Know Your Enemy: Houston Dynamo

Dynamo boast stout defense and potent attack led by Will Bruin

Houston Dynamo

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As the calendar turns to April, it is time for the annual Texas Derby match with the Houston Dynamo pres. by Novo Nordisk.

FC Dallas enters the new month with an unbeaten record (3-0-1) while the Dynamo are coming off their first defeat of the season, a 2-0 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps last weekend in Canada.

The in-state rivalry has been a heated one over the years between these two sides with FC Dallas taking the season series last year with a 3-2 win thanks to a last minute Kenny Cooper goal. FCD also crushed the orange in the US Open Cup as well in 2013.

WATCH: #ThrowbackThursday looks at #CrushTheOrange videos over the years

Houston leads the all-time series however with a 9-4-7 mark over the boys in red.

Injury Watch

One thing Dominic Kinnear hasn’t had to deal with a lot in this early season is injuries. Just one name to mention on the injury report, defender Eric Brunner is out with an ankle sprain.

Key Matchups

WATCH: Keys to the Match

Brad Davis vs Kellyn Acosta – While Acosta has been very solid so far this season, this may be his biggest test to date as a professional for FCD. Davis is a savvy veteran on the left wing for Houston. He does well at cutting inside to help set up the Dynamo attack and is always a threat to create a chance on goal for his team on set pieces.

Mauro Diaz vs Ricardo Clark - Dallas fans know how physical of a player Clark is based on previous games against him. Clark had trouble with another crafty attacking midfielder last week as Vancouver’s Pedro Morales found ways to get the ball in space and create for the Whitecaps’ attack.

Key Player for Houston

Will Bruin - The Dancing Bear has gotten off to a great start this season with three goals in four matches. Bruin looks like a new player in 2014. He is making better runs off the ball and is putting himself in spots where he has a better chance to score than he has in the past.

READ: Looking back at the 2013 series between FC Dallas and Houston

Projected Lineup

Kinnear has uses traditional 4-4-2 formation.

Goalkeeper: Tally Hall; RB: Kofi Sarkodie; CB: Jermaine Taylor, David Horst; LB: Corey Ashe; LM: Brad Davis; CM: Ricardo Clark, Oscar Boniek Garica; RW: Andrew Driver; FW: Giles Barnes, Will Bruin

Keys to three points

The Dynamo are a team that can be predictable at times with how they attack the field, but even with that predictability they are still very good at what they do on and off the ball. Kinnear always finds ways to pull the right strings to get the most out of his lineup and so far this year, he is doing just that with two wins in three games.

Last week against Vancouver, the Whitecaps limited the Dynamo to 13 shots, with only four of those being on frame. Vancouver held the edge in the possession game and were able to clog the passing lanes in the middle of the field.

Where Dallas can be successful at BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday, will be be spreading out the field and limiting the amount of set pieces they give up in their own defensive end. The Dynamo had nine set piece chances last Saturday.

Houston does a very good job of frustrating teams into fouls and bad mistakes in their own defensive ends. The communication between Matt Hedges, Stephen Keel and Hendry Thomas will have to be top notch in order to keep the pressure off Chris Seitz on goal.

Dallas will also want to find ways to create set piece chances of their own against the Dynamo. This will mean that Mauro Diaz and Fabian Castillo will have to have a very active game in the attack. Castillo will want to pin defenders like Corey Ashe and Kofi Sarkodie back from going up in the Dynamo attack. So far this season, Castillo has been a big reason why full backs on the opposing teams have struggled at getting forward.

Lastly, as with any rivalry match, there will be plenty of physical play. Houston knows they can frustrate Dallas by breaking the flow of the game with a timely foul. FCD must keep cool heads and play their game in order to come out of the Bayou City with some points.