MLS Week 8 Recap

Houston Dynamo-2   San Jose Earthquakes-0    (BBVA Compass Stadium-Houston)

HOU:  Torres-9 (penalty), Elis-72 (Alexander)  SJ:  None

Tactical Adjustments Paved the way to the First Shutout

After giving up 11 goals in six matches, Coach Wilmer Cabrera apparently decided a change was necessary against San Jose yesterday.  He switched from his preferred 4-3-3 formation to a version of a 4-4-2 (more like 4-3-1-2 with Alex knitting together the midfield and forward line).  This switch added a midfielder to help shield the back line. These changes, along with the reintroduction of Leonardo into the center defense, resulted in the first shutout of the year for the Dynamo.

On after the match, Cabrera discussed how important the shutout was for the team.

“It’s a big deal.  It is important and not for me, but for the players. That’s what was most important for us to work on. We needed that. They needed that for themselves.”

Short rest for San Jose helped the Dynamo

Earthquakes head coach Dominic Kinnear rotated his squad and didn’t introduce two of his most effective attacking options, Danny Hoesen and Jahmir Hyka, until the second half.  The early penalty conceded by Fatai Alashe was one of the worst things SJ could have done.  Chasing the game on a hot afternoon in Houston is not a prescription for success for anybody, much less one coming to Texas after flying cross-country to play a midweek East Coast game. The Earthquakes struggled to put together any type of attack, mustering only two shots on target. Chris Wondolowski was particularly ineffective.  His Audi Index score at minus-55 was the lowest player rating for both sides.  Wondolowski had this to say after the game.

“It’s definitely tough conceding that early goal, but I thought we played well. It is very frustrating and a tough place to play. Houston had a very good game plan and executed it well and got the goal early. They kept good shape throughout most of the game.”

A Wealth of Riches at Forward for the Dynamo

Imagine being a defender playing the second game in four days and seeing Rommel Quioto and Mauro Manotas come on as substitutes late in the game.  San Jose needed to push multiple players into the attack once Alberth Elis capitalized on a mistake by Earthquakes goalkeeper David Bingham to score in the 72nd minute.  When the Dynamo won the ball they were able to play the ball to the two fast substitute attackers and let them run on the San Jose defense.  The Earthquakes were lucky not to concede again. With better finishing, or a better first touch in Andrew Wenger’s case, the Dynamo could have scored multiple additional goals.

Seeking their first result on the road, the Dynamo now travels to play 2016 MLS Cup participant Toronto FC next Friday night in Canada.

FC Dallas (FCD)-1   Sporting Kansas City (SKC)-0    (Toyota Stadium-Frisco)

FCD:  Figueroa-77 (Barrios, Grana)  SKC:  None

Two very good defensive teams

After 160 minutes of scoreless action between FCD and SKC this season, FCD broke through from an unlikely place when defender Maynor Figueroa finished an excellent cross from Michael Barrios in open play.  Apparently this goal wasn’t just serendipity. After the game Figueroa was quoted on as saying,

“It was a play that we’ve been practicing all week, and tonight we had to (the) opportunity. But we must continue to work because we’ve had many chances to score and we’ve let them pass.”

Both teams had first half opportunities, but FCD was thwarted by SKC goalkeeper Tim Melia with his five saves.  Again on after the game, SKC defender Ike Opara described why FC Dallas is a tough team to create offensive momentum against (SKC had one shot on target).

“They did a pretty good job of pressing when they had the right moments. They make it a track meet so it’s difficult for us to get our rhythm. That’s the way they play, and we knew it. They implemented their gameplan to perfection. We need to be better at playing opponents like that, who want to make it up and down, and figure out ways to control the ball and get in behind.”   

Carlos Gruezo gets lost in the shuffle at times

FCD head coach Oscar Pareja made this clear last night….and also issued a challenge to the Ecuadorian international holding midfielder.

“Carlos Gruezo was special today. Normally, he logs a lot of miles during the game. If you track the amount of balls that he gives back to us… it’s amazing. Now, the next step is, what can we do with the ball when he has it at his feet? If he can improve his distribution, then collectively we are going to be much better. That’s hard work for him because he put so much effort into winning the ball back and now he needs to glue people together in the middle. It’s tough, but he did it today. That’s why FC Dallas had such a great game today.”

Jason Poon from SB Nation’s Big D Soccer added a very complete mapping of Gruezo’s activity to support Pareja’s point in the link below.

Welcome back Ryan!

Midfielder Ryan Hollingshead made his return to the FC Dallas game day roster just over three months after fracturing three vertebrae in his neck assisting a stranded motorist on an icy Dallas highway.

Dallas is the only remaining undefeated team in the league and sits in second place in the Western Conference, two points behind Portland with two games in hand. Conveniently, Portland visits Toyota Stadium next Saturday.  Oscar Pareja sounds ready.

“Tomorrow, this game is the past. We’ll take the best we can out of it, correct some stuff, but Portland is on our minds already.”

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