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Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. Houston Dynamo

The Lions get their annual shot against Houston.

MLS: Orlando City SC at Houston Dynamo Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando City is back home this weekend to take on the Houston Dynamo for the Lions’ first of three home matches to end the 2018 season. While both Orlando and Houston are sitting on the wrong side of their respective red lines, the teams are on different trajectories with the Dynamo fresh off a 4-1 drubbing of the Portland Timbers and the Lions failing to show signs of life in their performance in Chicago. Luckily for Orlando, Houston will likely have their eyes on the U.S. Open Cup final on Wednesday.

To answer some questions on the visitors’ side ahead of Saturday night, Derek Stowers, the editor for SB Nation’s Houston blog, Dynamo Theory, stopped by to answer some questions. You can also check out the questions I answered for them over at their place.

After making it all the way to the Western Conference final last season, the Dynamo are on the outside looking in at the playoff picture. What’s changed from last year?

Derek Stowers: There have been a few differences this year when compared to last year’s run to the Western Conference final. For starters, team MVP Juan David Cabezas and right back A.J. DeLaGarza have both been injured. Losing Cabezas for nearly the whole season has had a major impact, along with the time to figure out who is best suited to play right back. The Dynamo have gone deep in the U.S. Open Cup this year, which congested the schedule and the team has been on the unfortunate end of some questionable officiating decisions. However, the biggest reason that I see is in the team’s tactics. Wilmer Cabrera has had the team sitting back on leads, which puts more pressure on the ever-changing back line. It lets teams back into games by letting them win the midfield, which allows opponents to fire off chances until the game is equalized or in their favor.

Houston is notoriously poor on the road and has just one away victory this year. Why the disparity?

DS: For whatever reason, teams in MLS typically don’t travel well, but Houston is worse than most and has been the last few years. Under Cabrera, I again circle back to tactics being the reason we don’t travel well. Instead of sitting deeper to defend a lead like we might at home, we sit back on the road at the opening whistle. The hope here is to try to not concede a goal and then snag one on the counter attack. It’s a conservative approach which focuses on trying not to lose rather than playing to win. It doesn’t play to the Dynamo’s strengths and the results show that it isn’t effective.

The biggest strength of the Dynamo’s attack is speed, but Orlando likes to sit deep. Do you think Wilmer Cabrera will make any adjustments this weekend to counteract this?

DS: Teams that sit deep against Houston often make for ugly games. I say that because the Dynamo struggle to create chances when given a lot of possession and if teams sit deep we’ll see a lot of poor play by Houston. Houston needs space to play its best and when that gets taken away the attractiveness of the game suffers. I think Wilmer Cabrera will continue to be on the conservative side, which actually might open the game up for the Dynamo. It could bait Orlando into taking more of the possession, which could open up more space for counter attacks. With the U.S. Open Cup final this upcoming Wednesday, Cabrera could double down on that conservative style by resting many of his starters.

What injuries/suspensions will keep players out this weekend and what is your projected lineup and predicted final score?

DS: The injury bug finally isn’t biting as hard as it was for Houston. Rookie Mac Steeves remains out, as does defender Dylan Remick. A.J. DeLaGarza remains on the injury report, but he’s been getting minutes with Rio Grande Valley FC Toros so I wouldn’t consider him injured and there are no suspensions to report.

I’m taking a total shot in the dark with the lineup. The Dynamo are playing for the U.S. Open Cup and that’s it, so I think a lot of starters get rested.

Projected Lineup 4-3-3: Chris Seitz; Adam Lundqvist, Leonardo, Adolfo Machado, Kevin Garcia; Darwin Ceren, Eric Alexander, Luis Gil; Memo Rodriguez, Ronaldo Pena, Arturo Alvarez.

Predicted outcome: 2-1 Orlando. The Dynamo do better than expected, but the reserves can’t get a point on the road.

Thanks again to Derek for taking the time to answer some questions.