Tagged: Houston Dynamo

Houston Dynamo Scouting Report

With Wade Barrett as the interim Head Coach I thought I’d offer a scouting report on this team for your consideration. 

As a caveat – I have not viewed any team video nor have a I seen Houston play this year.  A report like this would be used, in my view, prior to reviewing team video.  There are two ways to read this – read the details to begin with and then read the underlined summaries – or simply read the underlined summaries.

That said, here’s what the tea-leaves offer to me in reviewing team performance statistics publicly available for all to view.

ATTACKING:

Passing:

  • My information indicates an average possession percentage of 45.42% with no real variation between home and away games.
  • Passing accuracy, unlike possession, varies from home or away games (72% versus 69% respectively).
  • In terms of overall penetration percentage – both home and away games see them averaging just under 30% of total possession in the attacking third.
  • And of those completed passes within the attacking final third 18.32% of them end up creating shots taken in home games and just over 16% of them end up with shots taken in away games.
  • Overall that sees Houston with the 2nd lowest total possession percentage, 2nd lowest passing accuracy percentage, 3rd highest percentage of overall passes completed in the attacking final third compared to the entire pitch, and 9th worst shots taken per completed pass in the attacking final third.

In other words – low possession percentages, low passing accuracy percentages, higher than normal volumes of penetration resulting in lower volumes of shots taken per completed pass.

  • Two years ago, under Dom Kinnear, they were 9th overall in possession, 11th overall in passing accuracy, 5ht highest in percentage of overall passes completed in the attacking final third compared to the entire pitch, and 6th highest in shots taken per completed pass within the attacking final third.
  • Last year, under Owen Coyle, they were 7th lowest in overall possession, 6th worst in overall passing accuracy, 8th best in percentage of overall passes completed in the attacking final third compared to the entire pitch, and 9th worst in shots taken per completed pass within the attacking final third.

Bottom line here is, under Owen Coyle, the Houston Dynamo had worse team attacking performance indicators than they did under Dom Kinnear. And it would appear the majority of their attacking scheme relied on quick ball movement – front to back – and that hurried pace appears to have negatively impacted their volume of shots. Said differently, it would appear they had a higher than average volume of wasted penetration.

Other team attacking statistics:

  • Aerials won = near top of the league (15.8 per game)
  • Crosses per game = near top of the league (20 per game)
  • Long Balls = mid-table in the league (71 per game)
  • Short passes = bottom of the league (283 per game)
  • Average length of pass = near top of the league (21 meters per pass)
  • Total volume of passes this year = near bottom of the league (3,900 in total compared to Kansas City (top in the league at 6,012)
  • Dribbling = second worst in the league in dribbles per game (4.5 per game)
  • Key passes = 5th worst in the league (90 in total)

Passing Conclusion:

  • With just 4.5 dribbles per game the playing style seems more about first touch, second touch, and pass, than taking time to turn, dribble and create/make space.
  • Given the higher volume of longer passes, more crossing, less dribbling, lower passing accuracy, fewer key passes, and less possession I would offer Houston are a second-chance (direct) ball attacking team with very little possession-based penetration.
  • Predictability is a word that comes to mind and the only manufactured un-predictability is generated through second-chance ball rebounds.
  • When viewing video it’d be interesting to see which players are more comfortable on the ball.
  • I’d also offer it appears the majority of players are not very good at creating individual space for themselves or for teammates.
  • A weakness of many teams in this league I’d offer.
  • Another potential takeaway is that the lower passing accuracy is also a resultant of the back-four having to relieve pressure through clearances or simply putting the ball out of play instead of gaining higher volumes of passes by starting out of the back.

Shooting:

  • My information indicates Houston have the highest percentage of shots on goal per shots taken (56.85%).
  • At the same time that highest average in accuracy results in having the 7th worst goals scored per shots on goal.
  • 41% of all shots taken come from the left wing, while 36% come from the right wing and only 23% come from the middle of the pitch.

In other words they are extremely strong at putting the shot on target but very ineffective in scoring and very predictable in where they will attack from.

