Houston Dynamo

Expected Possession Goals GameFlow: Taking a Ride Into the Danger Zone by Jamon Moore

A few weeks ago, we introduced Expected Possession Goals (xPG) GameFlow, a visualization of the momentum of a soccer match from kickoff to final whistle of each game. xPG GameFlow uses the accumulation of Chance xPG to measure the strength of an opportunity for a team to get a shot. The higher the Chance xPG differential between the teams, the longer the bar for that minute for the team with the higher amount. Quite often goals are scored when the momentum bars on the xPG GameFlow chart are at their longest.

Many people have asked us, “what is the difference between xPG and xG?” or “how does xPG translate to xG or to goals?” To aid xPG GameFlow in answering questions such as “which team had the better chances?” and “when should a team have scored?”, we introduced a couple improvements after the first week of tweeting MLS game charts on @GameFlowxPG. I wanted to provide more context for these improvements and dive deeper into them.

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Little Things from Week 24: Lodeiro's control, Machado about creating space, and Villa's intelligence by Harrison Hamm

Nicolas Lodeiro doing Nicolas Lodeiro things

Nico Lodeiro is a Touch Percentage Superstar. His 14.4 percent leads MLS players with a significant sample size this season, and he was similarly among the league leaders in 2016 and 2017. Most of his competitors are deeper-lying midfielders who are more likely to get on the ball in safer positions, whereas Lodeiro’s touches are situated primarily in a more congested attacking third.

Lodeiro is everything for this Sounders team, the fulcrum through which they pass and create. As John Strong and Brian Dunseth relayed on the FS1 broadcast on Sunday, Garth Lagerwey and the higher-ups consider Seattle Lodeiro’s team. Only a player with the on-ball proficiency and volume of Lodeiro could deserve that lofty mantle.

Few players in MLS’ recent history have possessed Lodeiro’s willingness to control a game’s shape, and almost no one has been able to do so from the advanced positions that he has. The Uruguayan is everywhere, by design. He’s constantly moving and trying to make himself available for passes. That, his never-ending movement and incisive mobility, is what stood out in 2016 when he arrived midseason and dominated everyone.

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Houston Dynamo: Doing More with Less by Joseph Lowery

The battle for a Western Conference playoff spot is an absolute dog fight. After Sporting Kansas City, who are currently sitting on top of the West, there is only a four point gap between second place and ninth place. LAFC, Portland, FC Dallas, Houston, Vancouver, LA Galaxy, Minnesota, and Real Salt Lake are all currently sitting together, cramped right in the middle. Out of all those teams, there is one particular organization doing some especially impressive things - on and off the field. In this week’s team breakdown, we are going to take a look at the Houston Dynamo. Houston has managed to do more with less than anybody else in Major League Soccer and people have started to take notice, especially after a very impressive result at home against New York City FC (believe it or not, this article was planned even before that 3-1 win). So, now that eyes are opening across the MLS landscape, we are going take a comprehensive look at just what exactly the Dynamo are doing well and how exactly they are doing it. In order to do so, we are going to start off the field and work our way on to it. Let’s start with the second half of the title.

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Houston Dynamo 2018 Season Preview by Drew Olsen

Last season was a solid if unspectacular one for the Dynamo, as they exceeded expectations in the regular season and made a surprising run to the Conference Finals. With more important subtractions than additions in 2018, they'll hope to tread water in an improved West.

2017 in review

Last year was a surprisingly smooth one for the Dynamo. As evidenced by the mostly slow and steady incline of the season progression chart above, Houston was the Little Engine That Could. They made BBVA Compass Stadium a stronghold, eked out results on the road, and found their way to the Western Conference Finals.

At home, the Dynamo were offensive juggernauts. Buoyed by the best goal celebration in MLS, they averaged 1.8 xGF per game and only 1.04 xGA on their way to 12 wins and only one loss at BBVA. The 40 points they earned were second only to Toronto and their 41 goals and +25 GD at home were both best in the Western Conference. When they turned it on, they seemed unstoppable.

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Houston Dynamo 2017 Season Preview by Phil Luetchford

It was entirely predictable and avoidable. Houston fell flat on their face under the dreary command of Owen Coyle, collecting 11 points in 12 games. Under interim coach Wade Barrett, who wasn’t afraid to make big changes, there were glimpses of improvement. With Wilmer Cabrera taking the reins, and a number of intriguing South American signings, can Houston make the jump into the playoffs this season?

