Following another disappointing draw at home last weekend against D.C., the Fire travel south to Houston to face the Dynamo on Sunday afternoon (2:00pm CT on UniMas). The Dynamo, like the Fire, are on the outside of the Eastern Conference Playoff places and are also coming off two consecutive draws. Here are a few tactical observations to look out for on Sunday.
Houston’s problematic partnership #1: DaMarcus Beasley and Brad Davis on the left
The first Houston partnership that can possibly give the Fire problems in this match is the left back/left wing combo of Fire legend DaMarcus Beasley and Brad Davis, part of the U.S. World Cup squad this past summer. Davis and Beasley have on and off games as a partnership but when they combine, it can be very difficult for teams to stop them.
Everyone knows how accurate Brad Davis is when it comes to crosses and he has nine assists to show for it this season despite Houston’s lowly position in the table. The arrival of Beasley has made Davis even more dangerous because opposing teams now have to deal with the threat of Beasley when he gets forward to support and create more space for Davis to operate in.
Beasley’s deceptive pace is another threat in this partnership, with the Indiana man often getting behind the outside defenders and looking to put crosses in.
With both players possessing great crossing abilities, I expect the Fire coaching staff to instruct whoever fills in at right back for the suspended Lovel Palmer and others not to allow either Beasley or Davis any room to pick up players in the box.
In the past few matches, the Fire have had continued problems from set pieces, something Davis specializes at, so limiting the number of fouls around the box will also be very important on Sunday afternoon.
Houston’s problematic partnership #2 – Omar Cummings and Giles Barnes
The second problematic partnership for the Fire against the Dynamo is the strike force of Jamaican veteran Omar Cummings and converted winger Giles Barnes. Both players have combined well over the past few weeks and play in the classic target forward and second forward roles, with Cummings holding up the ball and looking to link with Barnes.
That being said, the 32-year-old Cummings is no slouch, and showed some turns of pace in the Dynamo’s last two matches against Philly and Columbus. Cummings plays in a similar style to Conor Casey – a very mobile target forward, despite his lumbering appearance.
Barnes is always looking to get on the end of passes in the channels from either Cummings or from midfielders such as Ricardo Clark or Boniek Garcia. Barnes has eight goals to date this season and scored a brilliant goal in the Dynamo’s last home match against Columbus where he received the ball behind the Crew defense before chipping over the onrushing goalkeeper.
With the late suspension announced for Bakary Soumare, the Fire’s central defensive partnership will be changed from last week, with Patrick Ianni the likely candidate to slot in next to Jeff Larentowicz.
Both players must be watchful not only when Barnes and Cummings get the ball in and around the box, but also when Davis and Beasley are putting in crosses trying to find the strikers heads.
Utilizing the pace and movement of Quincy Amarikwa – more of the same play we saw last week
Quincy Amarikwa had one of his best games in a Fire shirt last weekend against D.C. United and continues to make a case for the team MVP award this season. Amarikwa was most effective when he was able to run into the channels and get onto through balls in behind the United defense.
Razvan Cocis and Harry Shipp were constantly looking to pick out Amarikwa with these passes and the Fire took full advantage of this, especially in the first half. Amarikwa scored a brilliant curling goal to give the Fire the lead after getting on the end of a Harry Shipp pass and continued to threaten throughout.
On two other occasions when he got in behind in the first half, Amarikwa decided to shoot instead of pass. For me, I like when a striker takes the initiative and decides to shoot instead of trying to get around a player or looking for a teammate. This shows how confident the Fire’s #24 is at the moment.
With a team-leading eight MLS goals to date, Amarikwa will be looking to at least get into double digits in the Fire’s six remaining games. With Beasley getting forward on the left, there should be plenty of room for Quincy to do his thing on Sunday and with any luck, it will help the Fire to pick up a victory.
Prediction: After the disappointment of another draw last week, the Fire take it out on Houston. 2-1 Fire with goals from Amarikwa and Harry Shipp.
WATCH: Jeff & Kevin Glance at Sunday's match vs. Houston Dynamo