There is no love lost between Houston & Dallas in the Texas Derby.
Photo credit: Houston Dynamo/Facebook
The Houston Dynamo have all the opportunity in the world to put wins on the board and start a climb up the Eastern Conference on Saturday as in state rival FC Dallas visits BBVA Compass Stadium for the first time.  Houston and Dallas will only face off once in 2012, making Saturday’s Texas Derby a winner take all event for the trophy, El Capitán.  Both teams find themselves positioned in unfavorable spots in their respective conferences, making both hungry to get a winning streak started. 

The mountain may be too high to climb for Dallas as they battle injuries to several key players.  Most notably, Brek Shea and Panamanian Blas Perez, who suffered an injury in World Cup qualifying and sent a tweet out yesterday he would not be playing.  Between the two, that leaves a very big offensive hole to fill for Dallas.  Shea and Perez make up 8 of Dallas’ 15 goals.

Houston comes into the game knowing their next four opponents are struggling and they need to capitalize on it, one team at a time.  Dallas will not go down easy, but Houston has an advantage having all their core pieces back in time for the game.

For most Houston Dynamo fans, you already know Dynamo Theory and their host of writers.  DT writer Fuzion asked me to do some “guest” comparisons with him for the special edition of 2012 Texas Derby and I couldn’t be more excited to do something different for the blog.  It was a fun experience going back and forth on how we see each position, and the end product is very entertaining.

Most importantly, this article was an opportunity to bring two Houston Dynamo blogs together and build on the Orange Network.  Thanks again to Dynamo Theory and Fuzion for inviting me to co-author this piece and I look forward to more in the future. 

Here’s a breakdown of each position between FC Frisco and your Houston Dynamo.

FORWARDS
 If Dallas forward Blas Perez had not suffered an injury in Panama’s World Cup qualifier last week, I would have given the advantage to Dallas. Perez has had a solid start to his career in MLS with 5 goals and 3 assists on the year so far. He singlehandedly makes up 1/3 of Dallas’ goals this year, without him Fabian Castillo will have to step up.

Houston is led by Will Bruin with 5 goals on the year, but has yet to get on the board at home. He’s waiting for a home goal to breakout the “dancing bear” celebration and could be overdue to start his dominance over the Dallas defense. Brian Ching is only sitting on one goal this year and will also be looking to get his first goal in BBVACS on Saturday as well. I wouldn’t expect Ching to go the full 90 minutes, and Mac Kanji is best of the rest to get some chances in the second half. Kanji has shown glimpses of creatively and will want to continue his momentum after netting his first Houston goal last week.
Advantage:  Dynamo -- Ordinary Orange Fan

While the Dancing Bear is a phenomenal athlete and can find the net almost at will sometimes, he still has his struggles.  However, when compared to Blas Perez -- the most gifted FCD Forward -- he is head and shoulders above.  Will Bruin has an identical goal count in his 11 games started as Perez does in his 15 games started.
Originally, I would have given this one to FCD, as they find ways to get the ball into the net.  Yet when I look at the statistical evidence, it becomes plain to see they aren't that stellar up top.
Sure, Bruin's come almost exclusively from the feet of Brad Davis, but even still it's plain to see he is, and I quote again for your FCD types who need help, "HEAD AND SHOULDERS" above Perez.
 Advantage:  Dynamo -- Fuzion

MIDFIELDERS
Dallas has little production from anyone but forward Blas Perez, evident by only seven team assists on the year.  Brek Shea is the standout midfielder in Dallas, but he’s out with an injury and his absence will be felt. Perez’ availability is in question and that could force some lineup shuffling. Jackson could down into a forward position or Scott Sealy could get some time in midfield or forward. Sealy could be an impact, he had a successful run in Kansas City a few years ago before trying his skills in Israel and battling injuries. Now he’s trying to find his grove with Dallas.