More after the jump.

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2016 ASA PREVIEW: HOUSTON DYNAMO by Harrison Crow

Maybe Houston is a bottom of the Western Conference barrel team, maybe they’re fighting for the last spot. Not to limit a season or story that has yet to be played out. But there probably isn’t much in the way variance in how this season ends for the boys in Orange. But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves just yet.

2015 in review

The first week of November 2014 saw the Houston Dynamo fully shift into a new direction as just a month prior saw their only manager in franchise history, Dominic Kinnear, leave and return to San Jose

President Chris Canetti announced the organization's pursuit of not just a replacement for Kinnear, who was the team’s coach and organizational decision maker, but a new direction, ethos and brand. Matt Jordan was hired away from rival Montreal as the first Technical Director, General Manager and Vice President in Dynamo history.

A month later, Canetti called Owen Coyle, a veteran commander of many English Premier League relegation battles, and handed him the coaching reigns. The Englishman gladly accepted and found himself in new colors, a new country and likely a new definition of heat. 

The question I’ve had since last December is whether or not Coyle is the right man for the job. Jordan was hired with a very pronounced intention to implement use of analytics into the team and organization. Coyle has a past history of grinding out results based upon quantity and volume, which isn’t necessarily a recipe for long term success. But, in fairness he hasn’t had the horses to do much else.

More on 2015 and looking ahead to 2016 after the jump.

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MLS Trade Analysis: Alex for Jason Johnson by Mike Fotopoulos

By Mike Fotopoulos (@irishoutsider)

Yesterday, the Fire traded Alex to Houston for Jason Johnson. These are the kinds of trades that make my inner MLS capgeek smile. Chicago trades a perfectly average midfielder on a perfectly average contract for a pocket full of cap room and a free player to boot. They needed cap relief and fewer midfielders, and this move gets the job done.

Alex is definitely out of the picture in the Fire midfield with Matt Polster, Michael Stephens, Victor Perez, and likely Chris Ritter and Razvan Cocis ahead of him on the depth chart. Getting Houston to throw Jason Johnson and his Generation Adidas contract is basically free money. Johnson’s contract is basically a free option to see if he pans out, so it would seem that the Fire are coming out ahead on the trade.

The question for Houston is their own need for midfield depth. Given the Dynamo’s current pairing of Nathan Sturgis and Luis Garrido, Alex seems to be bringing exactly that. He has struggled for playing time recently in Chicago, so it is hard to say whether he would be a clear starter over either. More likely, it is straight purchase of a serviceable midfielder, which is exactly what the Fire put up on offer. They found themselves with depth to sell and were able to find someone to pay them off. 

Interestingly enough, bringing in yet another forward player places Chicago back in a position where they can find themselves with more attacking depth. Mike Magee and Patrick Nyarko are still recovering from injury, but it is possible to see the Fire start the summer with an extra player up top. If Johnson can find a role on the current roster, they could see themselves ready to deal again, potentially making another deal along these lines. 

MLS cap space is a precious commodity, and as Chicago continues to repair its roster, optimizing every dollar spent is the key. Trades like this get some dead money off of the bench and also give a free look at a young player, so clubs should take advantage of these situations whenever they arise.

ASA 2015 Season Previews. Every daNG one of them! by Drew Olsen

By Drew Olsen (@drewjolsen)

In preparation for this weekend's games (they're actually happening!), we've been writing two team previews per day for the last two weeks. Going in reverse order of 2014 finish, ASA and our (very) small band of writers have published 20 articles, covering each team's 2014 season, their offseason changes, and their prospects for 2015. If you haven't read them all yet, AND WE KNOW YOU HAVEN'T, then you can catch up here.

Eastern Conference

Chicago Fire by Mike Fotopoulos
Columbus Crew by Harrison Crow
DC United by Jared Young
Montreal Impact by Harrison Crow
New England Revolution by Drew Olsen
New York City FC by Drew Olsen
New York Red Bulls by Harrison Crow
Orlando City by Harrison Crow
Philadelphia Union by Jared Young
Toronto FC by Jason Poon

Western Conference

Colorado Rapids by Harrison Crow
FC Dallas by Jason Poon
Houston Dynamo by Harrison Crow
LA Galaxy by Sean Steffen
Portland Timbers by Drew Olsen
Real Salt Lake by Matthias Kullowatz
San Jose Earthquakes by Tom Worville
Seattle Sounders by Harrison Crow
Sporting Kansas City by Matthias Kullowatz
Vancouver Whitecaps by Drew Olsen