  • Two years ago, under Dom Kinnear, they were 2nd worst in putting shots on goal from shots taken and worst in scoring goals per shots on goal.
  • Last year, under Owen Coyle, they were 5th worst in shots on goal per shots taken Shots Taken and 7th worst in goals scored per shots on goal.

Said differently, Houston has done a better job of creating chances under Owen Coyle but been far worse in converting those chances to goals scored – does that equate to ‘lacking a goal scorer?

Shooting Conclusion:

  • I’d offer they probably have a reasonable striker on their team but they don’t have the same ability, as they did under Kinnear, to create more time and better space to score the goal. I do not track individual striker statistics – never have – too many unknowns to see value in drawing conclusions.  I’d welcome thoughts from those closer to Houston – and no – I don’t rely on Expected Goals – it’s over-valued in my view; great idea but not reliable.

In Closing the book on Attacking:

  • I’d offer their attacking support provided by the fullbacks and midfielders is a concern.
  • Whether that comes from Owen Coyle 1) employing the wrong tactics, given the skills of his players, 2) his players not executing their roles or 3) the players don’t have the skills to execute more possession-based penetration in attacking is unclear.
  • In viewing activities from other MLS teams, over the last 3 years, I’d offer Houston probably needs 2 to 3 more midfielders and perhaps another fullback or two.
  • Two other questions come to mind:
  1. Has Owen Coyle ever run this team with inverted wingers?
  2. Do the training sessions focus on 1/2/3 touch football or perhaps as much as 5 touch football?
  • I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a team practice extended touch-turn-dribble-turn-touch/pass training; a lost art in my view.
  • Too much quick ball movement training – in my view – leads to minimizing thinking and decision making on the pitch – with or without the ball… and 95% of the game is mental…

DEFENDING:

Passing:

  • My information indicates an average opponent possession percentage of 54.5% with no real variation between home and away games.
  • Opponent passing accuracy percentages are 75.92%; above the league average.
  • In terms of overall opponent penetration percentage – both home and away games see them averaging 23.87% of total possession in the Houston defending third.
  • And of those completed passes, by the opponent, within their defending final third 20.75% of them end up creating shots taken; that is 3rd highest in the league.
  • Overall that sees opponents for Houston with the 2nd best possession percentage, 11th best passing accuracy percentage, 11th highest percentage of overall passes completed in the Houston defending final third compared to the entire pitch, and 3rd highest percentage of shots taken per completed pass in their defending final third.

In other words the opponents are not only having possession, they are successful in penetrating, and creating shots taken given that penetration.

  • Two years ago, under Dom Kinnear, Houston opponent’s were mid-table in possession, 4th most accurate in passing, 12th best in percentage of overall penetration per completed pass, and 4th highest in yielding shots taken given that penetration.
  • Last year, under Owen Coyle, Houston opponent’s were 7th best in possession, 5th worst in passing accuracy, 12th best in percentage of overall penetration per completed pass, and 8th lowest in yielding shots taken given that penetration.

Passing Conclusion:

  • I’d submit the defending unit, this year, has regressed from last year. Said differently, it doesn’t appear they are very successful in limiting the opponent’s time and space to create shots taken given any type of penetration.

Shooting:

  • Houston opponent’s have the 3rd best shots on goal per shots taken ratio (41.32%) but the 6th worst goals scored per shots on goal.

Said differently, the overall volume of possession and penetration is resulting in higher accuracy of shots on goal – that translates to more goals scored even though the percentage of goals scored per shots on goal is not high.

Or… it may appear that their goal keeper is actually keeping them in the game when, otherwise, their defensive unit is faltering or… the inability of the opponent to finish their chances could play a part too; Houston opponent’s have the 6th highest average number of missed chances, per game against Houston, of any team in MLS.

  • Two years ago, under Dom Kinnear, Houston opponents only saw ~35% of their shots taken result in being on goal but their conversion rate of goals scored to shots on goal was 8th best at ~33%
  • Last year, under Owen Coyle, Houston opponents were 4th best in shots on goal per shots taken and 3rd best in goals scored per shots on goal.

In other words it also appears their defensive ability in stopping shots, under Owen Coyle, has regressed in the last two years.

Shooting Conclusion:

  • I’d offer either 1) the defensive tactical approach is inadequate against the majority of MLS teams 2) the defensive capabilities of the players didn’t meet the tactical roles Coyle offered, 3) team scouting reports were not effective enough in identifying opponent attacking characteristics/trends, or 4) the defensive skills of the players simply isn’t good enough compared to the attacking skills of the opponents.

In Closing the book on Defending:

  • I’d submit the defending unit has regressed – i.e. not kept up with the opponent’s progressions in attacking.

OVERALL ASSESSMENT:

  • Are there organizational weaknesses in scouting, training, tactical preparation, or skilled players? Not sure – but it appears systemic.
  • It’s unclear (without watching video) what the issues are in defending – they don’t make defensive mistakes (as measured) like many other teams in MLS – intuiting that it’s the tactics that are pear-shaped.
  • Playing direct all the time is like riding a dead horse. When riding a head horse do you:
  • Buy a stronger whip?
  • Develop a training session to improve that horse?
  • Remind ourselves that other clubs ride this same horse?
  • Name the dead horse “paradigm shift” and keep riding it?
  • Remember all the good times you had while riding that horse?
  • Take a positive outlook – pronounce that the dead horse doesn’t have to be fed – it is less costly, carries lower overhead and therefore contributes substantially more to the bottom line of the team’s budget than do some other horses?
  • I’d offer you get a new, more flexible horse that can be rode many different ways.

I can offer this type of scouting report on any team in Major League Soccer – in some cases I can provide even more detail – especially for teams I regularly watch on TV.

Best, Chris

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Dynamic Dynamo De-Magnetized as Dominic Departs

In the next installment of my End of Season analyses here’s my look at the Houston Dynamo. 

Last week I offered my End of Season analysis on the Chicago Fire (found here:) Candle Burned at Both Ends.

Previous to that I offered up my two part series on the Portland Timbers here (Defense) and here (Attacking).

This is the second article I’ve offered up on Houston this year – my earlier article can be found here:  Disheveled Defense has Dominic’s Dynamo in Disarray.

After working through the info I’ll offer my thoughts, for consideration, on some changes that may need to happen to make this team more competitive.

Like every installment I’ll lead with this Diagram – my Composite Possession with Purpose (CPWP) Index:

CPWP STRATEGIC INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 COMBINED

If you see a pattern in my approach this year – you’re right – I’ll be working from worst to first excluding the eye-sore – Chivas USA.  No point in my view – Wilbur Cabrera no doubt did the best job he could but since the organization is toast it’s best this black-eye of the MLS Franchise is laid to rest as quickly as possible.

Note that Houston (HDFC) finished third bottom in the Composite Index – pretty much meaning that both their attacking and defending team performance was weak.

The correlation (R2) of this Index to average points earned in MLS is .85.

Now for the Grist… points per game both home and away for Houston this year.

On the Road Houston averaged .65 Points per Game (PPG) 4th worst in MLS  – at home 1.65 PPG  10th best in MLS.

Overall – Houston averaged 1.15 PPG – 6th worst in MLS.

So from a team performance standpoint – dead on average when it came to performing at home this year – the killer, in putting them near bottom, was their road performance.

When looking into the team performance indicators of PWP I’ll make it a special point to peel back home and away outputs.  For now they had eight wins at home with three wins on the road.

It would appear that their inability to get a draw on the road was a stumbling block – just 2 draws to go with three wins – otherwise they lost 12 road games this year…

In those 12 road losses they scored just four goals, in their two road draws – they didn’t score any goals.

Even more pear-shaped is that four of their 12 goals, on the road, came in one game against Chivas USA!  They simply didn’t get results on the road!

Can you say new strikers for next year?

Perhaps – but it’s not all about just striking the ball, there’s passing accuracy, penetration, and as things are beginning to show, patience…

Bottom line here, they really couldn’t score or win on the road…  

Team Performance – first up – given their inability to score goals on the road – Attacking PWP:

APWP STRATEGIC INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 COMBINED

Given just four goals scored in their 12 losses and only .71 Goals per Game, on the road as a whole – it shouldn’t be surprising that they fell that low in the Attacking PWP Index.  Kind of makes you wonder about San Jose (2nd worst) and them bringing on Dominic Kinnear to turn that attacking ship around?!?

However viewed there’s six team performance indicators that make up this Index so were they all bad, across the board, or just in finishing?

Possession Percentage:

All told – 48.95% – (9th highest) with Home possession 50.61% and Road possession 47.34%.

Not enough information to really pick out if their home and road styles were different – but enough information to warrant a closer look at volume both inside and outside the final third.

The overall volume of passes offered up at home was 417 per game – while on the road 397 per game – about 20 passes per game fewer.

That 20 passes per game more, at Home, only translated to 6 more passes per game in the Attacking Final Third (117 at home vs 111 on the road).

Again – not a great difference so more data is needed. 

Passing Accuracy:

All told – 76.54% – (11th highest) with Home accuracy 77.41% and Road accuracy 75.68%.

Overall their passing accuracy appeared to suffer on the road versus at home; but neither were particularly good compared to the rest of MLS.

We already know their volume of passes decreased on the road as well – so as their volume decreased their accuracy decreased.

That doesn’t usually follow but I think we saw that trait with Chicago as well – as volume decreased accuracy decreased…

For the Portland Timbers the opposite was true – as volume decreased accuracy increased.

So that relationship seems pretty pear-shaped to me…

I suppose there can be any number of reasons why this might occur – for me, I’d offer at least one observation – with decreased passing and decreased possession they may have been playing more difficult (longer) passes given less control of the game; i.e – showing less patience.  

Penetration per Possession:

All told – 23.82% (5th highest) with Home penetration 24.38% and Road penetration 23.25%

For the most part, in doing this analysis for two years now – a higher percentage of penetration per possession is not that good with a lower passing accuracy percentage.

What that higher number appears to indicate is less patience (with lower overall passing accuracy) and with that less patience in penetration their is usually a corresponding increase in the volume of shots – but the accuracy of those shots is usually lower.

Which then translates to fewer shots on goal and fewer goals scored.

For now, I’d offer that Houston attempted to penetrate with more frequency compared to having less possession – some might say this indicates a more direct attacking style as well.

When looking at the percentage of passes completed, in the Final Third, the Dynamo were accurate 62.44% of the time on the road (7th worst), 67.43% at home (7th best) and 64.94% overall.

Given the lower passing accuracy, and lower volume, as we know from earlier, I’d offer the Dynamo looked to play more direct on the road, and slightly less direct at home.

Put another way (perhaps?) – they were less patient on the road than at home.

Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession:

All told – 18.83% (5th highest)  with Home at 19.72% and Road at 17.93%

So 5th highest in both penetrating possession and shots taken per penetration.

As noted above then, the first two trends match other low performers – more penetration usually means more shots per penetration when passing accuracy is on the lower end of the scale.

What’s also interesting is that these last two indicators were lower for Road games than Home games.

And, at the same time, Home games saw the Dynamo more accurate in their passing.

Meaning, it’s likely there is more to their road attacking weakness than strikers; the question taking shape for me do those weaknesses also include lack of good midfielders, or worse yet, a completely pear-shaped away game tactical style?

Shots on Goal per Shots Taken:

We already know that the magic number for most teams, to win in the top leagues, is at least 5-6 Shots on Goal; (read here if not convinced).

For Houston they averaged 33.05% (2nd worst) in this category with Home 34.80% and Road 31.30%.

So the pattern of, less percentages from gaining possession, on-wards, means less percentages all the way through when the Dynamo are on the Road, compared to Home.

And with that percentage being 2nd worst in MLS it’s worthy to check what the average volumes are as well.

Shots Taken (13.29 – Home = 14.49 – Road = 11.65) 10th best overall.

Shots on Goal (4.53 – Home = 5.18 – Road = 3.88)  12th best overall.

Let’s not forget they won eight games at home – so that target of 5.18 seems reasonable.

A couple of things here – if it’s just strikers then chances are the target of 5.18 shots on goal at home is not reached and with 3.88 shots on goal on the road as well, it’s pretty likely that the – so I’d offer it’s more than just strikers.

Bottom line here; before looking at the Goals Scored I’d offer that the consistency in poor passing accuracy, overzealous approach in penetration and shot creation is down to poor midfield play and poor team tactics as opposed to just weaknesses in strikers.

Goals Scored per Shots on Goal:

With over 5.18 Shots on Goal per game at Home the Dynamo should have averaged over 2.00 goals per game – but they didn’t.

So for me that does mean strikers are also accountable for the poor attacking performance.

All told their team performance percentage was 22.14% – the worst in MLS.  Home was 30.19% (8th worst) and Road was 14.08% – a full 16% points below the league average.

In summary:

They not only had poor performance when it came to striking (even at home their overall performance was below average) they were horrendous on the road.

Team road performance percentages (REGULARLY) were lower (in percentage and by volume) across the board, in every single category.

Clearly pointing, in my opinion, to a tactical strategy that was wrong – never-mind the perceived or real weaknesses in their strikers.

If Dominic Kinnear thinks he’s going to be able to take a failed tactical attacking road strategy, in the East, and expect to have it win out West (in a far tougher conference) he needs to rethink.

And San Jose really need to consider what investments will be needed to have Dominic Kinnear transform the 2nd worst attacking team in MLS, when their new Head Coach just completed a year in Houston where his tactical approach led to the third worst attacking team performance in MLS.

Now with those brutal thoughts out of the way for Attack – here’s how the Dynamo performed in Defending PWP:

DPWP STRATEGIC INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 COMBINED

Not quite as ugly on the defending side of the pitch – but still 6th worst, overall, in MLS.

Opponent Possession Percentage:

All told – 51.02% – we already know based upon their attacking possession percentage the opponent possessed the ball more often than the Dynamo.

That’s not a bad thing for some teams – New England, Vancouver, DC United, and FC Dallas all made the playoffs where the opponent possessed the ball more than they did.

In that, I’d offer the rubber will meet the road a bit later as we dig in on the defensive end.

Opponent Passing Accuracy:

All told 78.47% (4th highest) with Home 77.34% and Road 79.59%.

Not much to draw on without looking into some volumes – so Total Passes faced was 426.03 per game; 9th fewest in MLS – at Home opponents passed 401 times per game – versus when on the road – that number increased by almost 50 passes per game (448.94).

Pretty much indicating to me the Dynamo ceded possession as well as a considerably higher number of overall passes; especially when facing opponents on the road.

Still not enough to draw a conclusion, one way or the other, about weaker play or tactics.

Opponent Penetration per Possession:

All told – 22.19% (12th best) with Home 20.78% and Road 23.59%.

When playing on the Road the opponents (at home) penetrated roughly 3% more of the time than visiting Houston.

The percentage of passing within and into the Houston defending final third was 67.26% on the road and 62.68% at home.

More penetration by opponents when Houston played on the road and better accuracy for the opponents as well.

In considering the opponent volumes, the average number of passes, within and into the defending final third, was 112.65 per game.

Opponents visiting Houston averaged 102 per game. compared to 122.63 when Houston visited them.

An increase in volume by nearly 20 passes per game when on the road.

So far, that means both the volume and accuracy of the opponent, when entertaining Houston got better the closer they got to the Houston goal.

With that I’d expect Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession and Shots on Goals percentages to drop somewhat – reinforcing that as teams did gain penetration they were more likely to show more patience in shots taken – resulting in increased goals scored.

