It’s Friday once again, and on this particular Friday it means the back end of a double match week for Orlando City is right around the corner. The Lions return to Exploria Stadium to take on the Houston Dynamo for the first time since 2019 on Saturday night.
With Houston coming to town, I had a chat with Dustyn Richardson, the managing editor over at SBNation’s Dynamo Theory. Dustyn was kind enough to help us get caught up on a team that OCSC hasn’t faced for quite some time.
Sebastian Ferreira and Teenage Hadebe were the two big acquisitions for Houston in the off-season. How have they been so far?
Dustyn Richardson: Ferreira was the big off-season addition, with the new ownership group making him the largest signing in club history. Ferreira got off to a slow start but has started to get comfortable in MLS. He has five goals and three assists on the season and won MLS Player of the Week in May after a 3-0 win on the road against LA Galaxy. Hadebe joined the Dynamo last summer, but he has really blossomed here in his first full season. Alongside Tim Parker and goalkeeper Steve Clark (who signed as a free agent this off-season), Hadebe has helped solidify a back line that has struggled for years. The Dynamo have four shutouts this season and a lot of success can be attributed to Hadebe and his consistent nose for the ball and snuffing out opposition attacks.
Pablo Nagamura is in his first season as head coach. How does he like his team to play?
DR: Coming from Sporting Kansas City and playing and coaching under Peter Vermes, Nagamura has a lot of the SKC tendencies. He likes to press and win the ball in dangerous areas. The Dynamo don’t have much of the ball in a lot of matches but they try to pounce on mistakes. Nagamura is really growing and adapting as a coach, even this early in his career. He has switched from a 4-3-3 at the beginning of the season to more of a 4-2-3-1, getting Darwin Quintero into a number 10 role and it has paid off. Quintero is having a very good year and Ferreira’s emergence can be credited to this and Nagamura’s tactics.
Houston already has more than half of the points it accumulated in 2021 and has some impressive wins on its resume. What’s been the difference in Houston’s improved form this year?
DR: Like I said above, having a competent defense has been huge for the Dynamo. Steve Clark has given the team good goalkeeping play for the first time in a number of seasons. Ferreira is also the first true Number 9 the team has had since Mauro Manotas left for LigaMX. This team was in need of a total rebuild and it was never going to be easy. The front office and coaching staff has been overhauled and the team is beginning to get the same treatment. Getting a team that was finishing at the bottom of MLS for multiple years back to a competitive side is a tall task, but the signs are there that a plan is in place. At this point, that is all most Dynamo fans have wanted — a plan and a vision to be good again.
Are there any players who will be unavailable due to injury, suspension, or other circumstances? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
DR: A number of Dynamo players have just come back this week from international duty — mainly Ferreira, Hadebe, and midfielders Adalberto Carrasquilla and Darwin Ceren. Carrasquilla is suspended for yellow card accumulation, which will leave a big hole in the Dynamo midfield. Coco, as he is known by, has been huge this season and recently made his loan move permanent.
With Coco out, my best guess at the starting eleven is:
Steve Clark; Adam Lundkvist, Teenage Hadebe, Tim Parker, Zeca; Matias Vera, Darwin Ceren, Darwin Quintero; Tyler Pasher, Sebastian Ferreira, Corey Baird.
A point here would be a good result for the Dynamo in my opinion so I’ll say a 1-1 draw is my prediction, but a 2-1 or 2-0 loss would not surprise me.
Big thanks to Dustyn for the excellent information on the Dynamo. Vamos Orlando!