Sure, 2018 was disappointing for the Houston Dynamo. But there were plenty of signs to suggest that Wilmer Cabrera is beginning to understand his squad. 4-3-3 is now the way forward for him and his players.
In the 2018 season, the Houston Dynamo focused on a defensive 4-3-3 in 24 games. They finished 13-7-4 in those games.
Houston had a profoundly tough MLS season, especially when facing teams destined to make the 2018 playoffs. The Dynamo went 3-13-4 against those opponents.
They started with a variety of formations against those surging squads. After studying them, the formation scheme adjusted with assignments and personnel. Yet their fortune still tilted toward the 4-3-3 scheme. That’s proved effective when they faced playoff-bound opponents more than once during the MLS season.
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The Dynamo only mustered three wins against these opponents. However, all three used the 4-3-3. Focusing on that formation, they accumulated three ties and four losses also. Understandably, the Houston Dynamo focused on other formations against playoff-bound opponents: 4-4-2 diamond midfield; 4-2-3-1; 4-3-1-2; and an offensive 4-3-3. Those choices netted six losses during the season.
They faced FC Dallas three times during the season. The defensive 4-3-3 got them two ties. Switching to that formation’s offensive scheme didn’t help. They got a loss. They lost once using the 4-3-3 to Sporting Kansas City. In their other meetings, switching to the 4-4-2 diamond, they got the same result.
Sticking with the defensive scheme, they split two meetings with Portland Timbers. Finding no luck with the formation against Real Salt Lake, they switched to the 4-2-3-1 for their other meeting. No luck there either.
Whether focused on offense or defense, the 4-3-3 formation offers tactical flexibility for players. It also offers a quick analysis of game situations so that players can stay creative. Dynamo head coach Wilmer Cabrera emphasizes that his players stay on the attack as much as possible. So the defensive-focused formation balances their attack and disruption when play moves to their half of the pitch.
The future of the 4-3-3 defensive scheme for Dynamo success becomes clear in their march to the 2018 U.S. Open Cup. They started with the 4-2-3-1, mainly shifting toward the talents of their USL personnel and depth-roster players who began the competition, using that starting formation against NTX Rayados with success.
After that, the Houston Dynamo hammered through the rest of the competition focused on the 4-3-3 defensive scheme. Except for one game. Against Los Angeles FC, the Dynamo decided to switch to the offensive scheme for 4-3-3. They won out every other game in regulation. But in this semi-final, the teams fought to a tie through extra-time. The Dynamo finally won 7-6 in penalties.
After a disappointing 2018 MLS season, the Houston Dynamo will learn how to win out again in 2019 U.S. Open Cup competition. And they will need to learn those winning ways with the 4-3-3 defensive option.
Even when things get grim, those other formations don’t keep Dynamo attackers where they need to be. And that is on the attack.