Thursday, October 22, 2009

Grumbling (and stumbling?) into the postseason

There's a red storm raging and it's threatening to overwhelm the Houston Dynamo, if it hasn't already.

So yes I'll start. I am quite bummed about the guys losing to Metapan, who had neither won nor tied a single game in group play before last night. So, not to be a downer here, but it's very possible that the season, which we all hope lasts five more games, might just be over in three.

Here's what I've been seeing from Dynamo over the last couple of months. Fine play, great effort, but all in support of performances that are just short of winning. The team shows flashes of brilliance both offensively and defensively, but none of the 90-minute effort that was so in evidence this past May and June.

At this point, it's hard to see the team winning at Chivas this weekend, must less doing much in the first round of the playoffs. If they hit a hot team like Seattle in the playoffs, I now am almost expecting Dynamo to lose.

The team is clearly not in sync, and playing with low confidence at the moment. There is no doubt about their effort as the guys are clearly putting everything they have into every moment on the pitch. However, it is clear that they are having difficulty communicating up and down the field. Here are some random thoughts and observations:

1. The red cards. So big props to the team for finishing with 11 players last night. And since when has that been all that big of a deal? The red rash has become both symptom and disease here. At first, it was so improbable as to be laughable. Surely this will stop. But it has been going on for two-and-a-half months now, and it hasn't really stopped. It's hard to have a synced lineup when key players, and usually a different one each time, are missing. And then, playing frustrated and out of sync, stupid things happen and you get more red cards. Champions adjust, and I have not seen much in the way of adjustment here.

2. Conspiracy theory note: It seems that the rash of red cards started after the whole non-goal goal in Seattle. Kinnear said on air that the ref (Toledo) was the same one that screwed us in Salt Lake last year, Ching had his Twitter moment about the event, and before you know it, the refs start passing out the reds like candy at Halloween. I don't endorse this theory, mind you, I only mention it. The truth is, tight refereeing or no, the team has to man up here and take personal responsibility. Ching did that last Sunday when asked about his red, he did not say one bad thing about the borderline nature of the card. He just said "The ref got it right." That's playing it smart because if this happens in the first round, we will have a long winter.

3. Questionable wing play. Mister3D and I noticed a real shortfall here in the LAG game this past Sunday. Chabala (maybe his worst game this season) had a hard time linking up the wing, as did Hainault on the other side. I was beginning to seriously hope for a move to bring in Eddie Robinson for Chabala and move Cameron over there, or even Barrett and sacrifice speed for more solid passes from the back. If Dynamo can't link up the wings, they don't win. It's that simple.

4. Missing Richard Mulrooney. How different would this team look with his calmness and presence in midfield or on defense? I think of all of this season's injuries and absences, his might just be the most significant in terms of keeping the team cool and focused when things start going all weird out there. We miss him in a big way.

5. How many times have you noticed the team over the last few months seem to have no general plan, no focus on what they need to do to break the other team down? I think this can be attributed in a large measure to the injuries (Mulrooney, Weaver, Ashe), international absences (mainly Holden and Clark) and red cards (pick 'em). When was the last time Dynamo fielded the same starting line-up two games in a row? I'll tell you when. It was April 19 and and May 3, which were both wins, against, respectively, Colorado at home and New England on the road. Not only that, but that was the same line-up that played April 11, a 0-0 home tie vs. New York. Those are the only three games all season (!) that Dynamo started the same line-up in successive games. How on Earth do you build up a rhythm and confidence playing together when there are so many different line-ups on the pitch out there at all times?

So this is my somewhat frustrated rant about Dynamo's play (and you notice that I went through this whole post without mentioning Dominic Oduro even once because he's a frustrated rant of a blog post all on his lonesome!). What are your thoughts about what's wrong and what needs to change if we hope to see Dynamo hoisting the Uncle Phil Anschutz Trophy next month?

(And by the way, I full expect the Chicago Fire to take it to Chivas tonight. If the Fire hope to finally put things together tonight at home, with Temoc facing those las chivitas stripes, and clinching a playoff berth on the line, they need to destroy those pretenders. I'm picking Chicago to win 4-2.)

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