HOUSTON – If you are looking for insight into the pending Eastern Conference final between the Houston Dynamo and D.C. United (Sun. 4 pm ET, NBCSN, live chat on MLSsoccer.com), recapping the past may not be helpful.
The two clubs met three times this season and Houston taking the season series 2-1, with the last meeting coming in July. The last three and half months, however, have brought significant changes to both sides, making the upcoming series tough to call.
“Tough team, we know that,” head coach Dominic Kinnear said about D.C. “They pulled off a great win [Thursday night] so I’m sure they’re feeling confident. Lots of talented players that we’ve seen a lot of this year. Both teams deserved the right to play in the final here.”
Since then, both teams have undergone transformations. The summer thrashing of D.C. came as Houston were hitting their stride in a 4-3-3 formation. Since then, personnel and preferred style have led the Dynamo back to their 4-4-2 roots as a base formation.
“I think we’re actually fielding a lot of different guys this time through,” said Brad Davis. “Especially the first game we played them where we lost it, also, it’s a completely different team than when we played them at home as well.”
As Houston has adjusted tactically, Ben Olsen and D.C. have undergone a significant overhaul in both tactics and personnel.
D.C. lost their talisman in Dwayne De Rosario – who could return in this series – and were forced to adapt to life without the MVP. That adaptation resulted in a shift in style from a free-flowing system to a more workmanlike style, and with the help of some new faces, led to a seven game unbeaten streak to end the season.
“They’ve changed their formations a little bit because Dwayne’s been injured,” Kinnear said. “They’ve kind of flooded the midfield and it’s given guys a free role at times.”
Even with the changes, the Dynamo know one thing will hold over from their regular season meetings with the capital club: Things will not be easy. The clubs both held serve at home in their three-game season series, scoring a combined 10 goals. If those are any indication, the upcoming final could provide fireworks between two hard-working teams.
“We always have tough games against them,” Kinnear remarked. “So to me it’s going to be a tough 180 minutes.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.