Continuing a series at HoustonDynamo.com, we preview Sunday's game at Philadelphia with Dynamo broadcaster Glenn Davis (Twitter: @GlennDavisSoc). The former professional player calls Dynamo game on ROOT SPORTS and hosts two radio shows – Dynamo All-Access (7-9 p.m. on Wednesday’s on KGOW 1560 AM) and Soccer Matters (Tuesday’s 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. Sunday's match kicks off at 6 p.m. CT and will be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1 and Fox Deportes.
Matt Pedersen: The Dynamo and Real Salt Lake were both coming off a two-week break in Saturday’s meeting at BBVA Compass Stadium, but the visitors seized the initiative, scoring late in the first half on their way to a 3-1 win, Houston’s first home loss since May 5. What did you think of the Dynamo performance on the night, against a desperate Real Salt Lake team?
Glenn Davis: I thought that Real Salt Lake seemed the more urgent of the two teams in the first half, more up for the night and by getting the game’s first goal made the Dynamo chase the evening. Overall, it was a tough night for the Dynamo, who are still stuck with the "lack of consistency" label at this point. This does not surprise me in a year where such change has occurred. The good news is that the team is only 6 points out of the playoffs, but matches relative to points and time is running out. I believe the Dynamo are looking to be a club in the future that secures a playoff spot based on better results during the regular season to avoid the late season stress. All in time.
MP: The Dynamo have primarily used a 4-5-1 formation this season, with five midfielders. The last two games, Erick Torres has partnered up front with Will Bruin in a 4-4-2. Clearly Owen Coyle has wanted to get Torres on the field with Bruin, Giles Barnes, Brad Davis and Ricardo Clark. What differences have you seen in the Dynamo in the two formations?
GD: It is a tough year to be Owen Coyle when trying to implement a new system and purpose of play.
It has been slowed and challenged by injury and call up to primary players. Cubo Torres has not had the entry he would want in Houston, so this has made his integration difficult. Lineup changes have occurred game after game based on availability, injury, etc. and that makes it difficult. The great question in MLS is do you define your primary system first, and then plug players in? This is the tough one for managers. In the end, I am sure most managers will speak to tactical flexibility.
MP: The Philadelphia Union are having a difficult season, but they went on the road two weeks ago and won in San Jose, and will host the U.S. Open Cup final for the second straight year, against Sporting Kansas City on Sept. 30. Their creative playmaker is Argentinian Cristian Maidana, who is tied for the league lead with 14 assists and is among the league leaders in chances created. What qualities does Maidana bring to the field, and what other challenges will the Union pose?
GD: Maidana is a playmaker and the Dynamo ran into one with RSL in Javier Morales, who was influential.
Learning from how they dealt with Morales coming into this game is essential. The collective defending of "skill" players is always a challenge of concentration, passing players on and team shape. It can also being accomplished by having good ball possession on the road to manage the game better. Deny the ball, limiting times and areas where these "danger men" get on the ball is easy to say and harder to do. It’s easy from the outside, but I think Morales got too much of the ball in good areas of the field. He was the straw that stirred the drink. The unpredictable nature of the Union and MLS is what always must be respected, as everyone knows in MLS. Names like C.J. Sapong, Conor Casey , Sebastien Le Toux can make plays, and one knows players are playing for futures, livelihood and contracts.
MP: Dynamo defender Sheanon Williams spent nearly six seasons in Philadelphia before he was traded to the Dynamo in July. What emotions do you think he will experience on Sunday, playing in his former home stadium against old friends and fans?
GD: I think it will be a great moment for Sheanon Williams going back to Philadelphia. Players always want to have a great, winning night against their former teams.
MP Dynamo head coach Owen Coyle used the words “fragile” and “soft” when describing his team’s defensive effort in his postgame remarks after the Real Salt Lake game. What is the best way the players can respond on the field on Sunday in Philadelphia?
GD: Respond, as you have said. Take stock in your individual performance, get back to the basics and bring a hunger to produce. If that can't be manufactured from a player at this point of the season the manager will notice. I expect the Dynamo will respond well in Philadelphia and am looking forward to the match! The Dynamo are making moves in many ways to make this a harder team to play against when it comes to backbone. They have shown it, but can they show it consistently? Bring that "edge".