On Saturday night, Columbus Crew SC will welcome the Houston Dynamo to central Ohio. The matchup will be the only time during the regular season that the clubs will face off against one another. Fans in attendance will have a chance to be part of a fun and unique promotion at MAPFRE Stadium this weekend. The club, in conjunction with Columbus area breweries, is putting on its annual craft beer festival.
If you’re a craft brew aficionado who loves the beautiful game, you kind of have to be there. It’s certainly a great way to support local soccer and local brewers at the same time. I don’t know about you, but a nice, hoppy pale ale with floral notes sounds a lot better than anything you’ll get from the big brewing behemoths.
The suds will undoubtedly be flowing. Whether it’s craft beer or mass-produced, that’s generally par for the course at any sporting event. But the question remains: will a goal fest on the field accompany the beer fest in the stands and surrounding environs. On paper, that appears to be the case.
Columbus Crew SC-Houston Dynamo: A Goal Fest in the Making?
Both teams come into this game sporting identical records. The two sides have won one, lost three and drawn two. Columbus appears to be the team in better form though. Over their last four games, the Black and Gold have obtained five points. And last week, Crew SC defeated NYCFC 3-2 for their first win of the season.
In that same span, Houston hasn’t been able to get into the win column and has only managed a single point. In their previous outing last Friday, the Dynamo scored first against the visiting LA Galaxy but were dominated thereafter. In the end, they came out on the wrong end of a 4-1 shellacking.
On the season, Houston has conceded a total of 13 goals. That’s third worst in MLS behind the Portland Timbers and New York Red Bulls. But amazingly, their goal difference is even. The Dynamo roster is filled with quality finishers like Will Bruin, Andrew Wenger, Giles Barnes and Erick “Cubo” Torres.
And they’ve certainly played their part in finding the back of the net to this point. Despite the fact the team is second to last in the Supporters’ Shield standings, they’re converting a high percentage of the their chances around goal. The Dynamo currently lead the league in both percentage of shots (16.25 percent) and chances created (23.64 percent) converted into goals. But all this indicates a team that can score but is also highly susceptible to getting scored on.
The home-standing Black and Gold were suffering from a persistent inability to finish chances through their first five games. Against New York City FC, however, things began to change. Attacking wingers Justin Meram and Ethan Finlay as well as center forward Kei Kamara all found the score sheet. It resulted in the club’s shot conversion percentage increasing from 4.48 percent to 7.32 percent for the year.
Much like Houston though, Columbus still has a few defensive kinks to work out. In particular, the club will need to improve its marking on set pieces and be better contesting aerial balls around the goal mouth. Three of the nine goals Crew SC has conceded this season have been via headers. That’s tied for most in MLS.
They’ve also let in one apiece from a corner, free kick and long throw-in. Remember the opening goal the Union scored? It may not have been a set piece in the traditional sense. However, when you have a player that can hoist a throw into the box, you want to be effective in reacting to off-the-ball movement while also being sound in marking. That did not happen on that particular goal and Crew SC paid the price.
All of this factors into the possibility of Columbus Crew SC-Houston Dynamo being a high scoring affair. You have two teams with multiple attacking weapons capable of beating you every odd which way in the final third. You also have a tandem of back lines that continues to deal with myriad issues with regard to conceding goals.
What will ultimately determine who wins this game? As has been discussed earlier, Houston are finishing a high percentage of their opportunities at goal thus far. Crew SC hasn’t been as successful. In fact, the Dynamo are roughly nine percent above the league average when it comes to percentage of key passes resulting in goals. Columbus is around five percent below that average.
If Saturday’s game results in a reversion to the mean of sorts, it should be a good night for the home side. The Black and Gold were due to start finishing their chances last week against NYCFC, and that’s exactly what happened. If the trend continues, they’ll be in good shape to get the full three points.
In particular, I think this is an opportunity for Kamara to have his first breakout game of the season. Most of us are familiar with how good he is in the air. It’s something he should be able to exploit in the box against the Dynamo center backs. Houston is winning just 49 percent of their aerial duels on the season. That’s currently tied for ninth in the league. Kamara’s 24 aerial duels won this season is third best in MLS and tied for the league lead among forwards with DC United’s Lamar Neagle. That dynamic will be something to pay attention to throughout the game.
To sum it all up, Saturday’s Columbus Crew SC-Houston Dynamo clash has the potential to see plenty of goal mouth action. There will be players on the pitch who’ve proven themselves to be capable finishers throughout their MLS careers. And both back lines have been leaky to say the least. Fans of the Black and Gold will undoubtedly be hoping that leakiness on the Houston side of the field becomes as free-flowing as the action around the craft beer stalls before the game.
Because the confluence of local brews and home team goals is fun.