The New York Red Bulls' involvement in Desert Diamond Cup continues, even though the New York Red Bulls are currently preoccupied with a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal. Still, RBNY has two teams now, and it is the II team that will contest this preseason friendly while the first team takes on Vancouver at Red Bull Arena.
This game, therefore, is a chance to get an early look at what should be a number of future II-teamers, as well as the Houston Dynamo.
And what has the Dynamo been up to since the end of last season? Glad you asked. Dynamo Theory's Derek Stowers has kindly stopped by to fill us in.
Once A Metro: What's new or different about the Dynamo this year?
Derek Stowers: There’s a lot of new and different and it starts at the top with our new Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera. Cabrera is no stranger to MLS, having been an assistant with the Colorado Rapids and manager of Chivas USA. Most recently he had been with the Dynamo’s USL affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley FC Toros, where he had a lot of success building up the team’s younger players.
Since he’s come on board, we’ve seen a lot of players leave and many come in. Notably Will Bruin, David Horst, Sheanon Williams, Raul Rodriguez, and Cristian Maidana did not return to Houston while the Dynamo added designated player Alberth Elis on loan from Monterrey along with forward Romell Quioto, defensive midfielder Juan David Cabezas, and defenders A. J. DeLaGarza, Leonardo, and Adolfo Machado among others.
Under Owen Coyle and Wade Barrett, the two Dynamo managers in 2016, the 4-2-3-1 system was largely the go-to system. Cabrera prefers a 4-3-3 system that utilizes a lot of pressing in order to overwhelm defenders and midfielders. By providing additional players higher up the field our finishing should improve, which was the 2nd worst in the league in terms of goals scored.
OaM: In preseason to date, how has the team looked and what are you expecting the Dynamo to focus on for this game?
DS: I’m cautiously optimistic so far this preseason. The team is currently undefeated against preseason competition, but how that translates to the regular season remains to be seen. The team has a lot more youth than it has had in the past so hopefully those players have used the preseason period to grow individually and collectively. They’ve utilized that pressing style which has led to a lot of turnovers by opponents near the center of the pitch. That has led to opportunities to score which they’ve capitalized on. Compared to last year, often times just 1 or 2 players would be involved in a counter attack while other players focused on defensive responsibilities. I hope to see more of this style against RBNY in order to drill the system into the young players’ minds. Winning the ball in a dangerous area creates chances to score, but also keeps the ball away from our net.
3. After two MLS Cups and four MLS Cup finals in its first eight seasons, Houston hasn't made the playoffs the last three years. What has been the problem, and has enough been done this year to fix it?
DS: This is a difficult question to answer. I think a huge part has been our transition in the post Dominic Kinnear era. Going from him to Owen Coyle to Wade Barrett to Wilmer Cabrera has not been easy. Coyle inherited a Kinnear team, then he organized the team the way he wanted for the next season, and then he changed his tactics midway through last season. In fairness, I don’t think last year’s team was all that poor, but the pieces just weren’t put together the right way and players became less focused as more and more results didn’t go their way. I think the rebuild that we’ve managed was necessary simply to clear the locker room and start anew. That’s largely been done with only a few holdovers from last season remaining on the roster. I think the fans and organization needed a fresh start and we’ve gotten that.