Drilling down on: at New York 1, Houston 0

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Man of the Match: He’s been occupying this space a lot of late, but again Dax McCarty deserved the honor. I’ll discuss this more, below, but the reason Markus Holgersson and Tyler Ruthven went relatively untested until the match’s final 10 minutes was the protect they got from their new ball-winner.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • It wasn’t the best of matches, but it did provide further evidence that New York has figured something out. Whereas we have previously hypothesized Houston as a bit of a litmus test, New York passed, providing the Dynamo with few real opportunities to take the game. Dom Kinnear starting Macoumba Kandji with Cam Weaver didn’t exactly hurt Red Bulls’ prospects for a clean sheet.
  • Brad Davis did have two good, late chances, but let’s face it: He’s not the man you plan on being your goal scorer. Of course, when a player of his skill and experience is given chances, you expect some to go in. Tonight, they didn’t, though Houston has to ask how those chances can fall for Will Bruin (brought on in the second half) instead of Davis. Even the night’s best chance (a Davis cross for Calen Carr) fell to a man you don’t think of as your source for goals. Houston never got their strikers involved.
  • As for New York’s attack, it wasn’t much beter until they changed things up and brought on Juan Agudelo in the second half. Their first goal was a gift from Corey Ashe, whose terrible back pass for Tally Hall was intercepted by Kenny Cooper, who forced it home. The play was nearly repeated late in the second half, with Jermaine Taylor playing a poor ball back to Hall.
  • While New York’s defense continues to post impressive results, McCarty’s role can not be overstated. Particularly in the first half, when New York was having trouble controlling the game, McCarty made sure Houston wasn’t getting any clear chances to pick apart the makeshift unit.
  • It begs the question: What does New York do with Rafa Marquez?¬†Ostensibly¬†Hans Backe’s first choice defensive midfielder, Marquez is back from his three-game ban, sitting this one out with a reported ankle problem. While pushing McCarty back into a higher role is the easy choice, if might not be the right one for the defense. Can Marquez possibly pair with Markus Holgersson? It could work, with McCarty protecting them until Teemu Tainio is healthy.
  • There’s a question of a different kind elsewhere in New York’s midfield, with Mehdi Ballouchy providing more mehs in the first half. Agedulo eventually came on, switching New York from 4-4-1-1-ish to more 4-4-2 (with Cooper in a withdrawn role). The team was more dangerous.
  • At the end of last season, Geoff Cameron was touted as a potential U.S. Men’s National Team contributor in central defense. This year, he hasn’t looked sharp. Tonight was more of the same. Was he bad? No, but he wasn’t as good as his partner, Bobby Boswell, and he didn’t look the part of an all-star – let alone national team-contenting – central defender.