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Dynamo coach Wilmer Cabrera's tactical shift pays off with shutout win

Wilmer Cabrera was pleased with the Houston Dynamo's home win on Saturday, especially because it came with the club's first shutout of the season.

The Dynamo posted a 2-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas, and the triumph in the Western Conference affair gave Cabrera's side its first clean sheet in seven matches. Much has been said about Houston's attack this year, but the revamped defense took a share of the spotlight, at least momentarily, by holding the Earthquakes largely in check.

"It’s a big deal,” the Dynamo head coach said about Saturday’s shutout. “It is important and not for me, but for the players. That’s what was most important for us to work on. We needed that. They needed that for themselves.”

After seeing his team give up two second-half goals to settle for a home draw last week vs. Minnesota United, Cabrera made a tactical change on Saturday. He had the Dynamo play in a 4-4-2 formation, which was different from the 4-3-3 setup that they had used to start the year.

Houston executed Cabrera's gameplan exactly as he had hoped, as the switch was made with the intention of giving the back four more protection and balance on the field. The shift meant the Dynamo lost a forward, but added a midfielder. It worked out well for them, especially since versatile veteran Eric Alexander turned in a solid performance on both sides of the ball from the left side of the midfield.

“Eric worked really well with DaMarcus Beasley on the left,” Cabrera said. “Both of them closed down that left channel [against San Jose’s] forward and midfielder, which they like to use to open the game up.”

Alexander, who started five of the previous six games as the middleman, did well in the position out wide. He was tidy with his passes, completing 30 of them, and also nabbed an assist on the Dynamo's insurance goal in the 72nd minute.

“I just had to move the ball and get it to the guys up front who are going to do the damage behind [San Jose's] back line,” said Alexander.

The 29-year-old Alexander added that playing with Beasley on the left made his job easier, noting how much ground Beasley covers and the type of passes he gives.

With Alexander moving out wide, Cabrera inserted Juan David Cabezas to play the central role in the midfield. The Colombian repaid the faith his manager put in him with a strong shift, and nearly added a third goal for the Dynamo but was denied by the crossbar late in the match.

“Obviously you have more protection on the defensive side,” Cabezas said on how the change in formation helped the team. “It helped in recovering the ball faster and when we go to attack we had two or three options to generate plays.”

Overall, Cabrera wanted his team to be solid and balanced on both sides of the ball. On Saturday, the Dynamo did just that.