Hot Time: International absences are going to really bite into a lot of team's top lineups this summer, and the Dynamo are no exception. Who are Houston missing due to the Gold Cup, and how will the team compensate in their absence?
Dynamo Theory: For the moment the Dynamo are expected to miss 3 players: Oscar Boniek Garcia to Honduras and Jermaine Taylor and Giles Barnes to Jamaica. The Dynamo were expected to lose Brad Davis to the USMNT, but he was removed from the roster due to an injury that's been nagging him lately. If Davis had gone that would have left both of our wide midfielders gone, a CB, and a forward.
Replacing Taylor (the centerback) appears to be the easiest decision Coyle has to make, as he can shift Raúl Rodríguez to the inside to partner with David Horst and reinsert Kofi Sarkodie at RB. Replacing Boniek at RM likely means Alex Lopez or Leonel Miranda - though I expect both to start against the Fire with Davis on limited minutes from his injury. Giles Barnes's role in the team is the most difficult void to fill. The Dynamo could either revert back to their 4-5-1 and play Nathan Sturgis or Alex (remember that guy?) in the center of the field, or play Chandler Hoffman or Mauro Manotas as the 2nd striker which is the more likely scenario in my mind. When (not if) the USMNT makes it to the knockout rounds of the Gold Cup, there was talk that DaMarcus Beasley could be called up and if that happens he'll be replaced by the former MLS All-Star Corey Ashe.
HT: Alex Lopez came to Houston as a young DP and got to sit and watch a lot of football under Dom Kinnear. Is his increasing role on the team down to Owen Coyle trusting young players more than Kinnear, or some improvement in Lopez's game, or a little of both?
DT: I think it's a little bit of both. Under Kinnear, Lopez never thrived, he wasted the few chances he did make, and was unenthusiastic in practices. Coyle has tried to play Lopez at nearly every position north of defensive midfielder: LM, RM, CAM, and even striker. That's a lot of trust by Coyle, but it also speaks to the different approaches Coyle and Kinnear take to the game. While Kinnear had his lineup and knew his players, Coyle came in fresh and tinkered and tinkered until he got his system in place. That provided Lopez a chance to beat out players as first choice RM/LM replacements.
I can understand Dom's decision to not try Lopez at out other positions though: they were well covered. Davis and Boniek were largely healthy and Dom loved Barnes and Bruin together up top which left the central midfield the only place for him to fight for a spot. Lopez is still not a starter when everyone is healthy on the current Dynamo team, but has fought to be a first choice replacement for Davis or Boniek. Lopez deserves credit for not only stepping into the varieties of roles, but also owning them. His best position in my opinion is LM - a role none of us even considered for him when he first arrived.
HT: The news of Erick 'Cubo' Torres' legal problems is not widely-disseminated among Chicago Fire fans. Can you summarize what's happening there, and what it means to the Dynamo if their big mid-season acquisition can't leave Mexico?
DT: Essentially, Cubo Torres is being accused of sexual assault which is something he firmly denies. Without delving into details that I'm not sure about since the stories aren't consistent and the facts and evidence not all there yet, I'll describe some of the problems why Cubo hasn't reported to training camp yet like some of the other marquee players such as Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard.
Currently, Cubo is awaiting the approval of his work visa which is a decision that lies with the US State Department. Accusation of a crime is not enough to deny a visa and since Cubo has not been convicted the State Department is likely waiting for evidence or information to come forward. The good news in all of this is that the Dynamo front office remains optimistic and has been working tirelessly to get Cubo here in Houston. I think he will arrive, but whether or not he'll make it ahead of the transfer window opening next week is a different story altogether.
Predicted lineup (4-4-1-1): Tyler Deric; DaMarcus Beasley, Jermaine Taylor, David Horst, Raúl Rodríguez; Leonel Miranda, Ricardo Clark, Luis Garrido, Alex Lopez; Giles Barnes; Will Bruin.
Prediction: 3-1 Dynamo. We played well in the Open Cup and managed a lot of shots on a field that has had time to dry out a little (emphasis on a little). We don't like to score on the road, but we like to score at home.