The Impact are on the road this Saturday to face Houston at the brand new BBVA Compass Stadium. Coming off a hard fought 2-1 victory on Wednesday night against the New England Revolution, the Impact face a Dynamo squad that is on a 5 game unbeaten streak since losing 4-2 at Saputo Stadium on June 23rd.
Taking a look at the MLS standings, the Impact have 24 points and are 7 points away from a playoff spot. The Dynamo and the Chicago Fire hold down the 4th and 5th spot, respectively, with 31 points each. Montreal has played 2 more games than either opponent. The playoff race is still wide open but father time is getting impatient.
According to Jesse Marsch, Alessandro Nesta will make the trip to Houston but probably won't feature in the matchup. Matteo Ferrari, Nelson Rivas and Andrew Wenger are the other notable absentees. Will this be the game where Marco Di Vaio finds the back of the net?
To set you up for the game, we asked our friends at the Dynamo Theory to answer a few questions about the boys in orange. Here we go:
1. The Dynamo are 6-0-3 at home, 2-5-4 on the road. Why is there such a big difference?
Part of the big difference was the long road trip to open the season; the players got weary by the end and didn't play as well at times. Then again, it's not like they've been tearing it up on the road since the stadium opened either. The biggest difference comes down to the pitch. Robertson Stadium had one of the narrowest pitches in MLS and Kinnear built a team to take advantage of the narrow space. He saw no reason to change it at BBVA Compass, so many MLS teams who are built to play on a wider surface struggle in Houston because they don't have as much space. That and it's hot as hell in Houston and the Dynamo are used to it. Kinnear also realizes that you can be very successful in MLS being dominate at home and getting points when you can on the road.
2. Can you name one underrated player on the Dynamo that we should look out for and why?
Jermaine Taylor is really only underrated because this is the first year he's really played regularly. When he was signed we all figured he was going to be a good player, but we kept waiting for him to get a chance to show it. He's been the Dynamo's best defender this season and has made it much easier to deal with losing Geoff Cameron because he and Boswell have formed a dominate defensive pairing. Taylor's ability to cover a lot of ground and his smart positioning allows the fullbacks to be more adventurous at times.
3. The Dynamo are 3-0-2 since losing 4-2 to the Impact on June 23rd. Did we light a fire under you guys? How do you explain the great run over the last 5 games?
I think the poor performance did light a fire under the team, at least on the defensive end. The Dynamo were embarrassed to give up 4 goals and committed to gets thing back in order. They have. Gone are the mistakes and concentration lapses that were plaguing them and the results have been much better. In addition, Boniek Garcia's arrival has allowed Kinnear to switch to a more fluid 4-3-3 formation that has made the Dynamo both better defensively and much better offensively. Now that Will Bruin is settled in his new role in the formation, this Dynamo team is playing their best soccer of the season. This is what Kinnear does, get through the first half of the season, make adjustments during the transfer window and peak heading in to the playoffs.
BONUS 1: You guys have our hometown boy Andre Hainault. Can you give us some insight on what kind of season he is having so far?
Hainault has been steadily improving this season. He was easily the team's most consistent defender this year, but he seemed to struggle a bit early in the season playing at left fullback. After a strong stint with the Canadian National Team, he's looked much more comfortable. Having Jermaine Taylor next to him, he's having a tremendous season, helps as well. Hainault has also begun to grow more into a fullback role, getting more involved in the attack and improving his distribution. He's still a center back, but his showing the ability to adapt to the team's needs and has begun to thrive again.
BONUS 2: Predicted formation/starting lineup and final score?
4-3-3 Hall; Hainault, Taylor, Boswell, Ashe; Boniek, Creavalle/Moffat, Davis; Carr, Bruin, Kandji
Predicted Score: 2-0 Dynamo
BONUS 3: How is our old buddy Brian Ching doing? How has his return impacted the Dynamo overall?
Brian Ching started for much of the first half of the season, but since the switch to the 4-3-3 he's become a super sub. He's a tremendous leader, the face of the franchise and a damn good player. He may not score the goals as much as he used to, but his off the ball work is superb and he attracts defenders, creating space for his teammates. It just wouldn't have been the same this year in the new stadium without Ching here, he's been solid on the field but his real value is just having him here for his teammates and the young players. He leads by example and makes the team better in all the ways you can't really see.