Drilling down on: at Houston 2, New York 0

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Man of the Match: Houston’s 4-3-3 means the wide attackers will get their one-on-one chances. Mac Kandji had things working his way, giving New York right back Heath Pearce fits and making right midfielder Jan Gunnar Solli pretty much abandon all offensive intent, focusing instead on assisting Pearce against Houston’s left-sided forward. Kandji’s serve led to Houston’s second goal.

Packaged for take-away:

  • Sebastien Le Toux replaced Kenny Cooper as Thierry Henry’s strike partner for the Red Bulls.
  • Will Bruin, listed as “questionable,” made the start at center forward for Houston.
  • On a night of better Dynamo finishing, this would have been 4-0. The Red Bulls were awful.
  • Every team makes the formidable march into Houston with this as Job 1: Do not give up unneeded free kicks in dangerous places. So Teemu Tainio made a major booboo when he hooked Davis less than a minute into the match. New York couldn’t clear Davis’ free kick or reorganize properly after the initial ball came swinging in, Jermaine Taylor was alone to tuck in at the back post and it was a hot, humid, uphill slog from there.
  • The killer goal, however, was No. 2, when Kandji had zero pressure as he lined up a service from the left side, aimed at Bruin and Calen Carr (pictured).
  • The Dynamo are 8-0-3 at home now. That’s the kind of mark that will get you into contention for a conference championship; just a little bit of success on the road will get you over the wire from there.
  • Right away, the Red Bulls lacked ideas on dealing with Houston’s 4-3-3. Hans Backe’s team struggled to bring the ball out of its own end. As the balls got to Jan Gunnar Solli on the right or Connor Lade on the left of the visitor’s 4-4-2, they just didn’t have a bit of inventiveness to help them move balls forward. Things usually bogged down there.
  • Solli made 12 successful passes in 55 minutes, an alarming number for a midfielder.
  • Heath Pearce had a tough assignment in his return from a hamstring injury: dealing with Kandji. Pearce was frequently isolated one-on-one. He did better than Solli, who had little chance to keep up with Kandji when those two became matched up.
  • Backe’s men were probably prepared to deal with a 4-3-3. But maybe they weren’t prepared to deal with a 4-3-3 plus the oppressive conditions plus the BBVA Compass Field, set up the way Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear likes it: narrow and tight.
  • Davis was a master in midfield possession. He gets so much credit for those pinpoint restarts, but perhaps not enough for the work he does in helping Houston keep the ball. The Dynamo veteran made a game-high 69 passes.
  • Kandji got behind the Red Bulls back line just before the break, and Bruin got in alone right afterward. It really should have been 4-0 by the 47th minute.
  • You have to think that New York will sort out its possession issues and how best to connect Tim Cahill with Henry. But good heavens the visitors looked rudderless in possession, scarcely able to get through the midfield with any semblance of order.
  • Talk about playing your way into shape: Cahill went 90 minutes in temperatures in the high 90s. That was after going 45 minutes Tuesday. Plus travel.
  • Said Backe: “We definitely have to have a look at the video and go through our defending game, our attacking game. We need to do something to match them.”