However viewed, I’d offer that the tactics on the road, against the opponent, were not the same as those employed at home.  By volume alone, I’d offer that Houston played slightly higher up the pitch (defensively) at home, and slightly deeper on the road.  My rationale for that comes after doing my analysis on Philadelphia and Portland this year – both teams showed these trends, in volume, and percentages, when playing deeper versus more shallow.

Opponent Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession:

All told 19.91% (4th worst) with Home 22.16% (2nd worst) and Road 17.67% (13th worst).

In other words the opponent’s were taking more shots per penetrating possession than opponents against other teams.

What’s interesting is that the percentage for opponents, when Houston played them on the road, dropped – in other words the opponents took fewer shots per penetrating possession.

This is an indicator that the opponents were more frugal with their shot selection – meaning, usually, they sought more time and space in order to increase the end results – accuracy in having shots on goal – score goals.

The higher percentage at Home could mean that the Dynamo were more likely to hurry their opponent into taking shots – with eight wins at home that shouldn’t be surprising.

However viewed, the trends indicating a different tactical approach, given opponent outputs, still continues to show itself in the data.

Opponent Shots on Goal per Shots Taken:

All told 34.90% (6th best) with Home 34.25% and Road 35.55%.

Their average volume of shots on goal, against, is 5th highest in MLS and the average Goals Against was 1.58 (6th highest in MLS).

So regardless of what tactic was employed the opponent’s were finding ways to put their shots on goal.

When on the road, the opponent averages 1.81 goals against Houston – 3rd worst (highest) in MLS.

Meaning, even with decreased shots taken (by percentage) and decreased shots on goal (by percentage) the opponents were pretty accurate.

So in the case of Houston, a perceived deeper line in defending (in away games) did not reduce goals against – it increased goals against.

So the tactic successfully employed by both Philadelphia and Portland did not pan out for Houston.

This could mean any number of things but I’d offer at least two thoughts; 1) the defensive tactic on the road was the wrong defensive tactic (all year), and 2) adding both a central midfielder and left fullback did not heal the wounds, meaning more player personnel moves are likely when viewing the defending side of the pitch.  And yes, I did take a look to see if there were differences in volume or percentage from game one to game 34 – I didn’t see any either viewing the total or just away/home games.

In Closing:

I’d offer the move to change Head Coaches was probably going to happen even if Dominic Kinnear didn’t show his intentions of moving to San Jose.

I’d also offer there could be at least 4-6 new starters for this team next year.  At least one new striker, two new midfielders, two new defenders, plus, we already know, there will be a new Goal Keeper.

I’d also offer there are indicators showing that the overall tactical approach, on the road, was pear-shaped – if Dominic Kinnear expects to use that same approach in San Jose, without some minor upgrades in players, compared to this year, he may have issues.

And he certainly needs to reconsider what road attacking style he adopts as well – with San Jose being 2nd worst in these same categories, across the board, he may have major goal scoring issues.

Finally, some teams seemed to have improved their goals against by playing deeper – while with Houston that does not appear to be the case.  What appears to work for some, might not work for others; it’s a funny game this is.

Best, Chris

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The MLS Playoff chase heats up – here’s my Quick Thoughts for this Weekend

The playoff races really begin at this stage of the year – it’s pucker time for most to even include those battling for the Wooden Spoon.

Here’s my lay down on who falls down or rises to the occasion.

First up:

Sporting KC versus Houston Dynamo – I’m not really sure anyone needs an education in team performance this year to figure out that a win here for Houston is highly unlikely. And with dropping three points to DC United last weekend Sporting are probably set to go full steam this game.

That, in and of itself, might be the exact thing Houston is hoping for.  Dominic Kinnear is a crafty guy and he likes his team to have grit and play physical.

I don’t imagine there will be a lot of free and open space in this game – given that a set-piece goal could win it if the Houston back-four can cover the wings.

Sounds like a load of bollocks, I suppose, but there is no love loss between these two teams and, Houston, as silly as it sounds, still have a shot at the playoffs; especially considering that the Eastern Conference is such a mess.

