As we travel through this inaugural Major League Soccer season, we're going to bring in the experts from our sister blogs around the league to help us get to know our new enemies.
Who are three Houston Dynamo players that Orlando City SC fans should know about?
Derek Stowers: Midfielder Brad Davis (captain), central defender Raúl Rodríguez (newcomer), and forward/midfielder Giles Barnes (last year's team golden boot winner).
Davis is our team veteran and captain who is always dangerous with the ball at his feet (live or dead), and is capable of sending in a perfect ball for someone to get onto the end of, and curling one from distance himself.
Rodríguez is new to the club, but has really cemented himself as a leader along the back line in a short amount of time. He's fluent in English and Spanish -- which has helped bridge the gap for some players -- he's proven in preseason that he can make very athletic tackles, and he can move the ball well out of the back.
Barnes is going to be our main goal getter until Erick "Cubo" Torres arrives. Last year he was our leading scorer and he was able to get on the score sheet against a very talented Columbus Crew SC team last game. He's an all-around forward capable of beating opponents on the dribble or with his speed, and isn't afraid to crack a shot from outside the 18-yard box.
What is the team's preferred style of play?
DS: That's a good question. Right now, the Dynamo is transitioning to a club that possesses the ball well, from a team that can clog the midfield and counter attack from the wings. Right now, we're a team that will win battles in the midfield and force opponents out wide and will create chances mostly off the counter.
What did you learn about the Dynamo from opening day?
DS: I think opening day may have opened up a catch-22. We saw tactically two distinct formations, which had very different effects. In our starting formation, our midfield largely nullified Crew SC's attacks, but at the expense of an offense which was mostly stagnant. When we shifted the formation, our offense became more productive (we got the winning goal), but nearly lost points due to the amount of chances we were giving up to Columbus.
From that, I suppose the lesson learned is that this is still a team in progress, which has shown flashes of brilliance when things are clicking. But the team needs to continue to learn to be disciplined and take advantage of the chances when they present themselves.
What has new head coach Owen Coyle brought to the team?
DS: Tactical awareness. Owen Coyle recognized in our game against Crew SC that offensively we weren't getting it done, so he pulled the struggling Will Bruin out of the game early and we ended up getting a result. Things could have gone differently if it weren't for goalkeeper Tyler Deric, but three points is three points, no matter how pretty. Coyle has shown so far in Houston that he's one that will change things around game to game or mid-game to find a winning formula against the matchups.
What are the fans' expectations for the club, both realistic and unrealistic?
DS: Though the Dynamo haven't been in Houston all that long, we've had an amazing run at the MLS Cup in that time, winning the Cup twice out of four appearances in our nine-year history (this is our 10th year). We've only missed the playoffs twice, and we didn't like it. Team president Chris Canetti has said that this team is built to compete and we believe him. How far does that unbridled enthusiasm go? Well, most of us are fairly grounded and know that our return to the Western Conference might not be as rosy (or orange in our case) as we want it to be. Most of us believe that the team will make the playoffs, but will probably exit in the first or second round after fetching a lower playoff seed.
What lineup do you think we'll see?
DS: Tyler Deric; DaMarcus Beasley, Jermaine Taylor, Raúl Rodríguez, Kofi Sarkodie; Brad Davis, Luis Garrido, Ricardo Clark, Boniek Garcia; Will Bruin, Giles Barnes
Big thanks to Derek for helping us get to know more about our new foes.