Houston Dynamo: Disruptive, counter-attacking identity

This weekend, the Houston Dynamo overcame Orlando City. Here is how they returned to a disruptive, counter-attacking style to secure the victory.

This weekend, the Houston Dynamo faced the very 4-3-3 formation they employed in their winning years and beat the Orlando City team using it.

The 4-3-3 offensive scheme that the Houston Dynamo used to get to MLS postseasons in previous seasons was the one Orlando City used. Houston countered with a 4-4-2 with two holding midfielders and two wide attackers. They won the encounter 2-1.

The Dynamo haven’t consistently employed versions of the 4-4-2 for several seasons. Moreover, this is only the second time this season they’ve implemented the 4-2-2-2 shape. The previous effort, against the Philadelphia Union, was a 2-1 loss against a complex 4-3-1-2 that has seen Jim Curtin’s side develop into one of the best teams in MLS this season.

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Here is the Houston shape below:

And this is the 4-3-3 that James O’Connor deployed for Orlando City:

For this game against Orlando City, facing a once-familiar formation, the Dynamo doubled the Lions’ shots and shots-on-targets, 15-7 and 6-3, respectively. Their tactical dominance is clear to see, both in watching the match and looking at the subsequent numbers.

Until he was fired this season, former Dynamo head coach Wilmer Cabrera emphasized fast-paced attacking play, with the counter-attack a key tenet in his tactical approach. The rest of the time, they were to work to disrupt their opponents’ plans, forcing turnovers and then looking to exploit the opponent’s lack of shape in transition.

The Dynamo sole the ball from Orlando frequently, winning an excellent 18 tackles, six more than their opponents. They then countered efficiently and effectively, utilising their speed in attacking areas with two strikers in advanced positions. Meanwhile, both teams gave away too many freekicks. But Houston made up for it with effective crosses, finishing with 31 in comparison to Orlando’s 20.

Interim head coach Davy Arnaud’s selection of forward Christian Ramirez and midfielder Boniek Garcia to oppose Orlando City resulted in their selection for MLS Week 29 Team of the Week. The contributions from Ramirez are easy to see. He hit the winning goal in the 73rd minute shortly after assisting the 70th-minute equalizer.

Garcia’s presence on the team is also well-earned. He finished the game one of the highest-rated players on the pitch. He accounted for 93% passing accuracy, including nine long passes, a clear sign of the immediate attacking impact the Dynamo were looking for. He also posted three tackles and won an aerial duel. Not only did he play well in possession; he also broke up play in defensive areas, dominating the central midfield areas.

Next: 3 things learned: North Carolina vs. Utah

The Houston Dynamo will spend the rest of the season finding their new purpose and setting the momentum for a meaningful run next season. And count on it involving a disruptive, counter-attacking style, just as they brilliantly executed against Orlando City this weekend.

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