While Houston’s Brad Davis has been unable to recapture his 2011 form which saw him finish with 16 assists and runner up in the MVP race, any Dynamo set piece is dangerous while Davis is on the field.
We witnessed it in Houston’s last home game as Davis fed Hainault for the game winning goal against the Galaxy. It will be interesting to see how Calen Carr performs after learning the Dynamo have signed a designated player that will ultimately take the right mid position in a couple weeks. Carr has been solid for Houston over the last few games and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was heavily involved on Saturday. Look for him to continue his good form and fight to stay in the starting lineup.
Advantage:  Dynamo -- Ordinary Orange Fan

You can't field a comparison between Midfielders without talking about Brad Davis and Brek Shea.  Very different styles, in my opinion, yet high quality talents.  Shea is just starting to show his true form, and Davis is in the twilight of his (say it ain't so!).  If you take into account what's really going on with the rest of each team, the truth becomes crystal clear.  Shea is just one man, and just like Davis he can't carry his team.  FCD's 7 assists is just pathetic for a team with 15 goals.  If not for Blas Perez, I doubt Frisco would even have half of those.  If Perez isn't able to go for FCD, I will be surprised if they even score on the Dynamo, especially if the backline consists of Hainault, Cameron, Boswell and Taylor.  This one is easy for me.  Also, did I mention Shea's on the injury report and NOT going to play?  EASY!
Advantage:  Dynamo -- Fuzion

DEFENDERS
Dallas boasts two all-star nominees in George John and Ugo Ihemelu, but this team has been bleeding goals all year. FC Frisco is the third worst team in MLS with a 1.60 goals against average. Last week they gave up a stoppage time winner at Real Salt Lake to defender Nate Borchers, and were unable to control Alvaro Saborio who scored a brace.

Houston will benefit from CONCACAF World Cup qualifying being over, as they sent three defenders to international competition over the last couple weeks. Geoff Cameron didn’t see much playing time for the United States and should be well rested for the Derby. Expect Jermaine Taylor and Andre Hainault to continue to battle for a starting position, but either way it all benefits Houston which is one of the top defenses in the league.
Advantage:  Dynamo -- Ordinary Orange Fan

How can I write anything aboud FCD defenders and NOT include one of the more hated Southern Oklahomans, Jair Benitez?  Jair is the prime example of what FCD is on defense.  They play hard-nosed and physical, yet when the same is given they fall to the ground faster than Fredy Montero on Fridays during Lent!  These guys commit fouls so frequently, I dare say I won't be surprised to see the foul tally at the end of the match read 20 fouls FCD.  Right now, FCD sits at 192 Fouls Committed this season.  What's worse?  When you compare to the Dynamo's 130 fouls committed over 12 games, you have to blink a few times to let your eyes adjust to the sheer chasm between the two styles, and that doesn't even take into account the 3 FCD penalties against versus Houston's solo penalty against -- which we all know was pure crap-o-la.

 Most people will not balk at calling the Dynamo a physical and intimidating team defensively.  Geoff Cameron is tough, and he will not sit back on his heels.  Hainault is tougher, and he will gladly give it as well as take it.  Then you get to Bobby Boswell.  Well, hell son, he'll dish out as much as he receives and like it.  But that's not even the whole of it, you still have Jermaine Taylor, who can turn into the Thing from Fantastic Four and drop opposing forwards without moving.  When I see the Dynamo's higher Goals Against alongside the bigger picture, I can't help but give the true starting backline for the Orange the win here.  They just dominate opponents to the point of towels being thrown on the field.
Advantage:  Dynamo -- Fuzion

GOALKEEPER
Kevin Hartman is one of the best goalkeepers MLS has seen, but this is not his year. He finds himself manning the nets for a team that has lost six of their last nine games. Dallas hasn’t given him the best support, having multiple challenges with keeping eleven on the field, but either way his 1.73 GAA is not an attractive sight.

