D.C. United takes on the Houston Dynamo on Sunday at BBVA Compass Stadium. To preview the game, we got in touch with Derek Stowers from Dynamo Theory to get the lowdown on all things Orange (but not Oranje).
Questions for Dynamo Theory
B&RU: For the past few years, the Dynamo have been a team that started slow and then got hot at the end of the season and into the playoffs; this year, the team is just above the bottom of the league. Is the blame on the players, Dom Kinnear, or both?
DT: This has been a trend that has been so tough for Dynamo fans this time of the year because who knows if that hot streak will make it this time around. This year though it’s been different. I can’t blame Dominic Kinnear very much, but if things continue the way they are that could change. I think the biggest factors for our poor showing lately (and by lately I mean all the way back to May) is inconsistent lineups. Injuries have been huge with Ricardo Clark missing out on a number of games with concussion symptoms and international call-ups to the World Cup took away Boniek and Brad Davis from us. When 3 out of the 4 players in your starting midfield who are also your best players are missing, performances will drop all over. Now that they’re back, we’re seeing the gears slowly start to turn again. Will the team make a late run for the playoffs again? I think it’s possible, but we’ll have to see.
B&RU: When the Dynamo let Bobby Boswell go, everyone assumed that they knew what they were doing. What was the plan for center backs at the beginning of the season, and why hasn't it worked?
DT: I was in the camp that really was hoping to keep Boswell over the offseason. That obviously didn’t happen, so we were going to stick with Eric Brunner, who found success with the team towards the end of last season, and Jermaine Taylor. The organization hedged its bet on those two by acquiring David Horst from the Portland Timbers and drafting A.J. Cochran. In preseason Brunner picked up an injury and Horst was the #1 choice to partner with Taylor. Of course, we’ve seen many combinations of these players in the back and all of those combinations struggled. I believe the underlying reason for the struggle actually has less to do with the personnel in the back and more to do with part of the answer to the last question: Having Boniek, Clark, and Davis missing hurt us all over – the offense didn’t click and the defense didn’t have enough support.
B&RU: Now that DaMarcus Beasley is here, where will he play and how will that move around everyone else on the field?
DT: I actually wrote a piece about the flexibility that DaMarcus Beasley and our other latest acquisition Luis Garrido that discusses precisely this question. I think the most difficult thing to determine at this point is how fast they’ll integrate into Dom’s system which could decide whether or not they’ll start (I fully expect Beasley to, but am less certain about Garrido). I think what we’ll most likely see is Beasley in the midfield at LM which will shift Davis to the CAM position, a position he is familiar with.
B&RU: Lineup and score prediction?
DT: Hall; Ashe, Taylor, Horst, Sarkodie; Beasley, Clark, Davis, Boniek; Barnes, Bruin
3-2 Dynamo win. While DC is certainly one of the top teams in the league, DC has historically struggled in Houston. DCU is currently coming off a midweek game while the Dynamo has had time to rest and integrate their new players. I think the Dynamo will be able to come out ahead, there are still going to be a few setbacks while everyone develops chemistry with the new players.
Questions for Black and Red United
DT: What’s your take on Brian Ching’s comments about Eddie Johnson and his level of play in relation to his contract? Do you think that Ching was going after EJ?
B&RU: Brian Ching's comments represent the popular opinion on Eddie Johnson, and I think that his comments have definitely been true in the past; however, I think that it is too early to say whether or not that remains to be the case. D.C. United plays a differently style of soccer in which EJ is expected to be the focal point, whereas in Seattle he could just be more of a poacher in the box. He has finally started scoring in D.C., scoring two penalties and a nice header in the last few games; in addition, he has been showing good holdup play and an ability to get other players involved in the attack. At the end of the year, who knows if Brian Ching will be right or not, but that's when an assessment can be made.
I have no idea what the tone was in Brian Ching's voice when he made these comments, so I don't know if he was going after EJ or not. However, I did enjoy their twitter battle afterwards.
DT: Bobby Boswell has been a stalwart in the back for the Dynamo for several years, but his declining speed and his hefty price tag (by MLS standards anyways) allowed the Boz to get picked up in the re-entry draft. Has Boswell helped shore things up in the back for DCU and specifically what qualities have helped or hurt the DC defense?
B&RU: Everyone in D.C. was worried that Bobby Boswell and Jeff Parke would just be too slow as a starting defensive combination, and that teams would be blowing by them left and right all season long. However, what has actually happened is that Boswell and Parke have used their intelligence, positioning, and their experience in the league to make up for that lack of pace, and they have really been able to shut down defenses. It has shown, with D.C. United tied for second-least amount of goals allowed and tied for second biggest goal differential in the league. Boswell's experience has also helped Steve Birnbaum grow, ever since the first-round pick was thrown into the starting lineup due to Jeff Parke's ongoing injury problem. Alongside Bobby, Birnbaum can just use his athleticism to win every ball while Boswell is there to clean up everything else. And, if Ives is correct, Boswell is being rewarded for all of this with a call to the All Star Game, replacing Omar Gonzalez.
DT: DC United are playing very well this season sitting in 3rd place in the Supporter Shield race, only down a point from the two teams tied for first, and have won their last four matches in a row. For a team that has struggled recently like the Dynamo, what is a way to go after DC and come away with a result?
B&RU: Force D.C. United to possess the ball for long stretches, and don't let them get out on a break. If United can string together spells where any of Chris Rolfe, Nick DeLeon, Eddie Johnson, Luis Silva, or even Perry Kitchen are running at Houston center backs who are running back towards their goal, Houston will be in for a long day. Then, after you slow the game down you still have to find a way to shut down Chris Rolfe, who has been magical for D.C. United ever since they traded for him. If the Dynamo can do those things, they could definitely get a win.
DT: Lineup and score prediction?
B&RU: Bill Hamid; Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Steve Birnbaum, Chris Korb; Nick DeLeon, Davy Arnaud, Perry Kitchen, Chris Rolfe; Luis Silva, Eddie Johnson
1-1 draw. D.C. United are very hot right now, but so is BBVA Compass Stadium, where they have had famously bad luck over the years. I would love for them to get the win, but I just don't necessarily see it happening.