No team has crashed and burned quicker than the Houston Dynamo. Eleven goals in their first two games, numerous renditions of “Let’s go Dynamo”, the most goals in an opening three games and an early favorite for a playoff spot in the hotly-contested West has quickly turned into the bottom of the table and an average of one goal per game.
That de-escalated quickly.
Something between the 4-3 loss to the New York Red Bulls and the 1-0 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps has driven this Houston offense down the tubes. However, we may be on to what exactly that thing was.
In the first three matches, Andrew Wenger was a prolific beast. Against New England he fired four shots, scored a goal, played the full 90 and ranked near the top of the team in touches. Against Dallas we saw an Andrew Wenger that looked set to ransack all of MLS. He had the second most touches on the team, fired two shots on goal, created three chances and ended up with a goal and two assists.
Even against the Red Bulls, despite a dip in touches, he still managed three shots.
But the deterioration has progressed incredibly fast and all of a sudden, Andrew Wenger is an afterthought, if even that. In the four matches that the Dynamo have played since Wenger began his fade away against New York, Wenger has been inconsequential. He has managed just three shots, one on target, and three chances created. He has also only accounted for just over 100 touches in those four games, with the bulk of that coming from a brief resurgence against Seattle, a game that Houston should have won.
Wenger has only played the full 90 once in that span as well, against the Columbus Crew.
Expanding beyond that, it is clear that Houston does not play through Wenger much at all, given their season statistics, which is a bit shocking considering the massive impact he had in the first two matches. The Dynamo are the most lopsided team in MLS, meaning they favor the left side more than anyone else. 41% of the Dynamo’s attack comes from Giles Barnes’ side.
Certainly that’s not the end of the world. After all, Barnes is no slouch. Yet, basing it off the numbers, Barnes was one of the least impressive pieces of the Dynamo attack in their first two, demonstrative matches. Yet somehow the Dynamo offense has tilted in his direction, as he has managed more touches than Wenger in every single game he has played, yet he only has two goals and zero assists to show for it.
The Dynamo have tried numerous rotations, from benching Maidana to starting Miranda. They are pulling out all the stops to try to get out of this funk, but the answer is in the constant – Andrew Wenger.
Consider the match against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Wenger was pulled after just 54 minutes, yet Miranda remained to play the full 90. Digging into the numbers, it’s a mystery as to why this decision was made. Miranda lost possession seven times in the match, four more times than Wenger. He didn’t even take any more shots or create any more chances.
It’s hard to blame everyone else though. Wenger has fallen short on several occasions as well. Against Columbus he was completely irrelevant, firing just one off-target shot and contributing zero chances. But everyone is entitled to their off days.
The point is that when the Dynamo were successful, for that short, brief stint, it was because of Andrew Wenger. When the success dissipated, so too did Andrew Wenger. The solution could be as simple as giving Wenger the ball more often. Who knows, they haven’t exactly tried it.