Introducing a new series at HoustonDynamo.com, we preview the upcoming game at Portland with Dynamo broadcaster Glenn Davis. The former professional player calls Dynamo games on ROOT SPORTS and hosts two radio shows – Dynamo All-Access (Wednesday’s from 7-9 p.m. on KGOW 1560 AM) and Soccer Matters (Tuesday’s from 7-9 p.m. on KFNC 97.5 FM) – and also calls games for Fox Sports, ESPN, the Longhorn Network and more. Click here for podcasts of interviews from both shows and visit Davis' Soccer Matters Facebook page for daily soccer content. Friday's match against the Timbers will kick off at 10 p.m. CT and will be broadcast live on UniMas.
Matt Pedersen: The Dynamo are facing a critical road test in Portland, the middle game of three straight on the road. They trail Seattle by five points for the final playoff spot in the West with ten games remaining. Is this the most important game of the season, so far?
Glenn Davis: Your next game is always the most important and things tend to get put more under the spotlight at this phase of the season, especially if you are outside the safety of the playoff zone. So yes, at the moment this is the biggest match of the year because the Dynamo need points out of these next two road games. I also believe Seattle, whom the Dynamo are chasing, have been bolstered by high profile signings (including Roman Torres, Nelson Valdez and Andreas Ivanschitz) and the return of Obafemi Martins.
MP: Portland has allowed just seven goals in 12 home games this season, second-fewest in MLS. Timbers goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey leads the league with 11 shutouts as the Timbers seem to have prioritized defensive organization this year, and have had a lot of continuity in defense with Nat Borchers, Liam Ridgewell, Alvas Powell and Jorge Villafana playing most of the season together. What has made Portland a strong defensive team this year?
GD: Consistency of a back four, team shape, workmanlike midfield, and commitment to doing the work without the ball all lead to the Timbers being a strong defensive team at home. I do believe in some cases defending "could" become a little easier on the artificial surface due to the combative nature of games. Some might say otherwise.
MP: Portland has a front six that has been together for a while, highlighted by Diego Valeri, Will Johnson, Darlington Nagbe, Rodney Wallace, Fanendo Adi and Maxi Urruti. What is important for the Dynamo to slow the Timbers attack on Saturday?
GD: You manage talented opponents and a game by having a great night of "road possession" and a great night of fully alert concentration. Things happen quickly on the artificial surface in Portland. The Dynamo managed the first half with New England with solid possession, but the second half you could see the difference when they struggled to get on the ball. Owen Coyle has preached ball retention and possession as a way to manage games.
MP: Dynamo head coach Owen Coyle has continued to preach a long-term approach to this season and a big picture outlook with the club. Now, his depth has improved with the additions of Erick Torres, Rasheed Olabiyi and Mauro Manotas and the return of Giles Barnes and Boniek Garcia. What do you think of the lineup possibilities that Coyle now has at his disposal as well as the depth on the bench to change a game in the second half? Moreover, could we see some lineup alterations with another road game looming next Wednesday at Colorado?
GD: The Dynamo, for me, have always been in a "re-build" this year and I know fans will not like me saying that. Patience and putting a team together have to go hand in hand with all the changes on and off the field. It will be very interesting to see what Owen Coyle does with the lineup at Portland and the quick turn around against Colorado. First and foremost is the Portland match, but Owen Coyle is a wise manager and will have one eye on the Rapids and has to make these huge decisions based on players injured, fatigued from international duty and on and on.
MP: The Dynamo were rolling heading to New England, with a 3-1-2 mark in six games. After the loss at New England, what would you like to see from the Dynamo to bounce back and gain a result in the Rose City?
GD: Who will wrap their arms around taking control of this team on the road? The "difference makers”, the "playmakers", like Giles Barnes, Brad Davis, Erick Torres and Boniek Garcia have to step up to make plays and be the difference in a match. This is what Owen Coyle mentioned to me is the "business end" of the season.
MP: The Dynamo are facing a crucial three-game road trip, but are generally having better success on the road this season. What have you seen from the Dynamo that has led to improved road performance?
GD: The Dynamo have been "in" so many road games this year and are unlucky not to have earned more points. Better road possession, I think, has been a big part of it, although that was missing in the second half at New England. Confidence, self believe, cavalier spirit , desire and great "tactical" nights help to lead to success on the road.
MP: Bonus question – Define the importance for Houston and all of South Texas to host Argentina and its A+ roster at BBVA Compass Stadium on Sept. 4 (TICKETS).
GD: It is so exciting that Argentina will be coming to Houston. Imagine seeing them in the intimacy of BBVA Compass Stadium? Tata Martino's roster is star-studded, with talents from out of this world like Lionel Messi, Angel Di Maria, Sergio Romero, Carlos "Apache" Tevez, Sergio Aguero and more. This is an amazing moment for Houston, an amazing opportunity to see Argentina in a small stadium. It is truly a rare opportunity and a reflection of the continued growth over many years of Houston as a diverse soccer city with fans from all over the world!!