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Speaking with the Enemy: Houston Dynamo

Waking the Red catches up with the good folks at Dynamo Theory ahead of Saturday's match in Houston

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Houston Dynamo
Past, current, & future Dynamo coaches in conversation
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

With Toronto FC set to take the show on the road for the first of three matches away from the comfy confines of BMO Field, where they have won four-straight, outscoring their opponents 12-2, WTR caught up with Derek Stowers of SB Nation sister-site, Dynamo Theory, for a good, old-fashioned question exchange.

Waking the Red's responses to Derek's questions can be found here.

Question the First

Wade Barrett has been on the job for two months now since replacing Owen Coyle in the interim. What has been his primary objective(s) over these months and what remains for him to do to before Dynamo fans feel the club is back on the right track? And what would be enough to see him earn the position? Odds on him taking over full time?

Wade Barrett has been with the Dynamo for quite some time – both as a player and as a coach in some capacity. He came over to Houston when the San Jose Earthquakes moved to our city back in 2006 and captained the team to earning 2 MLS Cups. Since his retirement he was first an assistant coach under Dominic Kinnear and then served as an assistant to Owen Coyle before taking over.

All this means is he has a lot of history with the club and he knows the players and culture. He stated his primary objective when he took over saying he wanted the club to be hard to play against and for players to work hard on every single play. For the most part he’s delivered. He’s created a defensive club that’s very hard to breakdown and score against as we’ve only given up 8 goals in 10 games since he’s taken over. This is very much part of our “club DNA” as we’ve historically been a top defensive club, but the difference between our past and our current state is we were also able to score (more on that later).

What Barrett needs to start doing is winning games and that means taking a few risks with his lineup to increase possession in the final third of the field to create attacking opportunities. Will that be enough to win fans over? It’s difficult to say. The fact that we have a great defense is nice, but we’re not seeing results and aren’t scoring so fans aren’t enjoying themselves. Draw after draw and loss after loss without much going on in the offense department is, to be frank, boring. Many fans want to see different players utilized, new front office personnel, and even a new coach. For Barrett, he has to balance a losing season, which means usually playing younger players in preparation for next year, with his audition for the coaching job next year. That’s a tough position to be in.

For him to take the job we would have to start winning games and it doesn’t get simpler than that. However he does it shouldn’t matter: youth, vets, or formation shift, the result is what will help him get the job. Odds on that happening? We aren’t terribly far off from being a good team, but we haven’t shown any signs of getting better or taking necessary risks to get results so at this point I don’t think he gets it. However, that could easily change in the coming months.

Question the Second

Looking over the Dynamo roster, one is puzzled by the lack of offensive prowess displayed by the club, given some of the talent assembled. Recalling the first three matches of the season, where Houston scored 11 goals throughout, the recent lack of firepower has been a marked difference: notably, in the proceeding 19 matches, Houston has scored more than one goal on only two occasions, putting a lot of pressure on the keeper and back-line to be flawless. And then, the club traded Giles Barnes, their talisman, to Vancouver. Was that move a sign of a rebuild? Or given the talent on hand – Andrew Wenger, Cristian Maidana, Erick Torres, Will Bruin – is a reconfiguration more what is need? And what accounts for that lack of production overall?

If we look back at our early successes finding the back of the net, there’s a trend: we typically give up almost as many goals, sometimes more. That emphasis on offense created a void defensively, one that Owen Coyle for the most part mended and Wade Barrett has fixed. Of course, the change made players more hesitant to join the attack which left our forwards with little to no support for many games. Some fans have pointed fingers at those forwards (Barnes and Bruin in particular), but the real reason for their struggles is that lack of support. Even Sebastian Giovinco would struggle as a lone CF (center-forward) with little help. He’d play better than our corps, but he wouldn’t be quite as prolific as he is today.

The Barnes trade shocked everyone. He not only was a quality player, but a quality person to the community and in the locker room. Over the offseason he had signed a new contract to remain with the Dynamo, but he had not been playing up to the level that contract demanded. It was likely a salary decision to look to next year, and we acquired center back Keyner Brown from the trade (first his rights, then we signed him). I would say the team is talented, especially with the players you mentioned, enough to score goals, and what’s needed is a new formation that stresses the importance of being higher up the field. A 4-4-2 is traditionally balanced, but in our current scheme of a 4-1-4-1, most players don’t support and the classic 4-4-2 would provide a boost up top while remaining stable defensively.

Question the Third

A nice simple one after those two: how is former TFC midfielder Collen Warner fitting into the side? Though he rarely won the headlines, Warner was a solid contributor to a Toronto side slowly turning the tide of history. Unfortunately, given the off-season additions, there simply wasn't room for him amidst a glut of midfielders. WTR wishes him well.

Early in the year, Warner struggled with an injury and to fit into Coyle’s system, but he has since found a home as the “shield” of the 4-1-4-1 under Wade Barrett. He is arguably one of the most important players in this system because he allows other central midfielders Alex Lima and Ricardo Clark to occasionally get forward and make an impact on the other end of the ball. He’s been fantastic and definitely one of the underrated players of this Dynamo side.

Projected Lineup:

Joe Willis; (4-1-4-1) Abdoulie Mansally, Agus, Jalil Anibaba, Sheanon Williams; Collen Warner; Oscar Boniek Garcia, Alex Lima, Cristian Maidana, Andrew Wenger; Will Bruin

Score Prediction:

2-0 TFC, the Dynamo simply can’t get it done on offense because we rock the 4-1-4-1 again, but we hold what could’ve been a much worse score to something a little less embarrassing.

Many thanks to Derek for taking the time to provide some insight on all things Dynamo – he can be followed on Twitter @dStowers410 – and be sure to swing by Dynamo Theory to check out their pre-match materials to better know a foe.

Nice to hear that Collen has fit in so nicely with his new side.