For the first time in what feels like ages, the Houston Dynamo have a chance to bring home El Capitan, the 19th century replica cannon that is the symbol of might between them and arch-rival FC Dallas. The overall series is tied with 5 apiece and the Dynamo haven’t won the series since 2012. In fact when the Dynamo lost the cannon in 2013, FC Dallas dragged it up I-45 nearly the next day.
After an epic beatdown of epic proportions, the Dynamo are in the drivers seat to regain their winning ways against a team that has dominated them for three years. With a victory, the team would win the series and members of the supporter groups have already stated their intent to reclaim the cannon ASAP. Just in time for the home match against DC United on the 18th. If the Dynamo only manage a point, it would still put them in pole position as the Hoops would not only have to defeat the Dynamo but overturn the massive goal differential.
Enough about all that; let’s focus on this game specifically. This is the last game for both sides before the Copa America break. After a rough April, Dallas lost only one game in May and is undefeated in their last 4 games, picking up 10 points. Their previous match was a ho-hum scoreless draw in San Jose.
For this game, Dallas is missing several key players for international absences and injuries: Tesho Akindele (Canada), Atiba Harris (St Kitts and Nevis) and Carlos Gruezo (Ecuador), Michael Barrios (injury). Fortunately for head coach Oscar Pareja, he has plenty of depth to work with. Goals won’t be too hard to come by as Fabian Castillo and Max Urruti are all proven goalscorers. Mauro Diaz is still more than capable of serving up passes on a platter for wingers to cut inside and get on the end of. Defense isn’t an issue as the Dynamo haven’t shown themselves capable of threatening the goal much on the road this season. Granted the team is under a new coach so it’s hard to exactly predict what they’ll do but the Hoops have shown themselves to be incredibly dangerous at home.
In fact, FC Dallas hasn’t lost a home game since August 15, 2015 when the LA Galaxy defeated them 2 – 1. Since then they’ve gone 10-0-4. It’s a long, long way off from the Dynamo’s league record of 36 games, but it’s a healthy, strong run.
Under not-interim-but-not-official head coach Wade Barrett, the Dynamo earned their first point on the road in Vancouver last weekend and will be looking to build upon that. While they too aren’t at full strength, missing Giles Barnes (Jamaica) and Alex (suspension), the team does have Erick Torres back from his recent stint in France with the Mexican U-23s. With Mauro Manotas in top form, Barrett will have to think long and hard about how to use his strikers. Will Bruin hasn’t been effective of late and Torres has started to show glimpses of his talent but has yet to record a goal. With the quick turnaround from last week, it’s likely he’ll go with a similar formation and style that he employed in Vancouver: very defensive and hit the opponent on the counter.
It’s a dangerous gamble against a Dallas team with not only the physical speed to punish teams but speed of play that can slice open the toughest defense.
The person most likely to lineup alongside Ricardo Clark is Collen Warner. In the limited game time he has been given, Warner has shown himself to be a capable, physical, defensive midfielder. With the pair the team should have enough to shield the back line up the middle, especially if Oscar Garcia is given the nod at attacking midfielder. The Honduran International is great at tracking back and helping out defensively. Cristian Maidana is a luxury player in every sense of the word.
Hopefully the team can escape this one without too much of a bruising. The Copa America break will come at the perfect time for the team: it gives Wade a chance to sit down and assess this team, come up with a system he can use to win the top job, and allow the players a chance to practice it (including an Open Cup match) before returning to league play in a couple weeks. Before then, they need to get a result in Frisco. A draw would be fantastic but the most likely scenario is a low scoring loss, 1 – 0. While it doesn’t help their place in the standings, it does keep them in prime position to win the series.
Before the game, the Houston Dash will face off in a friendly against FC Dallas’ newly launched WPSL team.
Of course all of this is contingent on the weather holding. Flooding and thunderstorms have been as much of a problem up there as down here and the forecast has even odds on whether the game will go forth due to said storms.
For those who make the trip up there, in honor of our dearly department Leo Ponce and on behalf of the Dynamo, be sure to give FC Dallas a big high five: