After losing the last three games on the road, the team has further extended their record road winless streak. They cannot break it this week at home, but they hope to get their season back on track with a victory against Houston Dynamo. The Dynamo are currently at the bottom of the Western Conference standings and have not earned a single point in their five road games this season.
Dropping points against one of the worst teams in the league at home wouldn't mathematically put an end to the Fire's season, but it might as well be viewed as being that dire. If they can snap out of the offensive funk they have been in to this point in the season, it could provide some much needed confidence moving forward. However, more of the same could mentally defeat the team and take any last hope to which the supporters still cling.
Hot Time in Old Town posed several questions to Derek Stowers of Dynamo Theory to get some thoughts from the Houston side of the game.
1) The offensive load has been shared by a few players this season for Houston with no player scoring more than 4 goals on the season. If Chicago Fire had to focus one one attacking target this weekend, who is it likely to be?
Very difficult question to answer because, as you said, there have been goals coming from so many different players. Recently, Erick Torres’s role has increased and the team has won the last two games he’s started. However, he’ll be unavailable as he will be with the Mexican Under-23 team in the prestigious French Toulon Tournament. That leaves players like Will Bruin, a proven goal scorer, Giles Barnes, who has struggled on the road, and Andrew Wenger, who has experienced his fair share of offensive slumps this season.
I would argue that Chicago would need to focus on shutting down the service to those players rather than the offensive targets themselves. That means winning battles in the midfield and making sure Cristian Maidana can’t find his passing rhythm. If the Fire do that, they’ll be very successful at muting our offensive minded style of play.
2) Houston hasn't even earned a point on the road from five away games this season (something with which Chicago fans can empathize). Is it as simple as a tactical shift that results in poor performances on the road or is there another reason they have not been successful away from home? Should Chicago expect something different from Houston that they have not shown in previous away matches?
Many of the games the Dynamo have played away from BBVA Compass Stadium have been decided by a penalty, a red card, or a minor defensive error that shifted the entire momentum of the game. Against Vancouver, a poor penalty decision was the difference. Against Columbus, a poor red card decision (though correct penalty call on the play) made it difficult for the Dynamo to climb out of a self-dug hole. When the team played at Rio Tinto Stadium against Real Salt Lake, the Dynamo were up a goal but turned off defensively for a second and they ended up with a loss.
The team just has difficult focusing for 90 minutes away from home and I believe Coyle has shied away from a high-press style that was fairly effective early this year following the Vancouver game due to their incredible accuracy with long passes. Coyle returned to a higher press in the midfield in our latest win over Real Salt Lake and it saw the team have the majority of the chances, specifically in the 2nd half. I would expect the team to try and mimic that, but how successful that pans out is anyone’s guess.
3) There have been reports of Owen Coyle being on the proverbial hot seat right now and even some links to him being in line for the manager position at Celtic. What do you think this has done to a Houston locker room where they may not have the utmost confidence right now?
Simply put, nobody likes losing. Not the coach, players, organization, and especially not the fans. Nobody likes being in last place in a conference either. Dynamo fans aren’t accustomed to dealing with this level of lack of success which creates added pressure. Simply put: missing the playoffs a third year in a row would be completely unacceptable (especially given the expanded playoff format).
Coyle is very much on the hot seat as long as the team remains in its current position. However, the team isn’t in terrible shape as we’ve won 2 out of our last 3 matches within about a week’s time and can turn things around only 6 points behind the final playoff spot in the West. As far as Coyle being linked to Celtic, the organization has said they have not been contacted by Celtic so that can be put to rest for the time being.
Barnes – Maidana – Wenger
Alex – Clark
Beasley – Agus – Horst – Williams
2-2 Draw; Both teams will find ways to use their hunger to find goals, but in the end it won’t be enough.