It’s down to the wire. Sounders FC is just two matches away from the end of the MLS regular season with a chance to clinch a postseason berth before the team even steps on the pitch Sunday at BBVA Compass Stadium. While a San Jose loss on Friday would shore up the team’s spot, Head Coach Sigi Schmid said his squad controls its own destiny as it eyes up a seventh straight playoff appearance.
Sunday’s match takes the team deep in the heart of Texas against the Houston Dynamo. Earlier this season, Seattle secured a 1-0 victory at CenturyLink Field thanks to an incredible Obafemi Martins goal.
To preview this weekend’s fixture, SoundersFC.com checked in with Eddie Robinson. Robinson retired from MLS in 2011 after a decade in the league, playing as a defender for both the San Jose Earthquakes and the Dynamo. He now works with Houston’s academy and serves as a color commentator for the club.
The Struggle Has Been Real
This Dynamo team really is the first one that I remember that has struggled to find its identity. It has not been easy to determine what are their strengths and weaknesses are and figure out their style of play. A few weeks ago, Houston beat Kansas City 1-0 at home with no problem. The team looked good and they were really in contention for a playoff spot. The thorn in this team’s side, though, has been FC Dallas. They came in and the Dynamo didn’t have an answer for the speed they presented in that match.
The attack has been lacking. Seattle is healthy for the first time in awhile and Ozzie Alonso is back in the lineup. Seattle has as good of a chance as anyone at making a strong run into the playoffs and the attack with the pairing of Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey will challenge an inconsistent back four in defense for Houston.
It’s Getting Hot in Here
Typically the heat plays in the Dynamo’s favor when teams play down here. Teams from the Pacific Northwest in particular are bogged down with the humidity but that just won’t be a factor this weekend. The weather will be warm, but it won’t be as much of an issue as it is earlier in the season.
The Dynamo have to get the ball to Giles Barnes and Brad Davis as much as possible. They have to get the attack going.
It’s a struggle when you know the playoffs are all but lost, but they are always going to be gritty and fight and put up a tough battle.
Times, They are A-Changin’
When I played, there were plenty of good players but there were some guys – myself included – that may not have been the best technically or tactically. There was no one, though, who would step on that field and work harder. The Dynamo teams through 2010, as cliché as it sounds, were blue collar. That’s the only way I can describe that.
They were gritty, would take yellow cards to get the job done and fought with an intensity you just don’t see anymore. That was what we did and that’s what made us successful. The style of player has changed and that goes throughout soccer in the United States. The culture has changed. You used to have to teach yourself. People didn’t know the game; now you grow up playing and learning the game. The style of play has changed tremendously.
Final thoughts on HOUvSEA
When Ozzie Alonso is healthy, it’s almost impossible for teams to win in the midfield against Seattle. He has respect from opponents around the league. The key for Houston this weekend is its wide play. That’s been good this season and it has to be on point for them to have a chance at finding a positive result against the Sounders. When they can find someone wide on the wings, they can get forward and join a quick counterattack. When they play through the midfield – especially against a team like the Sounders – they struggle.
Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins are a handful…and that’s an understatement. They’re going to challenge Houston’s defense but you can do your best to limit their chances and make them play backwards. If they can be kept from combining, the Dynamo may have a chance.