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Leaderless: Houston Dynamo at Vancouver Whitecaps

Alex and Rico Clark will have their hands full in the midfield. Credit: Ray Escamilla

Alex and Rico Clark will have their hands full in the midfield. Credit: Ray Escamilla

Just two days after the Houston Dynamo parted ways with Owen Coyle, the team is in Vancouver to take on the Whitecaps, desperate to pick up points on the road. The Dynamo will be without a clear leader as the team’s press release stated that Wade Barrett, Paul Caffrey and Paul Rogers would manage Saturday’s game collectively. Given his seniority with the team, one has to assume that Barrett will ultimately be the one making the decisions.

With that in mind, it is difficult to predict what the trio have in store for fans and their opponent. There are a few limiting factors on the team, such as listed injuries to DaMarcus Beasley and Raul Rodriguez. Erick Torres should be back with the team after the Mexican U-23s crashed out of the Toulon Tournament in France in the group stage. Unfortunately for Mexican and Dynamo fans, he didn’t score a goal there. He did start in games against Bulgaria and the Czech Republic. We will have to wait and see if he is up to start this match or if they rest him.

For Vancouver, they will be without Japanese International Masato Kudo, a striker, after a horrific collision with Chicago Fire goalkeeper Matt Lampson a couple weeks ago. Christian Dean and Debyi Flores are also out for the ‘Caps. International absences have also hit them in key areas as center back Kendall Waston, midfielder Christian Bolaños, and striker Blas Pérez are all away with their respective national teams to prepare for Copa America.

Even with so many pieces missing, they should be extremely dangerous as the team is on a roll this month. Excepting a 4-2 loss last week to rival Portland Timbers, the ‘Caps have picked up maximum points in all their other matches in May. This has vaulted them up to 4th in the Western Conference (and league). The architects behind their success are midfielders Pedro Morales Morales and Kekuta Manneh. The pair have combined for five goals and four assists this month and show little sign of slowing down.

Just a side note, but Manneh is now eligible for US Citizenship and once his paperwork is in order he can be called up for the National Team. That is great news for the team. Assuming no problems with said papers, he should be ready to go for World Cup Qualifiers later this year.

Back to the game.

If Houston is to have any shot of getting anything out of this game, they’ll have to perform similarly to their 1 – 0 loss earlier this season in Vancouver. In that game they held the ball well and had plenty of chances to score but couldn’t find the back of the net. A penalty kick doomed them in that match and they will need to remain disciplined to make sure a repeat isn’t in store.

In particular, it’s a perfect time for striker Will Bruin to put the ball in the back of the net. He has yet to score for the team since a brace in New Jersey at the beginning of the season. With this and a road game in Dallas before the Copa America break, helping the team get road points would do wonders to alleviate fans’ worries.

Team captain Giles Barnes, will be missing as well, adding to the potential leadership issues. If Beasley is healthy, he’ll wear the armband. If not, we’ll see a new captain.

It seems likely that the team will go with a similar playing style to the one they have been using as everyone waits for management to appoint an interim coach. Once someone is given the reigns, formations and styles of play can begin to change.

How will the team keep Manneh and Morales quiet? The job of keeping Morales contained will fall to the duo of Alex and Ricardo Clark. Forcing the Chilean to pass wide or back will be key. Closing down lanes and marking him tight will do wonders for the backline as they keep Manneh in their sights.

The 21 year old, raised in Texas, has lightning quick speed and reflexes and can’t be allowed to toe the line between players. If given a half-step to work with, he can absolutely go on a run and end up one-v-one with the goalkeeper. That will fall on the right back, whether it be Sheanon Williams or Jalil Anibaba. This could limit their effectiveness going forward to help the offense needed width.

As a new era begins for the Dynamo, fans can only hope that things will start to turn around. After this the team will travel to Frisco looking to bring back El Capitan to BBVA Compass Stadium. Once these games are done there is a two week break for Copa America. Assuming no one is given the interim tag before then, that gives Matt Jordan and Chris Cannetti a little bit more time to figure things out before the league picks up later in June. For this match though, I’m predicting a 2-1 loss.

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