Poor playing surface, climate, short preparation and a stadium and fans that head coach Dominic Kinnear called a “lions den” in the Houston Chronicle today.
So how do the Dynamo deal with their first game of real meaning since winning the MLS Cup.
Will they be able to play in their normal all out aggressive style for 90 minutes, I don’t think so.
This afternoon’s game against Puntarenas we may see a different Houston Dynamo. A win or a draw is golden in this first leg in Costa Rica.
So how do you manage a game against opposition that is fitter and into their season while you have only three weeks to prepare?
Clearly they will have to be the more intelligent team today.
The Dynamo will have to take account of their fitness, their running will have to be economical and wise.
Above all as a team they will need to stay close to one another, team shape, moving as a group will be vital.
“It’s hard to tell our guys to play easy,” Dominic Kinnear told me from Florida during pre-season. We can’t go in with fear.”
The Dynamo will also have the opportunity to use throw ins, free kicks, corners, goal kicks all as an opportunity to control the pace of the game and relieve pressure. Patience on set pieces could prove to be vital times for collecting themselves. Periods of good ball possession also will be confidence building and help them dictate the game.
Will they have to defend for longer periods of the game? My guess is yes.
I am interested to see how direct Puntarenas play with two very physical forwards with Jorge Barbosa and Mario Camacho. Both the type of forwards that Dynamo defender Eddie Robinson will relish playing against.
Looking back to last year and the LA Galaxy in the Concacaf Champions Cup I remember that down in Costa Rica against Saprissa they had a two goal lead only to falter mentally and physically in the second half and lose 3-2. Saprissa then went on to the World Club Championships to play Liverpool.
A critical time will come during the second half when the challenge becomes more physical and the Dynamo begin to fatigue. Dominic Kinnear will have to rely on substitutes in this one to help aid the cause.
The bench could be a critical factor.
The challenges great the rewards even greater for getting a result over foreign competition. The Dynamo 2007 season is off a running today.
A team that showed this city huge character last year in winning the MLS Cup will start it off today with a great challenge in Costa Rica. This will be good.
Dynamo vs. Puntarenas today at 1:30 pm central on the Fox Soccer Channel.