Preview: Dynamo vs. Sporting KC 7/18
The Dynamo are coming off a goalless draw in Colorado against the Rapids that left quite a bit to be desired. One of those things was excitement, as there were very few moments where either team seemed poised to strike. To be fair to the Dynamo, Wilmer Cabrera’s lineup had the Dynamo leaning heavy on defense. Which may have been a part of preparing for this match with SKC. However, there’s no arguing that Houston could’ve used a win against the bottom of the table Rapids. SKC, on the other hand, is in a rough stretch of four matches without a win. That winless streak is at least a bit circumstance, three of those games were played in just eight days. But it can’t be ignored that the typically strong SKC defense has struggled as of late: allowing 11 goals in just four games.
The Teams So Far
Despite what the standings and others might say, these two teams are actually really evenly matched. SKC won the last match against the Dynamo 3-2 and, despite their winless streak, they still seem to be the better team on paper. But, as we’ve talked about before, the underlying stats tell a different story. According to xGoals, or expected goals (explained here), the Dynamo go toe to toe with SKC. This is even true in defensive statistics like xGA (expected goals allowed) where Houston is within a single goal of SKC. This sort of equality played out in SKC’s aforementioned 3-2 win over the Dynamo. Houston started that match incredibly strong, jumping out to a 2-0 lead by the half on the back of two Mauro Monatos goals. But SKC was able to get three goals in the second half to win the game.
What To Look For
Wilmer Cabrera’s lineup is the first thing to pay attention to, as I’m sure that it won’t be the normal starting XI. Since Cabrera chose to run such a defense-heavy team against the Rapids, he’s probably got a plan coming into this match. However, if I had to make a bet about what the general strategy for the Dynamo will be I’d say “Wait for them to overcommit”. As already noted, SKC isn’t on fire right now and the whole team seems exhausted to different degrees. And since SKC is a team that switches to a hard press when attacking they’ve had a tendency to overcommit in their last four games. All of that makes me think that Cabrera rested Elis so that he could take complete advantage of this weakness deeper in the match.
A huge game changer for SKC in that regard is if their starting center-backs, Ike Opara and Matt Besler, will be healthy enough to start. Both are crucial to a more solid, patient SKC defense and were ruled out of the last match, Opara with a hamstring issue and Besler with back spasms. What I’ve been able to tell from watching matches, SKC seems to rely a lot on the experience of Opara and Besler to coordinate their backline. Without those two players, SKC’s defense will be a lot more susceptible to that middle lane being exploited. With that in mind, I’d watch for Cabrera to try to break through the middle with Tomas Martinez and Mauro Manotas.
Other than that, we’ll just have to wait and see.