Tally Hall has been relatively solid all year and has continued to settle into his role in 2012. He learned from the best (Pat Onstad) and will continue to grow. While both keepers have given up six goals in their last three games, Hall has the comfort of the orange fans surrounding him and should be the better keeper on Saturday.
Advantage:  Dynamo -- Ordinary Orange Fan

Tally Hall is the younger of the two, and has more agility in the box.  Still, Hartman is a quality Keeper and has shown he can keep teams out of his net.  Both men enter Saturday's match with Save Percentages basically on par with one another.  The biggest difference is Goals Allowed Average, which puts Tally Hall at 1.28 v Kevin Hartman at 1.38, and gives Tally Hall the advantage
Advantage:  Dynamo -- Fuzion

Bench
Dallas’ bench doesn’t have much to offer. I mentioned Sealy earlier who had three solid seasons with KC, scoring 26 goals in 3 years. Those seasons are all but distant memories, but if he was dangerous once, he could make an impact off the bench for Dallas.
Jonathon Top, Bruno Guarda, and Carlos Rodriguez have all see time recently and will need to start producing if Dallas wants to turn around their season.

Houston will see Colin Clark, Mac Kanji, and Je-Vaughn Watson off the bench for fresh legs in the second half. While it’s possible Camargo is on the bench and Watson starts, we typically see the same subs by Kinnear. Clark is very capable of filling in anywhere in midfield and like I mentioned earlier Kanji will be looking for the net.
Advantage:  Dynamo -- Ordinary Orange Fan

When I read over the bench for FCD, I'm taken aback by the -- how to put this delicately -- sheer lack of anybody who can either score or help create chances.  I almost sit there and scratch my head wanting to ask Frisco fans, "wait, who?"  Yet, when you look over the Dynamo bench, you have guys who are capable of scoring, and have proven it.  Mac Kandji is the biggest standout for Houston right now, and he alone gives the edge to the Orange here.
Advantage:  Dynamo -- Fuzion

Coach
Schellas Hyndman can stare at an orange all he wants. It looked like he was trying to destroy it with Jedi mind tricks in FC Dallas’ “Crush the Orange” video, but as we all saw he simply had to settle for a sad attempt to throw it away. Kinnear and Houston have dominated the Texas Derby overall, but Hyndman and Dallas have had a bit of recent success, but it’s not enough to outsmart or outcoach “The Professor” Dominic Kinnear.
Advantage:  Dynamo -- Ordinary Orange Fan

Were all things on an equal playing field, with talents of equal proportions and biases not withstanding, Schellas would be right there with Kinnear overall.  Kinnear is predictable, and you know what you get.  Hyndman is not afraid to experiment and tinker with things if he thinks he can find an advantage.  Do you take the coach who you know what you're going to get every time or do you take the guy who tries to play chess with his lowly player pawns?  While I do like Hyndman's style, I simply can't ignore what Kinnear has done and brought to Houston soccer.
Advantage:  Dynamo -- Fuzion

As I wrote my comparison’s separately, I will admit I was wondering if I was just being bias since I’m a Dynamo fan.  But there was a sigh of relief when Fuzion sent me his and he gave all positions to Houston as well. 

The Dynamo are just too much for Dallas this year (at least they should be), and it’s expected they close out Dallas in this year’s Texas Derby.  El Capitán is in the player’s tunnel as they walk towards the field, and should stay there after today.

I’d like to thank Fuzion and Dynamo Theory again for inviting me into the Orange Network and growing the Houston Dynamo name by providing quality content for all Dynamo fans.  For my readers that may be new to DT, check out the Dynamo Theory website here. There is a slightly different version of this story on their site, take a look.

I’ll leave you with none other than game predictions from both Fuzion and myself on today’s Texas Derby.  See you at the game.

“Houston, the heat, and the strikers will be too much for Dallas.”
Final: 3-1, Ching/Bruin get first home goals while firing off El Capitán as goal celebration (haha) – Ordinary Orange Fan
 “In the end, I see us dominating possession, dominating pace and tempo and dominating in the scoreline.” 
Final: 4-0, Ching (2), Hainault, Kanji get on the board -- Fuzion


Both agree -- Houston retains El Capitán


Follow me on Twitter @OrangeFanBlog

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