Central Winger: Behind Houston's elegant, efficient system

During the 2012 postseason, the Houston Dynamo have put on a master class, proving "symmetry isn't essential in football, but balance is."

Last week, I presented passing network graphs featuring the LA Galaxy's games from this postseason and illustrated some of the patterns of play that have been crucial to their playoff push. This week, we're simply going to marvel at just how modern and ruthlessly efficient Houston's system is.

Here is the Dynamo in their 2-1 victory over the Chicago Fire in Eastern Conference Knockout Round.

Here is the Dynamo in their 2-0 victory over Sporting Kansas City in the first leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals:

Finally, here is an animated GIF of the two systems on top of one another: Notice how the system seems to rotate clockwise around Ricardo Clark.

When Corey Ashe pushes forward, Brad Davis is forced to balance the system by sliding into a more central (and perhaps playmaking) role. This causes Carr and Bruin – looking for space – to drift very slightly toward the right flank. It's a visual example of cause-and-effect soccer. Tactical systems are truly living and breathing organisms, and Houston's is no different.

Boniek García's role in the system is a bit more enigmatic. Against Chicago, I'd compare his role to to the one Michael Bradley filled during the United States' 3-2 victory against Slovenia one year ago. It's yet another example of a player being deployed centrally while having obvious (and instructed) responsibility on the wing – undoubtedly a product of the modern game. This is what I consider the "Central Winger" role.

Here is García's distribution Chalkboard for the Chicago game.

This shows that instructions have been given to combine in the midfield and look to advance down the right flank.

While Houston have not necessarily been prolific in terms of overall pass completion, they're second to last in average passes completed per game this postseason, they have made up for it by constructing and implementing an elegant and efficient system that reacts to the tactical nuances of each individual game and matchup.

Team Passes per game
New York Red Bulls 482.5
Sporting Kansas City 403.5
Seattle Sounders 396.5
San Jose Earthquakes 391.0
Real Salt Lake 374.0
LA Galaxy 373.0
D.C. United 370.3
Chicago Fire 315.0
Houston Dynamo 274.4
Vancouver Whitecaps 216.0