The matches keep coming for Nashville SC. On Saturday, the Boys In Gold will welcome Houston Dynamo to Nissan Stadium. The Dynamo are currently in 11th place in the Western Conference, with 15 points from 13 matches. To get a better look at Nashville’s opponents, we checked in with Dustyn Richardson, managing editor of Dynamo Theory.
Ben Wright: Tab Ramos took over the Houston job at the start of the season, after a long stint with the US youth national team. How has his time gone so far? Has he been able to instill a tactical identity in the squad?
Dustyn Richardson: In all honesty, the Dynamo were a mess when Tab took over. Rome wasn’t built in a day and Tab is doing his best to get the ship righted, but it is going to take time. The recent 3 game winning streak showed some glimpses that the team was beginning to mold into the new coach’s vision; however, recent losses are reminding us there is work to be done.
BW: Alberth Elis was just bought by Boavista in Portugal. Obviously he’s been a crucial player for the Dynamo in recent years. How do you expect they’ll cope without him? Are there plans to bring in a replacement?
DR: Elis has been one of the most exciting players to ever play in Houston and his absence will be greatly missed, especially short term. For now, Ariel Lassiter, who was recently signed from Costa Rica, and Niko Hansen will look to fill Elis’ right wing role. Lassiter and Hansen have played well in stretches this season but they aren’t Elis. That isn’t a knock on them, just to how good Elis has been for the Dynamo. There have been rumors about the Dynamo signing Mateo Bajamich from Argentina but it seems a bidding war with Sunderland in England may be taking place. It remains to be seen if the Dynamo can get this signing over the line.
BW: Houston have gone four matches without a win, most recently losing 4-0 in Chicago. What’s gone wrong for them recently? Does this current stretch seem like just a rough patch, or are there larger issues at play?
DR: There are a lot of issues with this roster, mainly its depth. Tab can only work with what he’s been given and the team is very thin, especially with Elis off to Portugal. Players like Boniek Garcia, Darwin Ceren, Maynor Figueroa, Kiki Struna, and Zarek Valentin are older guys who bring experience but they’re on the downsides of their career. The front office has never been known as one to spend money on players and it shows. The Dynamo are being left behind by the teams like Atlanta and Miami who are coming into the league and spending money on big time players. The Dynamo don’t really have a star. Tomas Martinez is one of their designated players, and that says a lot.
BW: From the outside, it seems that Houston are a pretty free-flowing attacking side, but with issues defensively. Is that a fair assessment, and who have been some of the key players for the team this season?
DR: That’s a very fair assessment. Their regular back four of Adam Lundkvist, Kiki Struna, Maynor Figueroa, and Zarek Valentin is adequate but leaves a lot to be desired. Struna will be suspended for tomorrow’s match for yellow card accumulation so a new center back will have to be inserted into the starting eleven. The standout player this season is definitely Memo Rodriguez. The first true homegrown the Dynamo have ever had, Rodriguez has blossomed under Tab and is turning into the player many Dynamo fans had thought he could be. Tab moved him to a central midfield role, instead of playing on the wing, and Memo has been fantastic. If Tab can continue to grow young players like he has with Memo, the team will be in good shape for the future.
BW: What does Houston have to do to get a win against Nashville? How can Nashville beat them?
DR: To win against Nashville the Dynamo are going to need to play a good game defensively. I mentioned Struna being suspended so whether Victor Cabrera or Alejandro Fuenmayor comes in for him, they will need to play well and limit mistakes. Nashville can beat Houston by taking advantage of the Dynamo’s mistakes. Behind the attackers there isn’t much speed on this Dynamo team, so if Nashville can get out and run, especially through the middle of the park, they can find success.
BW: Do you have a lineup/score prediction?
DR: I think the Dynamo may rotate some players but they’ll line up in their usual 4-3-3. If I had to guess I would think it would be Maric; Lundkvist, Cabrera, Figueroa, Valentin; Rodriguez, Vera, Ceren; Quintero, Manotas, Lassiter. For a prediction, I’ll say 2-2, Nashville grabbing a late equalizer.