Oppositional Lowdown: Houston Dynamo at JELD-WEN Field
As the Portland Timbers prepare to take on Houston Dynamo for the first time this season at JELD-WEN Field (7:30pm PT, ROOT SPORTS, 750 AM The Game / La Pantera 940), find out everything you need to know about the opposition.
A brief history…
After moving from San Jose in 2006, Dynamo proved to be an instant success as they lifted the MLS Cup in their opening two seasons and have since finished as runners-up twice. They have only missed out on the playoffs in one season, which indicates how consistent they have been under head coach Dominic Kinnear.
Owned by AEG’s Philip Anschutz (former boxer Oscar De La Hoya is also a co-owner), the Dynamo originally played their games at Robertson Stadium, but last year moved into the soccer specific BBVA Compass Stadium, where they are still unbeaten.
How did they fare last season?
Almost perfectly as they finished as runners-up in the MLS Cup final to LA Galaxy (for the second successive year) having topped the Eastern Conference. It was a cruel way for them to finish off such a positive campaign, as they believed that they had figured out how to go that extra bit to win the big trophy.
Apart from their MLS exploits, Dynamo also reached the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League and the last 32 of the US Open Cup. It was also a good year in picking up key pieces, like Oscar Boniek Garcia, Luiz Camargo and bringing Ricardo Clark back to the club for a second stint.
Who have they brought in for this season?
The big arrival for 2013 has been Jamaican forward Omar Cummings, who was previously the main target man at Colorado Rapids. He adds more experience to a striking department that already boasts Will Bruin, Giles Barnes, Brian Ching, Calen Carr and Cam Weaver.
Other new faces include former Timbers defensive duo Eric Brunner and Mike Chabala, while Jason Johnson was picked up in the MLS SuperDraft. The loan signing of Scottish winger Andrew Driver from Hearts has been a real coup too as he is an exciting attacking player.
How have they started their season?
One defeat from their opening four regular season games is pretty solid, although that result might reveal a chink in their armour as it was their only game on the road so far. At home, they are excellent, but playing away is a different story.
Failure to get past Mexican outfit Santos Laguna in the CONCACAF Champions League still stings as the Dynamo have a strong roster, but MLS Cup is their target this year. Having finished as runners-up in the last two seasons to LA Galaxy, they are eager to get the trophy back to Texas again.
Head coach: Dominic Kinnear
Officially the fourth most successful coach in MLS history, Kinnear possesses a winning percentage of .570 and is considered to be one of the shrewdest tacticians in the game. He enjoyed a long playing career, including earning 54 caps for the United States, but has really excelled since moving into management with San Jose Earthquakes and then Dynamo, who has led to two MLS Cup triumphs.
He said: “I think every game we step on the field, home or away, I’d like to see the guys impose their will on the other team. It gives you confidence, a boost of energy, when you get the first goal.”
Star Player: Brad Davis
As deadly accurate with his left foot as David Beckham is with his right, Davis is one of the most creative players in MLS right now. In last weekend’s victory over San Jose, the 31-year-old recorded his 75th career assist for Houston and he is showing no signs of slowing. A new feature on the United States national team roster, the Missouri native is in the peak of his career and is a real threat when in full flow against any team.
One To Watch: Giles Barnes
Reinventing himself as a forward, this English ace has started the 2013 season on top form with two goals in his last two games. Having started out as all-energy center midfielder with Derby County – who he made his debut for at just 17 years old – Barnes’ career brought him to the English Premier League with West Brom and then a short stint with Doncaster Rovers before joining the Dynamo last year.
What can the Timbers expect?
A physical battle awaits Caleb Porter’s team as Dynamo use the power of players like Bobby Boswell, Jermaine Taylor, Clark, Ching and Carr to open up space, hold up play and ensure that the opposition don’t get it easy. They are thoroughly competitive and a hard team to break down.
But, just like every successful team, they have another side – one that focuses on skillful play. In Honduras international Garcia, they have a difference maker, while the attacking instincts of their outside backs provide them with width. But what the Timbers should expect more than anything is plenty of crosses into their penalty area.
Where are they most vulnerable?
There are not many noticeable weaknesses in this Dynamo team – hence why they are considered one of the early favorites for MLS Cup – but they can be caught out when pushing forward on the counter attack as they lack pace in the middle of the field through Clark and Adam Moffat.
Exposing the space left behind their fullbacks is also a way of getting past them, as Kofi Sarkodie and Corey Ashe tend to spend a lot of time in the opposition’s half. Quick passing and angled runs can lead to Timbers prying them open, while taking advantage of set-pieces is another avenue to explore.
Who are their main threats?
As much as Sarkodie and Ashe leave space behind them, they are real threats when they do bomb forward. They contribute to a lot of attacks and link play with the players in front of them – usually Garcia and Davis – to ensure Dynamo make the most of the width of the field.
Up front, they are fully stocked with proven finishers. Barnes has been dangerous all season while shooting from long range is a big asset for this team with Moffat around. That said, the Dynamo tend to work the ball into the penalty area in most of their moves.
Previous Meetings in MLS
2011: August 14 – Houston Dynamo 2-1 Portland Timbers
2011: October 14 – Portland Timbers 0-2 Houston Dynamo
2012: May 15 – Houston Dynamo 0-0 Portland Timbers
Record vs Houston Dynamo: 0-2-1
Gareth Maher is a contributing writer to PortlandTimbers.com. He is a frequent contributor to the Irish Daily Mail in Dublin as well as ESPNFC.com.