How it Happened: Week Nine by Drew Olsen

Welcome to my few-days-old review of the weekend in MLS, where I recap three games that I watched in their entirety (well, usually) by picking a stat or Opta image that tells the story of the game for each team. This week I fell short of my usual three games, and I apologize to the legions of Red Bulls and FC Dallas fans who will no doubt be disappointed to read the following paragraph. FC Dallas 0 - 1 New York Red Bulls

Stat that told the story for both teams: 26 minutes for which I was able to watch this game

This game was hideous. Not necessarily soccer wise: Thierry Henry will be fun to watch when he's pushing a walker around on opposing half, and this was a very competitive match, from what I saw. But I couldn't even make it past 26 minutes of this game before I had to give up and turn it off. Between Je-Vaughn Watson's karate kick of Tim Cahill, the referee's less-than-stellar control of the game, and players, fans and coaches alike going insane showing their indignation at every whistle, it was absolutely painful.

Sporting Kansas City 2 - 0 Columbus Crew

Stat that told the story for SKC: the ability to switch the ball in one pass

skc9

First, an aside: re-capping the national TV game from NBCSN is next to impossible, but for a good reason. Kyle Martino on the broadcast team does such a fantastic job breaking down the tactics of the match, that it's incredibly difficult for me to pick out anything that hasn't been said yet. So I'm going to just roll with something he mentioned, and that Matthew Doyle also mentioned in his weekly column. One of the major differences between KC and Columbus is Matt Besler's ability to switch the field of play with one ball. It's an ability that led straight to the first goal (buildup pictured above according to Opta), and it's one that USMNT fans have to hope pays off in the World Cup. Columbus, for all their admirable qualities, don't really have a player with the quality to hit that ball. Federico Higuain can do it, and Wil Trapp will from time to time, but with SKC if it isn't Besler switching fields, it's Graham Zusi or Benny Feilhaber or Seth Sinovic. All in all, they're just a more complete team at the moment.

Stat that told the story for Columbus: Jairo Arrieta's actions

clb9

There's one other really big difference between the Crew and Sporting KC that spells out why Columbus doesn't measure up, at least not yet. Jairo Arrieta plays as a lone striker for Columbus. This probably isn't the greatest role for him, because he's at his best when combining with others. Sometimes this works well with him and Higuain, but sometimes (like Sunday), he ends up isolated and completely ineffective. Seriously, his action that was closest to the goal against SKC was still about 30 yards away from the endline. The Crew did have some solid moves, generally involving Josh Williams overlapping and sending in a dangerous cross, but the lack of a quality striker really did Columbus in.

Chivas USA 1 - 4 Houston Dynamo

Stat that told the story for Houston: interchanging midfield in the new formation

hou9

I'm gonna play a little trivia game here and see if you can guess which heat map belongs to which midfielder from Sunday's game for Houston. The telecast called Dom Kinnear's formation a 4-3-3, but it looked a whole lot like a 4-1-4-1 to me, taken straight out of Jay Heaps' playbook from last season. I really liked the move: the Dynamo have multiple midfielders who can tuck in or pose a threat out wide, and Giles Barnes and Will Bruin just haven't worked well together up top. So, might as well drop Barnes into the midfield. It was only Chivas, but the early returns were pretty tough to argue with: the midfield dominated every facet of the game from winning balls to creating chances. We'll see if the Dynamo stick to the formation, but I liked the innovation from Kinnear. By the way, the answer from top left to bottom right: Davis, Garcia, Driver, Barnes, Carrasco.

Stat that told the story for Chivas: first half midfield struggles: 16/19 recoveries/interceptions in their own half

I've written about Chivas a few times in recent weeks, focusing mostly on the midfield. Against the LA Galaxy, they got run over and never stood a chance. Against San Jose, they held their own and really made it a game (seeing the Quakes' struggles against Vancouver this weekend makes that seem like less of an accomplishment). Against the Dynamo on Sunday, it was back to getting run over. The five midfielders put together a total of 19 recoveries + interceptions in the first half, but 16 of them were in their own half and the other three were miles from the attacking goal. Basically, the Goats couldn't make up any ground and just got pushed around by the more talented Houston midfield. On the bright side: the second half started better, until another goalkeeper red card finished off any Chivas hopes at a comeback.