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Tactical Tomfoolery: The Houston Dynamo Have Options

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While the Houston Dynamo typically run a 4-4-2, Jordan Wise looks at coach Dominic Kinnear's options if he wants to change things up and adjust the system.

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This isn't easy for me to say, but it's time for me to admit something that's a bit embarrassing: I am a total and complete soccer nerd. Ouch, even typing that stings. While most people make to-do lists or draw pictures during meetings, I catch myself sketching out potential soccer lineups and formations for the the Houston Dynamo and the other teams I follow. In fact, lineups and formations are one of those things that my circle of soccer-following friends often discuss (that and vajazzling, but that's a whole different discussion) when we're out having drinks.

I thought it would be interesting to show you all a few different options I've come up with over the past week or so for the Houston Dynamo. All of the formations are presented with some pros and cons, along with a list of substitutes and what they bring.

A quick author's note: This post was initially composed prior to the release of Luis Angel Landin and the signing of Ghanaian midfielder Anthony Obodai. However, those two changes have been factored into these formations and, ultimately, don't change the Dynamo's options too terribly much.

Take a look at coach Dominic Kinnear's option and let me know what you think. Have I missed something? Is there some exotic formation I haven't thought of that Coach Kinnear should use? Is it even realistic to think that the Dynamo will run something other than a 4-4-2?

 

4-4-2: Tried and True Edition

The Houston Dynamo almost always start the game in a 4-4-2. This is what their typical starting lineup looks like.

 

F: Brian Ching
F: Joseph Ngwenya
LM: Brad Davis
CAM: Anthony Obodai
CDM: Lovel Palmer
RM: Brian Mullan
D: Mike Chabala
D: Eddie Robinson
D: Bobby Boswell
D: Andrew Hainault
GK: Pat Onstad

Bench: Tally Hall (GK), Danny Cruz, Corey Ashe, Ryan Cochrane, Dominic Oduro, Cam Weaver, Adrian Serioux/Richard Mulrooney

While this may be the Dynamo's standard lineup, it is flexible and can be modified in-game. The combination of Ching and Ngwenya may not be Houston's quickest striking tandem, but it's the most experienced. Starting with two technical forwards can settle the midfield and give them time to control the pace of play. Late in the game, when the defense has tired legs, Dominic Oduro can come in for either forward and exploit a the tired legs of the defense. The same can be applied in the midfield by substituting Corey Ashe or Danny Cruz in for either outside midfielder. If Anthony Obodai needs to come out, the Dynamo can bring in Richard Mulrooney or Adrian Serioux in to the center-defensive role, allowing Lovel Palmer to fill in at CAM. Most likey the back line would stay the same for the full 90 minutes, but Ryan Cochrane (and even Serioux and Mulrooney) can fill in if needed.

 

 

4-4-2: Let's Play With Speed!

While the next formation is a fantasy, it would be interesting to see the Dynamo start a game with their quickest players and see if they could pick up one or two first-half goals.

 

F: Dominic Oduro
F: Joseph Ngwenya
LM: Corey Ashe
CAM: Brad Davis
CDM: Lovel Palmer
RM: Danny Cruz
D: Mike Chabala
D: Eddie Robinson
D: Bobby Boswell
D: Andrew Hainault
GK: Pat Onstad

Bench: Tally Hall (GK), Danny Cruz, Corey Ashe, Ryan Cochrane, Dominic Oduro, Cam Weaver, Adrian Serioux/Richard Mulrooney

If you wanted to have even more speed, you could start Francisco Navas Cobo and Sammy Appiah on the bench and bring them on if some young and reckless pace was needed. If this group was used, I would expect Mullan to come for Cruz, Weaver on for Ngwenya, and Ching on for Oduro. This formation will never be used, but it's fun to see what the Dynamo would look like with pure speed on the pitch.

 

4-3-3: How Many Strikers Can We Start?
What happens when you start three strikers and a (usual) center defensive midfielder in attack?

LF: Joseph Ngwenya
CF: Brian Ching
RF: Dominic Oduro
LM: Brad Davis
CM: Lovel Palmer
RM: Brian Mullan
D: Mike Chabala
D: Eddie Robinson
D: Bobby Boswell
D: Andrew Hainault
GK: Pat Onstad

Bench: Tally Hall (GK), Corey Ashe, Ryan Cochrane, Cam Weaver, Adrian Serioux, Anthony Obodai, Danny Cruz

Starting with three forwards and three midfielders could quickly push the limits of Houston's depth and positioning, but it still presents a highly offensive option. The striker trio of Ching, Oduro, and Ngwenya gives the best mix of speed, technical ability, and creativity, and would be supported by an aggressive but versatile midfield. Brad Davis would be in their normal outside positions, but would play a touch more central than they do in their usual 4-4-2, a role both should be comfortable in. However, the most important member of this formation is also the riskiest: Lovel Palmer. Palmer would have to put in a very concentrated performance and would have to quickly figure out when to push forward and when to pull back. This may seem pretty basic, but is both difficult to successfully achieve and maintain in order to avoid exposing the middle of the field. If Palmer pushes too far up in attack, then all of the space in the middle of the pitch between him and the back line is open and a pacey opposition could exploit that space into a counterattack.

 

3-4-3: The Slightly More Balanced Attacking Option
One more midfielder means extra insurance and balance.

F: Brian Ching
F: Cam Weaver
F: Joseph Ngwenya
CM: Anthony Obodai
LM: Brad Davis
RM: Brian Mullan
CM: Lovel Palmer
D: Andrew Hainault
D: Eddie Robinson
D: Bobby Boswell
GK: Pat Onstad

Bench: Tally Hall (GK), Corey Ashe, Mike Chabala, Ryan Cochrane, Dominic Oduro, Adrian Serioux, Danny Cruz

This is similar to the 4-3-3 but gives some insurance with the addition of another midfielder, who can either push up in attack or pull back in defense. The other two changes here are bringing in Cam Weaver for Dominic Oduro, which, given his size, more or less makes him a target man. Oduro isn't needed here because the midfield has enough pace to push up in attack and switch with the forwards as needed. Finally, Mike Chabala is left off of this starting XI because the back line needs size and physicality instead of Chabala's pace.

We haven't quite entered the absolute fantasy world (that's being saved for a later post), and ultimately, all of these lineups are feasible. Though it remains to be seen if Kinnear would actually try any of them, the formations show that the Houston Dynamo have some flexibility and options in attack. Also, it is now apparent that the Dynamo have depth in the midfield and forward positions. True, some of that depth is young and relatively untested, but it still means there are options in most positions.

Is there a certain formation or lineup that you would like to see take the pitch? Do you disagree with any of my selections or feel like there are better options for the Dynamo?

Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.