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D.C. United versus Houston Dynamo preview: Behind Enemy Lines w/ Houston blog Dynamo Theory

With D.C. United playing Houston on Sunday, we talked to Derek Stowers to get the lowdown.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

D.C. United travels to Houston to take on the Dynamo this Sunday; to preview the game we talked with Derek Stowers from Dynamo Theory to get the preview on all things bright orange.

Questions for Dynamo Theory

B&RU: With the win over Toronto, do you think that the Dynamo have an actual shot to make the playoffs? Can Dom Kinnear pull out some late season magic yet again?

DT: You can never count the Dynamo out of the playoff discussion as long as they haven’t been eliminated. The problem is, the hole they’ve dug themselves makes just about every remaining game a must win scenario. Can the Dynamo do it? Sure, they’ve got 2 home games left and a game at Chicago, but it’s still a lot to ask. The best approach is to take it one game at a time and that starts with DC.

B&RU: Conversely, the Dynamo will have to play this game without AJ Cochrane, Oscar Boniek Garcia, Luis Garrido, and possibly Jermaine Taylor as well. Who is going to replace these players, and how big is the dropoff in quality?

DT: It’s a huge loss, and really highlights why the MLS shouldn’t schedule games during FIFA dates, but that is another discussion. CB AJ Cochran’s red card means that Eric Brunner will likely get the call since Taylor will likely not be ready to play (though he gets back to Houston Saturday so he could lineup). Brunner is a more than serviceable replacement as he held the starting job for the Dynamo last season until injuries in preseason let other players take his spot from under him. As far as drop off in quality for Brunner goes, it’s a lot simply because Cochran and Horst had developed a strong relationship together and Brunner and Horst don’t have that. Losing Boniek Garcia and Luis Garrido though leaves two big spots to fill in the midfield. Against Toronto, Dominic Kinnear decided to go with his playoff pushing 4-3-3 formation until Cochran’s ejection, which looked very good. Andrew Driver and Servando Carrasco were the replacement players and both looked fairly strong in their starts. Another option the Dynamo can go is with is Will Bruin who was healthy enough to be available on the bench in Toronto. There are a lot of routes that Dom can go in and I have confidence in each one, but is it as good as a squad with Garrido and Boniek? No, probably not. But can it still be effective? Absolutely.

B&RU: Regardless of what happens this season, is it time for Dom Kinnear to move on? Or should the team try to do everything it can to keep him in the offseason?

DT: I think a lot has been made of the speculation that Dom will end up leaving to take the San Jose Earthquake job. Kinnear has a lot of freedom as a manager here in Houston with part of that based on his expertise in the league and the other part based on his good relationship with the owners and front office. It’s hard to picture Kinnear taking the SJ job with all of its uncertainties over the tenured position he has here. I don’t think there’s a real possibility of him leaving Houston, but if there were the Dynamo should do everything they can to keep him.

B&RU: Lineup?

DT: Deric; Beasley, Brunner, Horst, Sarkodie; Davis, Clark, Carrasco; Driver, Barnes, Cummings It isn’t easy to predict a lineup with so many players missing. Bruin could start up top and Cummings could play in the midfield, but this is my best guess.

B&RU: Prediction?

DT: 2-1 Houston. Houston is the team desperate for points and has a huge advantage playing against DC in Houston. Still, it’ll be a closely contested match.

Questions for Black and Red United

DT: D.C. United became the first Eastern Conference team to clinch a playoff spot. It is especially impressive considering the team finished in last place in the league last year marking one of the best turnarounds I’ve ever seen by a team. DC did have a bit of a roster makeover in the off season, but what moves really were difference makers and did that player or players impact the team identity in any way?

B&RU: The three biggest difference makers are up the spine of the team: Bobby Boswell, Davy Arnaud, and Fabian Espindola. After having one of the worst defenses in league history last year, the addition of Bobby Boswell has solidified that back line and has helped bring along the development of first round pick Steve Birnbaum. Davy Arnaud's move from the wing into the center of midfield after three games provided the terrier that Perry Kitchen needed next to him. He has made a similar move as Ben Olsen made earlier in his career, and he has been exactly what the team needed in the middle of the park. Finally, Fabian Espindola has provided the offensive spark and audacity that the team just didn't have last year. The makeover of the team, with its emphasis on veteran leadership, has completely changed the culture.

DT: DC struggles to play in Houston every year having never taken all 3 points in Houston. What sets this D.C. United team apart from others that could go into BBVA Compass Stadium and finally end this streak?

B&RU: It is the same thing as above: the team's new veteran leadership. This isn't the same group of people who have lost to Houston time after time at BBVA Compass Stadium. It doesn't hurt that Houston is in a weakened state, and that they broke a similar streak against Sporting Kansas City earlier this year.

DT: This is a DC team that is dangerous all over, but really its defense has been among the best in the league. What are some ways that a Dynamo side desperate for points could break it down?

B&RU: The defensive rhombus that is Perry Kitchen, Steve Birnbaum, Bobby Boswell, and Bill Hamid is one of the best in the league. Boswell should be in the running for defensive player of the year, and Bill Hamid should win the goalkeeper of the year. The best way to try and break it down is by attacking the fullbacks, and especially the left back. Sean Franklin has come in at right back and really locked down that spot, but has had made a few mistakes this season. The left back will either be the newly healthy Chris Korb or the second-year player Taylor Kemp: attacking whoever is playing there is Houston's best bet. Trying to go through the middle, however, is a recipe for sadness.

DT: Lineup?

B&RU: Bill Hamid; Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Steve Birnbaum, Chris Korb; Nick DeLeon, Davy Arnaud, Perry Kitchen, Chris Pontius; Fabian Espindola, Luis Silva.

DT: Prediction?

B&RU: While Houston is desperate for points, United also has plenty to play for as well. I think that United finally gets it done and beats Houston 2-1 on Sunday.