Ahead of Sporting KC's trip to face the Houston Dynamo, I caught up with MLSsoccer.com's Darrell Lovell to preview Saturday's match. The match will kick off at 7:30 p.m. CT with live coverage available on 38 The Spot, SKCTV, Sports Radio 810 WHB, and La Grande 1340 AM.
Jonathon Feyerherm: What are the main changes in this year's Dynamo squad under new head coach Owen Coyle?
Darrell Lovell: The changes as far as Owen Coyle vs Dom Kinnear I think is Owen's willingness to change the lineup and play the match-ups. Dom Kinnear really did like the idea of sending his best eleven guys that know how to do what they want to do best against the other team's eleven. Owen seems to be willing to mix and match more. He seems to be willing play the match-ups a little more so we are seeing a little more diversity and change in personnel and style from game to game. The Dynamo have started to use a five man midfield with three in the middle. It's made them very tough to play against and pretty tough to break down. A lot of common perception was that when Coyle was hired was that the team would be more attacking and freeflowing but in reality what we've seen seven games in is a team that's more organized and structured. They're still looking to put consistency together in the attack.
JF: What is Houston's current form heading into Saturday's match?
DL: For the last 110 minutes, they've played pretty well. The first 70 minutes of the Montreal game, despite what some people will say, they were getting outpossessed again. Montreal was holding the ball and it wasn't a great display but in the last 20 minutes of that game they were really able to use the aggression of some key late subs to open the game up. That carried into the last game against D.C. United. From minute one to minute 90, that was their best attacking 90 minutes that they've played this season. While they are still struggling a bit with figuring out how to play in this one forward system, Giles Barnes has been stranded up top too often, recently they've really started to find the combinations. They're heading into this weekend's game playing well but the question is can they string three to four games together and keep that momentum going.
JF: Homegrown goalkeeper has had a strong start for Houston this season (winning Save of the Week multiple times). What's been his progression the last few years which has led to him being the starting goalkeeper this season?
DL: Tyler's a really good goalkeeper and he's been one for a long time. The thing where he's really come along is maturity. He's getting a little older and starting to see the game and approach the game. He was always energetic, the guy who watched film, put a lot of effort in training, but his maturity in play was always a growing thing for him. What we've seen through the first seven games is that (maturity) is in fact there. The shot stopping, Save of the Week stuff, that's been evident for a long time. It's not really surprising to guys who've been covering the team but what's really looking good is the ability to direct the defense, his positioning is better, and maturity is better. Right now in my opinion, he looks like one of the top 2 or 3 goalkeepers in the league.
JF: What will be the key factors and match-ups for Saturday's match?
DL: For the Dynamo, it's how do they deal with Giles Barnes up top. Last week against D.C. United, they looked much better in the 4-4-2 than they did in the 4-5-1. Do they sacrifice defense at home and pull a midfielder out to allow Will Bruin up top to play alongside Giles Barnes. I'm looking at how the Dynamo approach the forward situation. Is the 4-4-2 just a curveball to go to at the end of the game or is it something that just needs to be seen from minute one. And then I think the team that takes advantage of their chances the most. With two teams that can be very tough to play against and very physical, chances will always be hard to come by. I know from the Dynamo side of things, finding that final touch in the final third has been very hit or miss.