Houston Dynamo Season Preview Part V: Tactical and Lineup Outlook


Houston Dynamo midfielder Ricardo Clark (13), forward Will Bruin (12), defender Kofi Sarkodie (8), goalkeeper Tally Hall (1), midfielder Brad Davis (11), midfielder Giles Barnes (23), and midfielder Corey Ashe (26) wear the team

This is Part V in a six part Houston Dynamo season preview:

Part I: Goalkeepers

Part II: Defense

Part III: Midfield

Part IV: Forwards

Part V: Tactical and Lineup Outlook

Part VI: Season Predictions

With the opener against New England Revolution now just two days away, the starting lineup seems fairly certain. As I indicated would be the case previously, it appears that David Horst will get the nod at center back over Eric Brunner; a decision helped in part by the injury Brunner picked up against Charleston last weekend. Tony Cascio will start on the right of the midfield with Garcia in the middle. Barring any last minute unexpected changes, the Dynamo will likely set out in Dom Kinnear’s favorite 4-4-2 with a lineup as follows:

While the Dynamo set out in a 4-4-2 more often that not, they did experiment with several different formations during the pre-season including variations on a 4-5-1, 4-3-3 and even a 3-5-2 a couple of times.

I am not a big fan of the 4-4-2. I believe that if you take two teams of relatively equal quality and one plays with a four man midfield while the other plays with a five man midfield, provided the tactics are well executed the five man midfield will win more often than not. The two Premier League matches between Manchester City and Chelsea this season are good examples of this. Where Manchester City has a superior team to most Premier League sides and has had a fairly easy run of things this season, twice in league play they have gone up against Chelsea and a five man midfield and twice they have lost. City did get the better of Chelsea in the FA Cup, however Chelsea would gladly trade an FA Cup loss for two Premier League wins. In the two league wins, Chelsea’s midfield simply bottled up that of City’s, making it difficult for City to get quality service to their forwards.

The depth and quality of the Houston Dynamo midfield is screaming out for a five man midfield. Unfortunately, the strike force lacks anyone who is an ideal lone striker in a 4-5-1 base system. A lone striker has to be able to hold up the ball and bring others into play. He should have good ball control skills, upper body strength and a reasonable amount of pace. The prototypical lone striker is a Didier Drogba.

Will Bruin has proven time and time again that he struggles as the lone striker. I have high hopes for Giles Barnes this season, but as a converted midfielder I am not comfortable with him as a lone striker. Omar Cummings is perhaps the best option of the top three rotation but given a history of injury, the rigors of playing as a lone striker may be a bit risky; but he is perhaps worth a look. From a physical stature standpoint, Mark Sherrod looks the part but as a rookie he is not an option at this stage. Ideally the Dynamo could have brought in a player like Carlton Cole of West Ham or Clayton Donaldson of Brentford who they were linked with last season. Either player, or another of the same mold, would fit perfectly as a lone striker.

A 3-5-2 is an option, however given the frailties we have seen with the defense last season and this preseason, I am not entirely comfortable with the thought of a three man back line. That leaves us with two options that I’d like to see, assuming Cummings was given a shot as a lone striker: a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-2-1.

In a 4-3-2-1 I have Cascio playing alongside Barnes. However, it could just as easily be Lopez and the position might better suit Lopez with less of a responsibility to get back and defend. His clinical passing skills would come into play putting through balls for Cummings and Barnes to get onto with their pace. In the 4-2-3-1 you have Clark and Creavalle paired up (with Carrasco in rotation) in front of the back 4 providing a stronger defensive footing to break up plays and launch counter-attacks to the four players in front of them.

Either tactical formation would better leverage the midfield resources and be superior to a 4-4-2 from my standpoint, with the caveat, again, that the Dynamo may simply not have the right type of forward to successfully deploy a single striker.

Remaining within the 4-4-2 system, one alternative to make the Dynamo slightly more offensive oriented would be to adopt the old 4-4-2 diamond formation with Barnes, Lopez or perhaps Cascio sitting just behind the forward pairing of Bruin and Cummings. The drawback to having Barnes at the top of the diamond, however, would be the lack of depth in the forward rotation. With Barnes pushed back to midfield, Johnson and Sherrod are the lone available substitutes to back up Bruin and Cummings. As for a 4-3-3, I am not convinced that the Dynamo have the right players or depth to fill the wing spots without playing someone slightly out of position. In other words, I don’t think a 4-3-3 would play to the strengths of this roster.

What formation and players would you like to see the Dynamo feature this season? Let us know in the comment box below.

Next up tomorrow: my predictions for the season.

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