my teams on.”
While Hughes is looking to continue integrating with his team, the Dynamo will be looking at a midseason gauge at where their players stand against top competition.
“It’s going to be a good test and is a chance to get a few guys a game,” midfielder Andrew Driver said. “As a professional footballer you want to play at the top level. It’s a chance for some guys to impress and they’ll be surprised that there’s not a massive difference in football at all levels.”
It’s the type of game and test that Hughes believes will continue to become more frequent.
“I think MLS is viewed very much as a league that’s growing and getting stronger year after year,” Hughes said. “I think you’ll see more teams come over and test themselves in the USA because they’re the required standard now.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.