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Know Your Enemy: Houston Dynamo – Meeting the First, Part Two – Game Film Review and Points of Interest

The second part of this installment of the Know Your Enemy series, previewing TFC's upcoming opponent, the Houston Dynamo, reviewing the game film for strengths and weaknesses

Will Bruin and Giles Barnes, Houston's striker tandem has been reunited at last - and it feels so good
Will Bruin and Giles Barnes, Houston's striker tandem has been reunited at last - and it feels so good
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Part One was posted yesterday, previewing their lineup and form

The Tactics

When analyzing Houston’s attack, the first stop must always be set-pieces – a club with Brad Davis delivering and more than its fair share of sizeable targets will always pose a threat from dead-balls.

They may not have occurred this year with the regularity of seasons past, but Toronto must take extreme caution from free-kicks and corners, lest what happened when Perry Kitchen was unmarked for DC last weekend, occur again – he scored the winner from a corner kick (in case readers have forgotten).

Mark Sherrod, who nodded in the above header against Salt Lake, is unavailable, but the Dynamo still have plenty of targets in Will Bruin, Giles Barnes, Ricardo Clark, not to mention their towering defenders.

Related to that threat, is their potency from wide area crosses whipped into the area. A majority of their goals this season have come from such instances – beginning with their first, from Bruin:

Whether picking out a player in the middle with an early ball – such as the Bruin strike, finding a runner at the back-post, as in Bruin’s second of that same match:

Or picking out a player for a header, whether Bruin again, Barnes, or the late arriving run of Clark, Toronto will have to keep a close eye on their marks:

And Davis is not the sole source of that service – Kofi Sarkodie, Andrew Driver, Corey Ashe, and Oscar Boniek Garcia are each capable of hitting that final ball.

When not destroying teams from wide, Houston has some flow to their game to cause trouble through the middle. Garcia in particular is a silky talent; his late runs into the box and ability to finish must be carefully contained:

Bruin has been pretty cold of late, held without a goal through his last seven matches (after notching six through the first ten matches), but Barnes, who opened the scoring against New York on the weekend – from a left-sided cross (naturally), is a constant threat who can produce quality finishes, like this one against Chivas, if allowed the space:

Bruin is a streaky finisher; TFC must hope he does not find his form on Saturday, while quelling the threat of Barnes, who no doubt will be excited to take on some of his countrymen.


Interestingly, Houston, like many other teams, is susceptible to those same things that make them a threat – namely attacks from wide areas.

It may be a consequence of the shuffling back-line, but their marking in the middle has been atrocious at times, regularly allowing the most dangerous opponent on the pitch space to cause trouble, as did Montreal’s Jack McInerney:

One must always lend a little credit to the forward, making that troublesome run in those situations, but even Dominic Kinnear would admit his side must do better.

Such clever movement has been the bane of Houston’s campaign. New York’s Bradley Wright-Phillips has five goals against the Dynamo through two matches, largely through the combination of their flat-footed defense and his run timing.

This counterattack was devastating, but how he is allowed to step in from of Taylor so easily is shameful:

This past weekend it was AJ Cochran who fell victim to his savvy, note how he drifts off the defender to get free for this fade-away header:

Jermain Defoe will have a field day with those sorts of gaps – Toronto has to lift their heads and place their crosses, rather than just drilling balls into the area.

It’s not just Wright-Phillips who they’ve let get free – against Salt Lake it was Alvaro Saborio, against Colorado it was Deshorn Brown; successful teams make note of the opponent’s threats and keep them quiet.

Speed on the back-line is an issue for Houston; they were burned far too easily by Colorado’s Brown – for his second of that match – with a simple ball behind the centre-back:

That lack of pace makes they very susceptible to a quick counterattack, catching them out in transition.

DC’s Fabian Espindola makes the most of this chance, getting himself isolated on a long outlet pass and smashing a low shot under Tally Hall – no doubt the Houston keeper wishes he had another chance at saving this one:

Toronto has the pace and guile up top to make the most of those opportunities, though they will be tricky to find with Houston apt to sit back and wait for gaps of their own – as so many clubs coming into Toronto have done this season.

The key will be for TFC’s at times muddling midfield and defense to get those passes forward quicker, before Houston has had a chance to clog the lanes and pick up their marks.

Points of Interest

This is the first of three meetings this season; they will meet again next weekend in Houston and for a third time on October 8 in Toronto.

The teams have met fifteen times in MLS play, Toronto winning three, Houston four, and eight, including the last three matches, ended in draws. The Dynamo are unbeaten in the last six meetings, with two wins and four draws – stretching back to a 2-1 Toronto home win in 2011: Joao Plata and Maicon Santos scored for Toronto that day with Lovel Palmer finding late consolation for Houston.

Seven of those matches were played in Toronto, resulting in two TFC wins, one Houston win, and four draws – Houston are unbeaten in their last two visits, drawing 1-1 on goals from Jeremy Hall and Warren Creavalle (deep in stoppage-time) last season and the Dynamo winning 0-2 back in 2012 on goals from Calen Carr and Brian Ching.

Houston’s Giles Barnes is one of the reasons that Luke Moore, a former teammate of his at West Bromwich Albion, is in MLS.

It appears that injury concerns over Houston defenders, Corey Ashe, Jermaine Taylor, and David Horst, have diminished, all returning to training days before the match – who will start is difficult to say.