Houston v. Portland: A Nothing Game in a Nothing Season

When even the in-house TV shills admit a game isn’t all that thrilling, you know you’re enduring something less than the finest in entertainment. That’s the kind of season it’s been for Portland, though. Just one game this season gave Timbers fans the sweet opportunity to dare to dream – the Seattle moment/debacle. Eight games into the season now and “mundane” best describes the attack and, “nervous,” the defense.

So, how bad was today? Portland scored – yay! – but only half-intentionally – sigh…. It’s what happened at other end, and keeps happening, that really freaks me out. 1-1. Another draw. Who the fuck are we, Chicago?

The Big Thing
Call this an attempt to finally define what troubles Portland’s defense in 2014: Pa Modou Kah is a terrible, terrible ball-watcher. This is a term I didn’t really consider till last season, instead filing most mistakes made by defenders under “fucking up.” I watch for it now and I see it a lot from Kah. He’s the worst of a generally reactive defense, of a back four a step too slow about attacking the ball and clearing it decisively. It’s not all Kah – see the moment when (I think) Will Bruin all but barreled over Mamadou “Futty” Danso on a cross from Corey Ashe, or when three Portland defenders gaped at a sprawled Donovan Ricketts after a save on a Brad Davis attempt. But Dynamo attackers breezed right past Kah at least three times today, the worst slip coming when Bruin bolted past him for a point-blank shot on a follow-up. Kah jogged back on that one. Intense as he is, he can’t be faulted for a loss of concentration. It’s more that he’s so mono-focused on what’s in front of him that he misses what’s behind him. Continue reading

Houston v. Dallas: On Leaving the Barnes Door Open

Hey, at least one team showed up to play. Or defend, at least. Yep, still pissed about Portland v. Seattle…at least Dallas managed to keep their side of the final scoreline respectable.

As a contest, Houston Dynamo v. FC Dallas delivered. Not that I needed Glenn Davis (that was him, right?) to remind me again and again and again. What’s the legal term? Res Ipso Loquitor?

Credit to Davis (or whomever that was) for one observation: somewhere in the middle 1/3 of the game he stressed the importance of referees coming into the game with a clear sense of how they’re going to manage a rivalry game – e.g. what gets a card, what gets a lecture, what gets a red card…more on that later. And good point.

Anyway, the game played out pretty much how one would expect with the home team – Houston – setting the tempo and building actual attacks. Giles Barnes squandered as many as some teams get in one night (no, not really; just a couple early ones) – and that was in the first 15. The Dynamo kept making chances, at any rate, even if most of them came closer to half-chances.

Dallas did the parry/counter thing for the most part, but to pretty good effect. The team can flat-out fly, for one, but there’s the recent intelligence as well: the addition of Mauro Diaz means Dallas has a man who can find those runs. And with Hendry Thomas playing behind Diaz… Continue reading

Houston Dynamo 2014 Season Preview: Wow…Haters Really DO Gotta Hate

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“One more time…a straight beats what now?”

How’d 2013 Treat ‘Em: 14-11-9 (W-L-T), 41 gf, 41 ga; 4th in the East
When I think of the Dynamo, the first image that comes to mind is Will Bruin clutching his head in disappointment after shanking yet another shot on goal. (Also, I just accidentally typed “Bill Bruin” and think that’s better; go with Bill, Will. It might help.) Sure, the Dynamo made the playoffs, that’s just what they do, but there was something just…off about their 2013 that young Mr. Bruin so neatly embodied. “Moments” came – a couple off Giles Barnes’ boot, Tally Hall had another great year, etc. etc. – but as often as in the salad days. Houston enjoyed their brightest moments in the post-season because, again, that’s just what they do; oh, the stories/bitter remembrances the current Supporters’ Shield holders must have. It’s hard to call one game away from MLS Cup a disappointing season – I’d be inclined, in fact, to suggest that Houston punched a little above their weight last season – but something about Houston in 2013 smelled of sputtering fumes. But, again, they made the damn playoffs…I can’t claim to get it…

Exciting Additions! – I guess, uh…David Horst and Tony Cascio, MLS’s first-ever loaned player

Tricky Departures… – Bobby Boswell

Quality Parts: Corey Ashe, Giles Barnes, Ricardo Clark, Brad Davis, Boniek Garcia, Tally Hall, Kofi Sarkodie, Jermaine Taylor

It Gets Better If They Come Good: Bill Bruin, Eric Brunner and/or David Horst, Tony Cascio, Omar Cummings, Andrew Driver,

What I’d Expect Based on the Above:
A couple teams stood more or less pat after the 2013 season, but only a couple topped the Dynamo at cool-headed complacency – and that gets back to the theme above. Bear with me through a strained analogy, but something about Houston puts me in the mind of someone donating blood. Or maybe a kidney. Fatigue, hollowness, enervation…hold on, logging onto the thesaurus…no, never mind. Here’s the thing: Houston enjoyed something like a crazy-good run since, oh, 2006. That’s eight respectable-to-good-to-great years – though it’s bears nothing that the great years came early. Still, they were one game away from a third consecutive MLS Cup last year…and that somehow feels like a last hurrah. Confronted with a choice between trying to get better and riding (roughly) the same players for another year, Houston opted to keep flogging that same horse. I think this was a mistake. They’ll be difficult this year, maybe even competitive, courtesy of a good coach running a good system and muscle memory, but I can’t help but think that bringing in a couple actual starters would have had them operating among a better class of teams.

2014 Season Opener: v. New England Revolution, March 8