Houston Dynamo FC Musings: This was not our first rodeo….it was in fact our second rodeo
by Jason Goodbody
On Saturday, St Louis CITY faced what has become a resurgent Houston club that had gone 5 matches without having been scored upon, unbeaten in as many games, and now sitting tied for 5th place in the Western Conference standings. After some late game Klaussing, CITY came away with a point, which was good according to my ever-growing soccer glossary which defines some ties as being good, others are bad, and still others are still plain old ties. By all accounts, this was a victorious tie.
- St Louis CITY's gameplay relies on pressing, counter-pressing, and short attacks and so if after Klauss' goal you thought to yourself "huh, a lot of players seemed to have touched that ball, that was so pretty", you are not alone. Professional journalist St Louis Post-Dispatch CITY beat writer Tom Timmermann however is more astute and observed that not only did CITY have a legitimate buildup attack with 10+ passes leading to a scoring opportunity (that's a real stat for which CITY is ranked at the bottom of the league), but in fact all the players on the field not named Bürki touched the ball in the process. We hear from pundits about the difference in playing styles between CITY and teams like the Seattle Sounders or LA Galaxy because they rank high on statistics such as passes per possession or the number of times there are 10 or more passes per possession or the number of times these 10+ pass sequences have led to a scoring opportunity whereas St Louis ranks at the very bottom. So this buildup was so satisfying and game-savingly beautiful precisely because it was so rare.
- With all the discussion of João Klauss getting back to his scoring pace of a goal every game and a half or so and an MVP potential season dampened by injury, I was mostly thrilled to see that during his hiatus Klauss worked so hard on his post-goal celebration slide. Good form senhor, perfeito!!
- In the 25th minute Houston forward Nelson Quiñónes attempted to dribble through CITY center back Tim Parker and it didn't go well for him. This scenario demonstrated what soccer scientists describe as the Parker Exclusion Principle; that two players cannot occupy the same region of space simultaneously, especially when one of those players is Tim Parker. The results of this physics experiment were as expected with Quiñónes bouncing off of Parker with predictable force. The math works out.
- Anthony Markanich played serviceably at left back. I thought he got sucked in more times than I would have liked, leaving the wide side of the field open for Houston midfielder Aldaberto Carrasquilla to cleanly receive the ball and set up for crosses. But then I realized that "what I like" isn't relevant, that I can't be the only one seeing this, and I figured Carnell has a plan. Markanich was then subbed out, replaced by Indiana Vassilev, who normally plays as an attacking midfielder. I kept looking on the field wondering where the left back was and it turned out that as a left back, Vassilev (who has never played that position in his life) was playing way up front and there wasn't a left back, which when you are down a goal, seems reasonable. When asked how he felt about the new role. Vassilev responded "Nah, I don't feel like a left back….let's just leave it at that." When Bradley Carnell was asked about Vassilev playing left back, he was quick to say that this simply wasn't the case, that Vassilev was playing as more of a wingback role to accommodate a more pressing attack. This was a reminder that I'm thinking too much about the game, often thinking about it wrong, and should just perhaps sit back and enjoy the beautiful but extremely rare ten-player buildup to a score. This will have to do until the next equally beautiful but less rare Löwen Set Piece goal.
- This week I learned that CITY2 both clinched a playoff berth and broke NEXT Pro attendance record (again) with 9,626 fans filling CITYPARK. This should be a lesson for the US Soccer Federation and their scheduling of USMNT friendlies; schedule games that don't conflict with our kids' own soccer games.
- Earning a point against what has been the toughest defense in the league is very satisfying. It was fitting that the highest scoring offense added another.
- This week it appeared that Inter Miami is rotating its roster in such a way that Messi conveniently misses games played on an artificial Turf field, seemingly to protect Miami and the league's very expensive investment as well as driving down $400 tickets to sell for $50 in Atlanta this weekend. We'll see how the October game in Charlotte (also played on turf) will fare for those who bought overpriced tickets.
Until then, see you this Wednesday when St. Louis CITY plays its revenge game against an LAFC team that struggles on the road and now has to play against Eduard Löwen at full strength and Klauss and Joakim "The Gripen" Nilsson in the lineup. Woe to be them.
Check out musings from the LA Galaxy Match.
Photos by St Louis CITY SC