Know Thy Enemy: Revolution vs the Houston Hector Herrera Theory with Bayou City Soccer
These are not the teams that met in what we know as infamous MLS Cup FInals a long time ago, but the Revs and Dynamo could be two teams primed for rebound years in 2023.
As the New England Revolution and Houston Dynamo are set to kick off later today at 730pm ET from Gillette Stadium, there will be a familiar atmosphere.
We’ve seen the Revs play their fair share of games in miserable weather, last year’s snow game vs RSL and at least one windy SKC game comes to mind. So part of me is legitimately stunned by this statistic and yet at the same time I am not surprised at all.
The New England Revolution have never won their first two games in an MLS season. Per team media notes, the Revs have gone unbeaten in their first two games a total of seven times, including the last two years under Bruce Arena.
I mean, 28(?) years and still the same or however the chant goes but the Revs usually start their season on the road because [looks outside to a 35-degree monsoon] and you quickly realize why New England usually doesn’t get a lot of early home games because of lousy Smarch weather and have to tough out road results early.
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Another team with an ominous road start are the Houston Dynamo, who are coming off a 2-1 loss in Cincinnati and now play their second straight game on the road in the Eastern Conference. It’s been a rough go for the Dynamo lately, with just one playoff appearance in nine years (and a US Open Cup in that span), former DC United head coach Ben Olsen is tasked with finally taking Houston out of rebuilding mode and back into contention.
New England should firmly believe they have the pieces to contend and that last year’s injury-filled campaign was not the norm while Houston still faces a longer uphill battle in the tougher Western Conference. Two wins to start the year should do wonders for the Revs confidence as they still have a few key players yet to take the field in Gustavo Bou (ruled out this week after getting his green card paperwork), Nacho Gil, Latif Blessing, Andrew Farrell, and cult hero Tommy McNamara all dealing with injuries/fitness.
As always, we talk to our good friend Dustyn Richardson of the new and improved Bayou City Soccer about all things Dynamo including an old friend suiting up in orange and the theory that is Hector Herrera is good at soocer, Houston could be a playoff team.
Be sure to check out my answers to their questions over on their site.
TBM: Obviously Revs fans know Luis Caicedo as a recent Dynamo signing, what role is he going to play for the team and who are the major additions for Houston this year?
DR: Caicedo will be a much-needed depth piece in the midfield. Behind the three starters the Dynamo had two teenagers and a rookie. Caicedo will bring some much needed experience to the midfield group. The Dynamo brought in a number of new players this offseason, most notably Franco Escobar at right back, Artur at center mid, and Ivan Franco and Amine Bassi up front. Tate Schmitt is currently filling in at left back while the other two new signings at the position, Brad Smith and Djevencio van der Kust are unavailable with injury and visa issues respectively.
TBM: Houston was mostly bad last year, especially away from home - can this be a playoff team or is this a rebuild year? What are the expectations for 2023 and which players need to step up to get this team into the playoffs?
DR: Unfortunately, Houston has been [bad] for quite some time. They have attempted to rebuild a couple of times but this time it actually feels like it might stick. New head coach Ben Olsen has an entirely new staff and the front office is revamped too. All that in addition to a new roster of players makes it feel like this year is going to be a building year. There is definitely a chance the Dynamo can compete for a playoff spot, especially with the new 9 team format in each conference. It's easy to say that the Designated Players need to step up for the team to be successful but it's very true. It starts with Hector Herrera. The Mexican international was downright poor after joining the team last summer but with the World Cup behind him, he looked like a completely different player against Cincinnati. If Herrera can be the player he has been in Europe, the Dynamo can make a push for the playoffs in 2023.
TBM: Obviously a season-opening loss in Cincinnati is not ideal, but what were the biggest positives and negatives for the Dynamo last week?
DR: The Dynamo actually played very well against a good Cincinnati team. Houston outshot FCC 19-14 and had 62% of possession. They got beat on a goal that Steve Clark has to do better on and a deflected shot. There is a lot of good to take from that match, especially the play of Herrera. HH had 13 passes into the final third last week, showing his ability to unlock a defense. Where the Dynamo needs to continue to improve is finishing. Sebastian Ferreira missed a chunk of preseason dealing with visa issues and he looked a little rusty last week. Houston's only goal came from left back Tate Schmitt on a corner kick. Amine Bassi, a Moroccan playmaker signed this offseason, could be back this week and provide even more creativity and goal-scoring ability to the lineup.
Bassi and Escobar are questionable with leg injuries. Escobar played last week but looked off his game so we could see a new starter at right back. Smith is still out with injury while van der Kust and Ifunanyachi Achara are still questionable with visa issues. My best guess at a lineup would be Clark; Escobar, Bartlow, Hadebe, Schmitt; Artur, Herrera, Carrasquilla, Franco, Ferreira, Baird. I think it's another tough test for the Dynamo and the Revs take a 2-0 win in their home opener.