I’m not sure why I like Houston in this game but I do…  there…

Seattle versus Colorado – The Sounders should be riding a huge wave of positive emotion after that smashing victory against Portland last weekend – will there be an emotional let-down?  Perhaps – but I think Seattle want to make the best of every remaining home game knowing that they still have two games to go against LA Galaxy…

A win here for Seattle means just as much as that win last weekend in Portland – I don’t look for them to take their foot of the pedal at all…

Besides, Colorado are not part of the Cascadia trio – and if Seattle is really going to want the chance to rub salt in the wounds of Vancouver or Portland – I’m sure they’d prefer to try and beat one of those two teams in a playoff match as opposed to boring old Colorado.

Not really a reasonable thought for a Head Coach to have – but perhaps it’s a reasonable, cynical, thought for an Emerald City Supporter to have?  Others will know better than me about that.

Toronto versus New England – Another classic match-up on who possesses the ball more.

With both teams playing a somewhat counter-attacking style I suppose this game could end up being really boring unless one team gets an early goal and the other looks to press forward to draw even; making the counter-attacking approach even deadlier.

For now, with Defoe out injured, I can see New England winning; they don’t HAVE to win given how pear-shaped the Eastern Conference is but three points would do the Revolution well…

Montreal versus Columbus – One of the most boring games on the slate this weekend in the MLS – will Montreal have a larger home crowd than Chivas this weekend?  Probably – but does that team deserve it?  Probably not.  If not for Chivas USA and the complete collapse of their ownership this year Montreal would be the out-right ‘organizational laughing-stock of this League…

If Columbus lose – wow!  What a nightmare loss of three points that will be for Berhalter, Inc…

Chicago versus Dallas – An interesting match-up in betting who possesses the ball more.   Neither team really likes to enjoy possession and I’d figure this game might resemble a ping-pong match more than anything.

The challenge, again, for Chicago, will be to shut down an opponent with a defensive set-up that simply isn’t that good.

Even worse for Chicago is the speed that Dallas will bring.  As much as I’d like to believe Chicago will look to possess the ball this game it’s almost like they really can’t afford to do that given the strength of the Dallas counter-attack.

At the end of the day this game could be pretty boring – a long ball affair for Chicago looking to get second chance balls and an attempt by Dallas to possess with the slow intent to penetrate and score.  All told I would offer Dallas wins this by virtue of having greater speed…

Vancouver and Portland – Both teams need three points and both teams have a long history of playing each other.  The two things are mutually exclusive.

I look for Caleb to play a tighter game out of the back and no… I don’t honestly think he runs that tantalizing formation (never did) – it was more to prove a point that significant (player/performance) changes need to be made in the back-four to have this team compete at the highest level.

All said and done who wins this game probably comes down to who controls their emotion and discipline the best.

Who lacks it probably loses and who controls it probably wins.  In that, if history has any bearing, it is likely Vancouver who wins.

San Jose versus Real Salt Lake – Here’s the game where San Jose really need to take stock and win.  Their defense is pretty strong and if their attack can manage to put at least one past Nick Rimando then the Earthquakes could win…

DC United against New York Red Bulls – For me the biggest challenge here is how well the DC United defense can shut down a resurgent Bulls.  Too much power in attack versus a cerebral United that plays smart and handled Sporting KC quite easily last week.

If this game was simply a match between Olsen and Petke it’s an easy pick, for me, with DC United.

But Thierry Henry is really – really good and  New York does have a habit of making mincemeat pies against other Eastern Conference competition.  All said and done my gut instinct screams New York but my heart hopes for DC United.

Chivas USA and LA Galaxy – Is a pre-game prediction really needed for this one?  I’m sure Cabrera will do everything he can to prepare his team for the Galaxy – and these games have been known to be pretty tight at times.

All that said can Arena, Donovan, and the Galaxy really afford to throw away missing three points in this match-up?  I don’t see it… Galaxy should win but I don’t see the Galaxy looking to run the score up.

All for now – looking forward to the Sporting kickoff here in an hour or so…

Best, Chris

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