Scouting report: A breakdown of what to expect from the Houston Dynamo
"Offensive woes" – that's one way to put it.
Houston is slumping because of poor play in the final third.
In the month of June, the Dynamo scored just one goal in five total games. They went 0-3-2 over that stretch and have not won a league game since May 8.
Still – this is the Houston Dynamo we're talking about. Dominic Kinnear will turn it around. He's guided his club to two straight appearances in the MLS Cup Finals. Every team goes through a stretch of poor form, and that doesn't disclude the back-to-back Eastern Conference Champions.
All told, the Dynamo remain in playoff position with 23 points and a 6-6-5 record. They're keeping a positive goal differential through stingy defensive play and hold a 4-3-2 all-time record against the Philadelphia Union.
Slump aside, striker Will Bruin was called up by Jurgen Klinsmann for this month's Gold Cup competition. Houston's co-leader in goals scored (four), will not play against Philadelphia.
Giles Barnes is the other guy with four goals this season. The Englishman has proven to be a good fit for Houston in his second MLS season. He tends to play a bit behind the bigger Bruin, so it will be interesting to see how he plays with Bruin gone for the Gold Cup. Calen Carr remains out from an injury he suffered in last year's final against Los Angeles.
Veteran Brian Ching or Cam Weaver could be set for a Saturday start. Ching has a good goal scoring record against Philadelphia and would play right in front of Barnes in the formation. Weaver has a similar skill set up top.
The Houston midfield is struggling through injuries and absences as well. Kinnear described perennial All-Star Brad Davis as a "long shot" for Saturday's game. He's nursing a hamstring injury. Houston's other dynamic midfielder, Oscar Boniek-Garcia, did participate in training this week and might play Saturday. He's also dealing with a hamstring issue.
Centrally, you'll probably see Ricardo Clark and Adam Moffatt in a basic 4-4-2 shape. A solid fit, Andrew Driver has been preferred on the left recently, with Warren Creavalle filling in for Boniek on the right.
The Gold Cup also claims a Houston defender – left back Corey Ashe. He's a former All-Star and a key piece of a backline that's only conceded 18 goals this season.
On the other side, right back Kofi Sarkodie misses the game through suspension.
Houston will be missing both of their starting fullbacks in this game.
The only other natural left back on Houston's roster is Mike Chabala, who has played just 51 minutes this season. Rookie Anthony Arena has played just 70 minutes in league play. Kinnear will have to decide whether to use his younger guys at fullback, or move Jermaine Taylor and/or Bobby Boswell. That's Kinnear's first choice center back pairing, with Eric Brunner rounding out the depth chart centrally. Either way, someone will be playing out of position.
Fortunately, there's no issue at goalkeeper. Tally Hall has been among the better keepers in this league over the last several years. He's got performance numbers that put him in the top half of the MLS goalkeeping corps this year.
Possible Starting XI: Hall (GK), a left back, Taylor, Boswell, a right back, Driver, Moffatt, Clark, Creavalle, Barnes, Ching
Which player on Houston could pose the most problems for the Union? Leave a message in the comments below.
Contact Union writer Kevin Kinkead at firstname.lastname@example.org